CONVERSATION with RUTH SANFORD
(This transcript has been edited from the original only for clarity.)
This conversation was intended to address the question "What was it like to work closely with Carl Rogers?" and to celebrate not only his life, but the effect it had on those who knew him.
When I thought of this conversation, I had in my mind a picture of a cozy room with a carpet on the floor and a nice little intimate group. Well, here we are. The audience consisted of about 70-100 people distributed along some 30 meters of the pews of a lovely old stone church. I don't know exactly what you're expecting. I do know that my thought in thinking about this is that this is a celebration of life, a celebration of Carl's life and how that has become a part of all of our lives in one way or another and this is the fifth anniversary of Carl's death. It seemed appropriate that we would be gathering here and remembering the time he walked with us. But I think also I would like this to be a celebration of our lives and a celebration of the richness that Carl left with us from being in our midst and what we heard about the way of being that has brought us all to this place. I don't know exactly where to start and I don't know how well I can hear questions from people who are sitting, I understand, rather far back.
By the way, I am surprised at the number of people who have come out on this night when so many people have been soaked two or three times today and I hope everybody is warm enough and is not catching cold. I am surprised indeed that so many people persevered this long but I'm happy that you're here and although I can't see you, I will be feeling your presence.
I would like also as I reminisce somewhat to have your questions about what you want to know. I would like also for you to be thinking of what you recall and would particularly like to share about the way in which we knew Carl because I think that most of the people, or many of you at least, have had experiences of working with Carl. There may be a few of you who have never met him. I hope you will ask the kind of questions that may help you to feel that you've come a little closer to knowing him.
Since I believe that life is a becoming - it never finishes and in that sense, all of my life I have been preparing for this moment. I welcome your questions and your comments as well as w@ can work it out. If you can't be heard from back there, then maybe if you have a question you would want to come up here. I do want to. have participation with other people - not just mine.
Where shall I start? Usually people say if they don't know Carl well or don't know me well, "How did you start working with Carl? How did you get to know him'?" It seems to me in a way there was a series of chance happenings that brought it about. I've heard it said that nothing in this world just happens; everything is brought about. So, I don't know what kind of a plan or the fact or influence there was. But I do know that I retired from my 25 years in education, counseling and administration and thought, "Well, I'm going to have a nice relaxing time now. I'm going to take about a year and do nothing excepting to be with my family and maybe travel a little." I was asked to stay on from September to January to find replacement, so I did.
In January, I decided that my first vacation would be to go to San Diego to a conference - The Association of Counseling and Development. When I got there I discovered that the keynote speaker At the banquet of all places, was Carl Rogers.
I heard him speak for the first time. He talked about something on becoming a psychologist or becoming Carl Rogers but it seems that it must have hatched a title for his biography many years before it was written. I had hesitated to do much group work because I'd seen so many groups in which people were literally taken apart and never put back together again and I shied away from them. So, I listened very carefully to Carl talking about the work which they did in La Jolla and about the La Jolla program. I thought, "Well, if this man named Carl is one who has originated these ideas in this plan for people, of coming together and learning how to facilitate the growth in one another, I think I can trust it and I would like to come out here in the summer," which I did. But you know I got on the plane and I felt, "What am I doing this for? I'm feeling pretty good about my life the way it is and if I go out there I may get all mixed up."
If I had not been on that plane, if I had been on the train, I think I would have gotten off. But I stayed and went to La Jolla that summer. That was the first time that I heard Carl speak and met him in person face-to-face. It was a bit later I went to Mills College workshop. The facilitator for each group was chosen by pulling a number out of a hat. The person delegated by our group chose Carl's number. I was with Carl for two weeks there. That was another chance.
Another one was that when I was leaving the workshop at Mills College, I realized I had forgotten to make a reservation on the plane. I wanted to ,go down to La Jolla to visit a friend. I called and found that they had one seat left on the plane and if I got down there in a half an hour I could go on that plane. I threw everything into my suitcase. I rushed my cab down there, got on the plane and they closed the door. I went to sit down and who was sitting in it beside the only empty seat on the plane? It was Carl.
I We were both worn out and we napped most of the way to San Diego. That was the beginning of our meeting. The beginning of our correspondence was when he wrote and asked if he could give some of my experiences at Mills College in his book On Personal Power. If you're interested in reading that you'll find it in the chapter on how to build a community - how a workshop grew.
It seemed that a series of unusual juxtapositions of the incongruous, if you want to say so, brought us together and we started working together in 1977. It was 7/7/77 that I took a ride up to the Adirondack Mountains and I told Carl that I had some ideas about bringing more of the person-centered approach to the east coast with local staff and he said, "How are you going to choose your staff?" and I said, "I don't know." (This is a workshop in the). "The only way I know is to go ahead into the dining room and to begin talking with people and tell 'them about the idea and if they get excited, I'll invite them to come to a first meeting to find out who is going to be the staff." He laughed. He said, "I guess that's about as good a way as any."
That's how we started working together which was really in that sense in 1977. I think that's enough of the history of it because many people like to say, "Well, how did you get started?"
The other part of it which was the international work was Carl's speaking about many invitations to go to South Africa. He had refused because he was afraid that he would be considered a guest of a white university. He wanted to have all peoples of South Africa represented if he went there for a series of workshops. Then he had a second or third invitation from Len Holdstock who was a former student in his classes in the States. He said he would like to go but at that point he didn't want to go alone.
One day I received a letter from Carl saying, "I was thinking for a long time about going to South Africa and I don't want to go alone. I thought I would ask you to go but you have a family and couldn't be away for five or six weeks at a time. I suppose you can't go but I was eating breakfast on the patio this morning and I said to myself, 'The hell with holding back; I'll ask her!
I read the letter to my husband. (He had planned to be in Thailand for two years in the Peace Corps, so we had pretty much worked this kind of thing out). I read the letter to my husband, Niel, and I said, "What do you think about it? It's going to mean that I will be away from home for quite a long time. What do you think of the idea?" He said, "Well, of course, you must go. You couldn't possibly miss this opportunity." That was the beginning of our work together. It started in Johannesburg with Len Holdstock organizing the work that we did there which was very exciting to us. So that's how it began. That is usually the first question that people ask.
What are some of the things you would like to know? Do you have questions?
Well then, I'll talk a little longer.
Some of the little anecdotes would be as interesting as anything. There's one that happened in Guadalajara, Mexico. We had a very big group. I've forgotten how many, but about 1700 people, I think, in an auditorium first. Then they said, "We're going to break into small groups now. The groups will be on campus at the university." Carl and I were told what group we were to go to. Our group turned out to be 200 - a small group of 200. (laughter)
This is one of the stories I like particularly about Carl's sense of humor. We were working with translators. One young woman who was Carl's translator was waiting to respond because he was talking too long a time without pausing. She said, "I want to be able to catch up with you." She started translating. Well, I don't understand Spanish and I just sat there thinking, "It must take longer to say something in Spanish than it does in English." Then she turned to Carl and she said, "How was that?" And Carl said, "That was just fine. I liked your speech too." (laughter) I realized then why it would take longer to say it in Spanish.
A very poignant one which I think is a very intimate comment about Carl and others he was meeting. I don't know how many thousands were there but it was in a ballroom. I remember looking out on a sea of faces. The only thing I could think of was this was a ballroom and here were literally thousands of people and all I could think of was I would rather be dancing. So I said that and I felt more quiet with that size of an audience of which Carl and I were cofaculty. The thing that touched me very deeply about Carl which he said a lot, for all the people who admired him and worked with him and as he said, "sometimes stood in awe of him" which made him very uncomfortable," he had a hard time believing that people who came close to him or who came up to speak to him in groups and so on were really doing it because they cared about him and not just because he was a prominent person or something of the sort.
When he was introduced the whole audience stood and applauded for, I don't know, maybe two or three minutes until he begged them to sit down. Then he put his hand over the microphone and in a very soft voice he whispered to me, "I think at last I must accept that I am loved." That always brings tears to my eyes when I recall that.
of course everybody who knows Carl, that is most of you, some of you have known him very well indeed and have known him longer than I knew him, but I think the thing that happened with me and that's the most I can tell about is that, at the beginning, on the way to South Africa that first time, I was plagued with a sense of awe too. I felt often like looking over my shoulder and saying, "Who me?" I couldn't believe that I was there or why Carl had asked me but as we Traveled together and as we started working in South Africa together, sometimes with very large groups, I began to realize that Carl was the same whether he was with one person or two people or fifteen or two hundred or a thousand. He was the same person and he was the same person who wrote as he wrote so that it was simply
getting to know a little more closely the person who was there before you and to trust that that was who he was, exactly who he was.
I think his quietness, his acceptance of people excepting when he was driving the car in La Jolla, he had anything but unconditional positive regard. He used to say, "Now these people are not significant others in my life." (laughter) So that was a real treat
but he was openly what he was and he would talk to the drivers as we
passed them sometimes. He would talk to them inside the car but very
explicitly sometimes. I enjoyed that part of it too.
one of the things which was probably more important in all the
years that we did work together very closely had been by chance again
and I keep saying this by chance. I don't know what it was by but it
seemed like chance. Carl had developed macular degeneration so that his central vision was not at all good and he could no longer read papers. I told him I thought it was great that he wasn't working with papers anymore, not that he couldn't, because I think Carl was at his absolute worst when he was reading a paper. He was at his best when he was just being himself and talking with people.
We went to Johannesburg and we found that we were in this big auditorium with several hundred people, fixed seats like an amphitheater. We were on a raised stage with lights shining on our faces and it was being videod and we said, "Well, how are we going to do this? How are we going to get communication back and forth with an audience like this? How are we going to prevent it from becoming a stiff lecture kind of thing?" We had never worked together like this before.
We walked out onto that platform and quietly we said, "The only thing I think that we can do is for us first to introduce ourselves, to tell what resources we brought to South Africa, to tell that we've come here to learn and to be with people and learn from them as well as they learn from us. We hoped that our being there would help in someway in communicating across lines of difference. We knew that we could not resolve the conflicts but we hoped that we would be able to set up in some way a communication that would help people to reach their hands across their chasms of difference and be able to see each other as living human beings with the same kinds of feelings.
We spoke to the group, the audience that way. We said that we would like to tell them some resources that we thought we were bringing. We would like to tell them about the person-centered approach and how we felt that that would help in communications and then we wanted to hear from everyone what they had come there for, what questions they had, what they would like to tell us. As these were reported to us, I wrote them down and organized them into questions.
Then Carl and I started dialoguing. Carl would say, "I'll take this question," and he would start answering it. If I thought of something else or I disagreed or whatever and we did disagree, I would add my comments. We got into trouble sometime especially in
Moscow and I'll tell y ou about that for disagreeing. If we disagreed or however we wanted to do it, we began dialoguing afterward and it seemed to go very well. We then began answering the questions or the comments that had been asked and the audience got involved. There were microphones so that we were able to talk back and forth and we found that it was possible to carry on conversation even with several hundred people.
Carl made a suggestion which I wrote later in "Beginning of a Dialogue in South Africa." Carl said, "I hope to hear suggestions, but I would like it very much if we could have a small group, a small intensive group here for a couple of hours. People would volunteer and I would want it to be mixed representing all the peoples who are here. I realize it may be in the interest of some people to do that." And so I met with all the people who said they would like to become a part of that group, would be willing to, and after some talk and assuring that no one would jeopardize him or herself, a group of people (eleven or twelve besides Carl and me) formed this kind of encounter group. I don't like that word. I don't like the encounter part. I like it to be an intensive group or simply a group but it was that format. We found that one Black man said that this is the first time that he had ever talked to a White person excepting to say, "Yes, boss."
Some others were very verbal and it was a real revelation that in two hours that group could get down to some very deep differences, that they could address them in that group. I'd like to say that the only facilitation I think that Carl and I did there was to listen to people and when we got to someone who was wanting to speak and couldn't because others were speaking that we would try to make room for that person. I believe I've recorded that correctly and that's the way I remember it and it can be read in a paper called "The Beginning of a Dialogue in South Africa," which was published in The Counseling Psychologist a few years later. I was deeply touched by that.
Some White persons in that group said that they had never met in this way another Black person. They had met them mostly as servants. I would like to go into more detail but I think that gives something of the picture of it.
Of course. Carl did a therapy session, a short one, at the same time. That is one of the times when he took "an intuitive leap" as he said when he was interviewing the young woman. He took an intuitive leap and said that he felt somehow that she was afraid of moving into the dark ahead of her in the future. He thought if she could just take that little girl that was living inside her, that little girl who had been afraid before, if she'd just take her with her and love her, that she wouldn't be so lonely when she went out into the new part of her life. I think that was one of the early times when Carl associated that kind of deep empathy with the term intuition which sometimes is considered now a fourth condition which I see as a deepening of deep listening or deep empathy, becoming so much a part of the other person's world that you feel that you're really there with that person but you know that you're not that
person. Am I getting some of the things you wanted to hear? Can I get a response?
Question: How do you work with conflict?
Ruth: I think that it was pretty much the group that I had just spoken about was a group in deep conflict and the most in working with that group which either one of us did was to try to make it a safe place for any person no matter how frightened or how strengthened he/she felt - feel that it was safe and that we cared and we wanted to hear. I think that's what Carl conveyed, is what I tried to convey along with him.
In the Soviet Union, it was a completely different kind of situation. In the Soviet Union in 186 we had thought that in the Soviet Union people would be rather hesitant to speak or to express differences in a group like that. Somehow a repressed society is what we had in mind. We thought that they might be rather phlegmatic people. You see that just shows you can't second guess people because you're usually wrong if you try to do that.
We got into that group and there were about twice as many people as we wanted in the group. They'd been invited from many parts of the Soviet Union, many parts of the City of Moscow. We found that as soon as we got together there was a whole big question, "Who is going to be allowed to stay and who will have to leave?" That was the point at which I felt that I would like to keep the group rather small like about 30 or 35 and if everybody stayed, it would be over 40 people. By the time you added the translators and us, we would have 45 or more people and I was hoping that we could keep it a little smaller but Carl with his big heart said, "Well, all right, let everybody stay."
Right away what was assumed from that beginning group was that Carl and I were in conflict because I said I'd rather have it smaller and Carl said, "Let them stay." They thought later that we had cooked up that difference between us in order to get them started when in reality we did nothing to get them started because from the beginning they felt that some people were being excluded and others were being included who weren't on the original list. They began shouting at one another and were really sharp and vicious in their attacks on one another. The main thing that Carl and I did was to try to slow them down and say, "I want to hear you. I can't hear you when several people are speaking at once. I can't hear you when two people are shouting and I want to hear. I care and I want to hear."
Gradually through that day there was a little bit of listening but people came to us, "What are you doing here? You're not doing anything. If you don't stop this chaos here, we're going to be doing
this for the next several days and went on in that way and that night ,quietly for five minutes before we morning, when people came back, it heard people say things like, "You hall from you for five years and I
we'll never get anywhere." We suggested that people sit left for the night. The next was a different spirit and we know, I have worked across the always hated you. I never liked
you. I always thought that you looked down on me and I got to tell you yesterday and now I can talk to you."
That kind of thing was repeated in different words at various times in that session and I would say again that how did Carl deal with conflict in that situation? How did he deal with it? It was mainly by letting people know that we cared about them; we cared about what they had to say; that we really wanted to hear them and by giving time (and someone said later "modeling" it - I didn't think of it as modeling; I thought of it as really being there and being present with my whole self as I can be) and I know that was Carl always in a group. So, how to deal with conflict?
I would say that was the main way and we never thought that it was going to resolve all those conflicts. Shirley Shochot was with us in Capetown when it almost came to blows between two members of the group who were in deep conflict. Shirley stood up and happened to be between them and they continued talking rather than coming to blows. There were young radical students who were volunteering to fight for the differences they had. We had officials who were there from the government who came to take notes and learn how to resolve conflict and who were given first name buttons and gradually became a part of the group.
A young woman from the University of The Western Cape (this was on our second visit) screamed at one of the officials at one point and said, "I can't be in the same room with you. I can't stand it! I can't be in this room with you! " Again, the facilitation I think that we used there, all of us who were working to bring some kind of understanding of conflict, was to try to help people to hear one another. All ages and personal interests were represented in that room. It is easier to remember the part that I took part in than the parts specifically that somebody else took part in but I know this was true in the way Carl worked too and that was to say when two people were talking past each other like this (moves her hands past each other in opposite directions) and missing, not responding to one another, that one of us would ask, "Did you hear what E- was saying?" And the speaker would say, "Yes, I heard her," but he would go on talking about this other thing.
And then I would say, "E-, would you repeat what you said?" She would repeat it and then one of us would ask the man who had been confronting her, "Did you hear what she said? Would you say it back to her?" until gradually the practice of listening seemed to take hold and it seemed to me that when people can listen to one another and hear them as other human beings and see them as a person who is real there and not as a color or as a badge or as a decision, that then the conflict begins to change. It doesn't go away then. It's not healed but it's possible then for communication to take place. It's possible then for them to talk with one another and to be with one another without these goaded feelings that shout the other out.
I think the thing that moved me very deeply in that intensive workshop was that those two people came together at the end when the young professor and a white young woman, said to the other (the man said to Edith), "Can you be in the same room with me now?" And she was so choked up with feeling and with tears that she said, "I can't answer now." But later on I understand they really worked together in a position of real conflict in which there was bloodshed and they were able to help the security police to hold their fire and to listen to the people. I don't know. This was reported to me. I wasn't there, but I understand that these two people who had not found it possible at first to be in the same room with one another did find a way later to make it possible to save lives by having the security police even listen to them enough that they would hold their fire.
I don't know whether that answers your question or not. I think it was Carl's way of being and listening and no matter when he almost gave up hope sometimes that he said, "Sometimes I give up hope and I think is it worth it? Is it worth the struggle but I always come out to the other side and know that it is worth it." When you see in a group split asunder like that with people suffering because they've been oppressed and people feeling guilty because they have oppressed or been part of a group that has and you see those people coming together and being able to tell each other how they really feel - "I feel uncomfortable in your presence and I don't want to feel that uncomfortable, but I do."
I remember one woman saying to a woman from Soweto, "I don't want to feel this way. I hate feeling this way but I sometimes wish all the Black people would go away because they complicate my life so much." She was in tears because she felt that way. To see as people sat there, day after day, and listened to one another and felt the pain in one another that they began to realize, "I can't resolve this conflict now but I've got to start," and I think that's all that we hoped to do at that time. And certainly that was the way that Carl worked. I know that there are people here who could say more about that probably in ways that you worked with him and I would like to hear about that. I would like somebody else to come up here and tell how it was to work with Carl. Will you do that? Is there someone whos willing to do that?
Julius Huizinga: one thing I find very difficult that someone says to you, "You are not able to understand" and I often think of an article that Carl wrote about this South African experience. He wrote about his experiences. It was in the Person-Centered Review.
(Someone is the audience asks him to repeat his question).
Julius: I said I am very disappointed about one article I read of Carl's. And that was an article in which he writes about his experiences in South Africa. And that was an article in the Person Centered Review.
He described a very nasty encounter where someone said, "It's very nice that you come here and listen to us, Carl Rogers. But you will never understand what's happening here." I would not be able to stand such a reaction, I would find it very difficult. And I would like to know how Carl reacted.
Ruth: I heard in a later session that happened a little differently. That was that I think Carl was really in tears at that point. I know I was in tears too because a woman from Soweto was telling about the sacrifice that she made to come there, that it very well could be that when she went back to her home, she'd find her home burnt down or she would find her family had been attacked or at least her home ruined or something of the sort because she had come in to be at this meeting with White people in Johannesburg. And she had felt so deeply that she got up to leave the room. Carl felt that he was in the presence of something that was much bigger than he could take in. I said, "I can reach my hand across this chasm but I can't reach you because I have never been there. I can't imagine how that would be." I think that's a real limit of empathy and I think it exists quite often and it was clearly acknowledged and I think this expresses what you are asking about Carl. I think he went as far as he could go. He had been saying, "Yes, I can't really understand what it is to be you. I am trying as much as I can to understand how it would feel but I can't always do that."
I think what was important there was that he cared that much that he would try as hard as he could try to be there with that person and that person felt that and it was not all that was needed but it was enough to make that person feel, "I'm cared about here and I'm being listened to and there's hope."
Is that responding to you?
Julius: Yes, thank you.
Ruth: Shirley, I think you were trying to say something.
Shirley: I think I would like to add to what you were saying about that particular incident. That happened on the second visit that you and Carl came to Johannesburg in 186 which I had organized, in which you and Carl trained I believe it was 40 Black and White men and women to facilitate dialogue in small groups. This particular
At this point I did not hear the question, how did Carl respond to his client's apparent lack of respect for him? I have since responded more directly to the question by letter. Carl was staying so empathically close to the client that he did not respond to the personal criticism of the client. But members of the audience expressed anger at what they considered disrespect for Carl. Because Carl was able to stay so close, the client was able to face his own fears. He said later the experience with Carl changed his life.
incident was one of the most deeply shocking incidents for each and everyone of the 40 and perhaps two people in that group. I think the fear that the audience experienced of the state of that woman was more than any of us had ever encountered in our life. The way in which I recall that was that Carl sat close to her. He did that often and would go closer to someone that wag talking in order to be able to hear him correctly. He on a couple of occasions, got up and sat on the floor at the feet of whoever was speaking.
When he got up to listen to this woman speaking, as she was talking about being a sellout and what could happen to her, Carl simply sat and the tears just rolled down his cheek.
Some months later a piece of research was done on the work which Carl and Ruth did in South Africa and the way in which it was done was each person was interviewed who had been a part of that group. Every single person when they were asked what was the greatest impact of being in that group, each person mentioned that it was Carl's, not his ability to do anything, but his deep, deep caring. He was unchanged. He just sat there, tears streaming down his face, not doing anything. But that in itself was healing. Many, many people said that image stayed with them.
Young Woman: I read somewhere that for Carl religion was a taboo and I would like some comments, if it is possible, from you on that topic. I am surprised there was a taboo around that.
Ruth: Carl was definitely a very spiritual person but he was not a part of organized religion. I don't mean that he was against religion or religions. I understand this somewhat because I think we both got an overdose of very strict religion, known in the United States as Methodism, or something similar to it which is very narrow and circumscribes a great deal of life. I think it was that that Carl reacted against. In fact I know it was because we shared that. It was not that he was against religion, it was that he was against religions that told others how they should be. As long as a person practiced it himself or herself that was fine but he was not wanting to be a part of an organization that imposed that kind of observance or belief on someone else.
Is that responding?
Young Woman: It's difficult. There was a kind of taboo.
Ruth: I don't know. I just know that a religion that required a great deal of circumscribing people's lives was painful to Carl. But I think it went beyond religion. other parts of life too in which people did the same kind of thing and tried to impose their will on other people and have power over, Carl would have resisted that too and in that sense that was taboo too in his way of thinking and being.
It doesn't feel right yet? You want to pursue that further?
Ed Bodfish: Carl liked Buber and he liked a lot of spiritual questions.
Ruth: That's right.
Nat Raskin: I can maybe add a little to that. I would guess that some of you know and others of you don't know that Carl actually intended to have a career in theology and he started out at the University of Wisconsin, majoring in agriculture but decided as a result of going to China with a delegation of young Christians, he came back and decided to major in history at the University of Wisconsin preparatory to becoming a graduate student in theology, which he did. He went to the Union Theological Seminary in New York and actually one summer he worked in a church, I imagine something like this in Vermont as an assistant pastor or something like that.
Ruth: Summer pastor.
Nat Raskin: So, yes, I guess he knew the full responsibility. Whatever attitudes he developed about it came out of really close experience. He decided after being a student at Union Theological Seminary to move across the street, to cross Broadway to Teachers College and become a graduate student in clinical psychology, which he did, but I agree that he was basically a very spiritual person. But I think that he also went through some different phases about that.
Ruth: I think part of that at Union Theological Seminary was that at that point he had a hard time intellectually accepting that theology, even the most liberal theology, but I never knew of his saying that he would stand in the way of somebody else doing it.
Nat Raskin: I certainly agree with that. One thing somewhat related to this thing - I remember when I was a graduate student living in Ohio State and we were both very young. I was nineteen. He was thirty eight. He had a very scientific attitude and I remember him to stay very apolitical. He wasn't interested in politics or in trying to change the world or anything like that.
I saw him change over many years in that he became extremely caring, extremely concerned about people who were deprived or poor or discriminated against. He really warmed up as a person.
Ruth: I think there was some question about someone saying to him that this is political. He had taken a political stand. Carl said, "I don't get involved in politics." But then he wrote On Personal Power and what is that but politics. He even wrote The Politics of Administration and The Politics of Education later on. The field kept broadening. At first it was client-centered therapy and then it was person-centered approach. The very last part of his work involved not only politics but it involved working with people who were responsible even on a second to the top level of diplomacy. If we had gone back to the Soviet Union another time when Carl was living, which we planned to do, the design was that we would meet
with some of the diplomatic representatives of both countries and try to work with them in bringing about some kind of communication different from the diplomatic communication of you know, bargaining. Trying to listen to one another.
In South Africa, I think there were two people there who were from Parliament, one person was definitely a member of Parliament and other very political figures. We had a great deal of people who were very much interested in politics.
Ruth (aside): What was Sats?
Shirley Shochot: ANC.
Ruth: So we had people who had a lot of interest in politics. Even after he broke his hip that last week before he died, Carl said it would be healed in time so that he could go back to South Africa. The intent was to move farther over into the political field and try to help introduce communication among people who had some clout politically, which of course did not work out. He died in the interim.
Nat Raskin: This might lead to something else. It's true if you wanted to try to better things by working, trying to influence people with power. on the other hand, it really made no difference to him what position or status a person had. This was true from the beginning of my association with him before I began doing graduate work with him at Ohio State. I wrote to him from New York City where I was an undergraduate student. He wrote back a very personal, interested kind of letter, encouraging me to come out to Ohio State. I remember an incident after I had left Ohio State -- I had, like many of the other students there, made a verbatim typescript of a complete therapy case. And here I left Columbus, Ohio, I was working for the Army of the United States in West Virginia and I got a letter from him enclosing this live interviewed case that I had done many months before and Carl wrote that he had intended for a long time to go over this case and he sent back the most detailed kind of reaction to my responses. I remember one where he wrote, "terrible," where I had been particularly nonempathic. This is my experience over the 47 years that I knew him, that he was always personally interested, personally reaching out. He wrote me many, many letters of appreciation. He himself was such a considerate person.
Man: Why did Carl not apparently pay any attention to the body as is done in bioenergetics?
Ruth: I think he did. The thing which I always felt from Carl talking about the therapist and the client or, which I like better and he did - the therapist and the other - was that if you are being as completely present as is humanly possible to be with the other person, if you have set aside your own needs for the moment, for 'that present time and are really entering into the other person's life and experience in a very deep and empathic way, you're really prizing that other person and entering into his/her experience. You are
aware not just of what is going on with their body or what's going on with their eyes or what's going on in their voice but you are totally with that person which certainly includes the body but not trying to read body language and interpret it and say, "What does that mean?" It all became a very subtle part of the very living relationship and at it's best it was really able to enter into that person's experience and the person felt it and sensed it. I don't know whether that's answering your question.
I don't think he tried to interpret body language. He never tried to interpret dreams. He never tried to interpret or to try to manipulate it to try to get the client to a certain place. Someone asked him in an interview in Moscow, "Did you ask that question in order to get this person to another place and awareness?" He said, "I didn't intend to get that person anywhere. I was trying to understand where the person was." I think that's the best response I can give to your question.
Mieke van Schaik-Verlee: I should like to add one little thing because I met Carl a few times and the first time I was very nervous, like I am now, and my husband and I, we told him we were in the school based on ideas from Carl Rogers and my husband wrote a book about it and he wants to visit Carl and then Carl said, "I hope to exchange my ideas and my basic feelings. That was exactly what I heard that you said. He didn't label. He didn't want to be in any association that was revolutionary, that was not liberal, that told things to people. He said, "I hope you change in your own way."
When we came home, our administrative director didn't understand because he said, "You were disappointed, weren't you?"
Ruth: Thank you.
Grace Chicadonz: I'm interested in you, Ruth, and I wondered if you would share with us some of the ways in which your life was touched or changed by basic theories that you shared with Carl.
Ruth: It's undertaking a good deal to say that. I'll try and touch on some of the things briefly. As I said, I intended to retire and was going to take it easy. I found that there was a kind of explosion in my life after my first work with Carl. It was the kind of explosion that kept saying to me all the way along, "Well, I really don't know my potential yet." It just kept expanding and expanding and I found myself doing things that I never had any idea I could do because Carl would simply say to me would you do that with me or suggest that I do it, hot making a demand but saying "No, let's do this or would you like to do that?" and I found myself doing it, things I had no idea before that I could do. So that is one very big impact, and I just finished a paper in which I ended that way "and I still don't know what my potential is."
I think it's that whole sense of expanding and becoming that became so real in working with Carl because that was always the direction, it was always the motion. In writing a chapter with him, a chapter on "Client-Centered Psychotherapy" for the Comprehensive
Textbook of Psychiatry (it was the first one that we did together), I tried very hard respecting Carl's writing because after all it was his article and we were writing a revision of it, so I was trying very hard to stay in Carl's style and to do whatever work I was doing in revision in that light. I was having a very hard time and so I said, "I'm getting too bogged down here. I'm' stalled. I'm not getting anywhere," so I put that aside and I started out and I did it my way. When I saw Carl next, we had time to sit down and talk. I showed him the two versions and I said, "I would like for you to read them now. This is a revision of your chapter. I would like you to read those, if you will, and tell me which one you prefer." Now here is the measure of the man. He read it over and he said, "I think yours is accurate. I think it says what I would want to say. It is fresh. It is fresher and therefore I choose it." To me that was almost unbelievable. I was expecting he would say, "Well, take this part here and put it in there and so on." But I had no idea he was going to say that. But that was a kind of trust. He had chosen me to revise it, but he trusted me. I was thinking he trusted me to move a few things around or introduce a couple of ideas maybe, but I did not take in that he really trusted me to do it until he said, "I choose this one" - a person with Carl's stature and his position and all of that, it seemed to me that that was a real measure of his openness and willingness to accept it.
There's another time in which I was having a very, very difficult time with a relationship which had ended, or not ended but I felt I was disappointed. It wasn't working out the way I had hoped and I talked with him about it. His response to me has stayed with me since then and I think it's always with me when I find that I have a feeling of difference with another person who matters to me, who is really important in my life. He said, "First of all, you are grieving a death. You are grieving a loss. I can hear it. You feel that you have lost this valuable relationship. I would hope that at first you would let yourself grieve and then I would hope that you would be able to accept that relationship for exactly what it is and enjoy that." That was saying it may work out differently from the way I expect. I may find myself disappointed or feel abandoned or cut loose or whatever, but if I can really accept that other person, although I can't yet see her/his point of view because I'm too blinded by my own loss. If I can accept that for the time being and then let that relationship grow in its own way, it will be different probably from what I wanted, but it can still be a good or rich relationship. Or I can decide I don't want to invest anymore in it because it's not that significant. But that meant a great deal in my life and it taught me a great deal about my relationships with people.
Also, we had a lot fun together too. It wasn't all work. Carl had said to me that he thought he never really learned to play and I love to dance and certain kinds of play I like very much and I think he enjoyed that and sometimes he said, "I think that you're teaching me how to play." I think as Nat was saying earlier, more and more he was able to be demonstrative in his feelings, more and more he was able to lay aside his discipline. He was the most disciplined person I ever knew. He could be the most empathic and open and outgoing but
in his work, he was absolutely disciplined. He would get up in the morning, see the eight o'clock news which was short but contained all the essentials, have breakfast, go to the desk and probably worked with Valerie who came everyday, was his secretary, until noon. At 12:30 he had lunch, took a half hour nap and then whatever. He told me that in earlier years he would get up at 4:00 in the morning and do his serious work and writing until breakfast time and then go on with his full day's work. He did that year after year. That is why he was able to do as much work with people as he did and still write as prolifically as he wrote, the volumes and volumes of articles and books that he wrote. I think it was because of his discipline.
That discipline also had another side was very controlled and didn't always show the time. People sometimes accused him of angry or to express his anger. I think he acknowledged that he had difficulty for many years expressing anger, and also difficulty in expressing warm feelings for people unless he was very, very close to them in a family or in a very intimate way. I think he relaxed that more as he went along. He said it was easier for him, to hug somebody for example. It was easier to accept that kind of body contact. So I think that's another part of Carl, that he was very disciplined, had a great deal of control over his own feelings. That's why it was so significant when he cried.
I'd like to say in the time I knew Carl, there were three times that he cried because of the great sadness or the great loss of his own. He cried when trying to empathize with, getting into the experience or the pain or the despair of another person more easily than his own. on one occasion I said to him, "Carl, you're feeling very, very sad about something. Is it something you'd like to talk about?" He said, "No. I think I must be slightly depressed. I feel like crying and I don't want to." And he didn't. But I think there were times when he felt very sad and some disappointment in a relationship of his own and at that point he sometimes did cry for himself and for his loss. But I think three times in the time I knew him. I guess it's important to have noticed those things.
And he could get angry and he did get angry. We sometimes got angry with one another and I'm glad we could because if I hadn't dared get angry with Carl and he hadn't dared get angry with me, I would have felt that our relationship was a shallow one.
So I appreciated that, although I didn't always appreciate it at the time.
It didn't happen very often but it did happen. So Carl was able to be angry.
There's are two things that come to my mind if I can keep one in mind while talking about the other one. The one maybe someone who knows me pretty well will remind me about cutting the tree and I want to get back to that. But I want to tell you a little incident which says something more about Carl. It says something about me, and it says something about Carl. We were in an intensive group in Tbilisi, in the Soviet Union in 1986. I noticed on the second day of that group that people were switching in a kind of rhythm which I often see happening in a group. That sometimes we get very intellectual,
and it could mean that he his own feelings a lot of not being able to get acknowledged that he had and also difficulty in he was very, very close to very theoretical and other times we get very emotional and very deep into their own personal selves. It goes in a kind of rhythm like the waves of the ocean and you learn to expect and to appreciate that. But on this occasion in this group which had been going very well and I felt very much a part of it, I suddenly noticed that every time there was a theoretical or an intellectual question, it was directed at Carl and I began to feel invisible and I didn't like it. I felt myself withdrawing because I didn't feel included. I was withdrawing myself. I was not really present. At the end of that day I said something to Carl, "I felt I was invisible today. I wasn't there. I felt uncomfortable..,
He said, "Well, I would hope that you can tell the group that." So the next morning I went to the group and I said, "I feel very much a part of this group for the most part, and I felt very close to many of you, but yesterday I felt invisible. I felt that every time there was an academic or intellectual question, you addressed it to Carl, and I don't know why that was. I wondered if it was because this is in Georgia, the Soviet Union, and that it is your expectation that only men should respond to intellectual or academic theoretical questions, or whether it's because Carl is a renowned psychologist and you recognize him for that and so you assume that he is the person to whom you should direct your questions and if that's the case, that's all right. or is it because you think that only a man thinks.
And I said, "I have worked too long to appreciate my intellect that I'm going to put it aside now. You don't have to say anything to me. You don't have to explain or apologize or anything but I just had to say that, and now that I've said it, I can be with you."
The amazing thing that happened was for the first time in the Soviet Union, we spent most of the rest of the day discussing men and women issues where it had been said there was no man-woman issue because women had equal rights. But we got in some very deep things that day and Carl loved to tell that story. So, there Carl opened the door. He said, "I hope you will say that in the group," which was encouraging. When I was able to do that, it opened the door for the whole group. I learned from that, that when I could truly be myself, even though it is a negative or confronted feeling, that it can be very helpful to the group, and it turned out to be.
The director of the institute said at the end of that day's discussion, "I want to tell my staff and I want to tell my wife, who is present, that from now on I am going to think much more carefully about valuing a woman in the same way that I value a man whether it's on my staff or in my family, and I intend to follow up on that and I want everyone to hear it because I want to follow that through. That to me was a tremendous experience, and the fact that Carl encouraged me to do it. I don't know whether I would have done it on my own or not. I can never tell that but the way it worked was fine and helpful.
Another story that Carl liked had to do with not expressing anger. After one of our workshops in the east, Carl had come home
with me. I have a huge tree in my garden in my back yard that has five big branches just like fingers of a hand. I feel it's a protecting hand for me. Even in a hurricane, I trust it. I came home from a workshop. Carl came back with me. He was in the house. I saw sawdust on the driveway and I couldn't understand why. Then I looked up. I saw that my neighbor, in my absence, had had a tree surgeon come and cut off the limbs of that tree exactly at the fence, at the line. So here the tree was, short on this side and tall all the way around. I went over to see my neighbor. I was furious and I went over to see the neighbor to speak with him about it. He wasn't at home which was pretty bad. I had to hold onto that for quite a while.
When I was telling about that in South Africa in Capetown one time, I was saying that I finally went back and saw the neighbor and said to the neighbor, "Don't you ever touch my tree again! If I'm here, let me know, and I'll have it done, but don't you ever touch that tree again!" And he said, "I'm sorry you're unhappy about it."
I said, "Unhappy - nothing. I'm furious! I don't want that to happen again. I'll take care of the tree, if you let me know if it troubles you."
Well, I told that story and a psychologist in the audience in Capetown said to me, "Well, don't you think it would have been a little better if you had put in a cushion in there and told him first something that you liked about it?" (laughter) I said, "I did not want to put a cushion in there at that point."
Carl loved to tell that story too and he said the message he got was, "Don't mess around with Ruth's trees!" (laughter) So, we had fun together too.
The last week we spent together was halfway between my birthday and his birthday. I had celebrated one birthday with him, but he never celebrated a birthday with me. When I went out there, we were finishing some project that we were working on. He said, "I have a birthday gift for us." The birthday gift was that he had planned and paid for and given to both of us as a birthday gift a three-day trip to Las Vegas. (laughter) Las Vegas is a gambling center of the United States. He said, "I thought we should go somewhere and do something we had never done before." I was really taken aback. I was surprised that he had chosen to do that. But we went, and we had a great time. We went to three night club shows in three days, and Carl enjoyed them all. I enjoyed them too. We played the slot machines. We started with quarters. We decided then we'd graduate to a dollar. The first dollar I put in, I got 25 back. That was a real come on. Immediately Carl reached in his pocket and got the dollars out. He said, "Here, you take it." (laughter) We agreed to stop when we were even, or when we had spent no more than ten dollars, and we finally did. It was really a fun time and something different.
We came back on a Wednesday and on Friday night. After we had been working - we were planning another trip to South Africa - we finished our work and that night as we did very often, put on some of the records from the musicals that we liked like Camelot, My Fair Lady and so on. We were dancing in the living room. It was free form dancing, we each did our own thing, but we danced to the music, and it was fun doing that. The next morning about four o'clock I heard a call from Carl's room, and I went rushing in. He said, "Ruth, something has happened. I don't know, but I got up to go to the bathroom, and I lost my balance, and I sat down hard, and my right hip hurts. I don't think it's broken, but I think we better get some help."
So, I called the hospital, and they sent an ambulance. We went to the hospital and found that the hip was broken, and he had to go into surgery that day, which he did. He came through the surgery fine. I talked with him afterwards and stayed until about midnight that night, wanting to stay in the hospital room and watch, because he had had an anesthetic and general anesthesia, and his heart was not strong, and I was concerned. But he said, "No, go back and get rest and I'll see you in the morning." He was as bright and cheerful as ever and smiling. He said, "They tell me I can go to South Africa in six weeks, but I can't cross my legs. I'll have to watch that hip, but I'm going to South Africa." The last thing he said was "you go home, and you go back and rest, and I'll see you in the morning."
At four o'clock in the morning I got a call saying that Carl had cardiac arrest and gone into a coma. He never regained consciousness. He died three days later still in the coma.
I have this pleasure and this satisfaction even in the depth of that grief. That was that he had his wish that he didn't have to live long and be a burden to other people and to suffer. So far as we know, and I don't know if we can know that, so far as we know, he was in so deep a coma that they say he was brain dead, and that he did not suffer, did not know what was going on. At any rate, it was only three days and he got his wish. He got his wish to die young. We were dancing the night before. He got that wish; he got the wish that he didn't have to suffer; he didn't have to be a burden on his family or to others for a long period of time. To me, it was enough to temper the sorrow of his leaving in the form we knew him. I don't know, maybe that's a good place to stop unless you have something you wish to add.
Julius Huizinga: I'd like to thank you for sharing that with us. To me, it's a very good time to stop. Thank you very much.