HomeArticles2017 Personality 10: Humanism & Phenomenology: Carl Rogers
2017 Personality 10: Humanism & Phenomenology: Carl Rogers
October 18, 2019
All right. So… We’re going to leap out of the psycoanalytic domain, now. and start talking about a form of approach to personality and its transformations that’s predicated on a different… a set of different philosophical assumptions. And…it’s a bit tricky to navigate this because… it requires the adoption of a different frame of mind and, of course, that’s the case with all the theorists that we’re going to be discussing. Uh… Phenomenology probably had its most thorough explication in the philosophy of Martin Heidegger. And Heidegger was actually trying to reconstruct western philosophy from the bottom up. He tought that we had been pursuing an improper pathway conceptually really ever since the time of the Ancient Greeks. Back around the turn of the century — the previous century, that’s from the 19th to the 20th century — a new form of geometry was invented and that geometry was predicated on different axioms than Euclidian geometry. Now, people had thought for thousand of years that the world was properly described by Euclidian geometry. and, you know, when you employ a system like Euclidian geometry you have…there’s axioms that you have to accept and they’re like the rules of the game and, once you accept the axioms then you can go ahead and play the game. But there are other forms of geometry invented and…in the…in the later part of the.. 19th century and it turned out that those forms with different axioms actually described the world better than the Euclidian forms, sort of like the transformation from Newton to Einstein…this was the.. transformation from Euclide to, say, — I think I”ve got his name right — Rie…Riemannn, R, I, E, M, A, N, N., who developed a new form of geometry and turned out to be just the geometry that Einstein needed when he was putting his theories forward. And, the reason I’m teling you that is because you can think of systems that have different axioms as… as different tools Same idea that Piaget was trying to express when he talked about how children’s cognitive representations underwent stage transformations so that they were starting to apply new principles. Not only a new way of looking at the world but they were fundamentally retooling their presumptions about how the world operated. And Heidegger tried to do the same thing with philosophy. And so… And it’s tricky to figure out exactly what he was talking about but I’ll give it a shot and then, we can move forward with Rogers So… Since the dawn of the scientific world and, likely, before that, we have tended to believe that we are subjects in a world of objects. And that ‘s obvioulsy a very useful way to view the world and you can tell that because, formalizing that in the form of science, has enabled us to extend control over the world in ways that we were not able to before. Uh…To formulate the idea of an objective truth has been an extraordinarily useful maneuver and so, the idea, roughly, is that everyone’s perceptions can be contaminated by their own biases and their own fantasies, that subjective biases and fantasies and you can overcome that by stringently specifying the conditions under which an observation takes place — so that would be an experimental method — Having multiple people view the consequences separately, have them detail out what the consequences are and then look for commonalities across them. And, you think, well, the commonalities across a set of observations constitute a description of the objective world. And that’s been insanely powerful. ..uh….crazily powerful. I mean that’s not all there is to the scientific method but it’s a big part of it. Now… there is an emergent problem with that perhaps, It’s complicated but one of the emergent problem with that is… maybe, a consequence of stripping the subjectivity out of the world So… What science does is..consider anything subjective as a form of bias or error in the observation and then, get rid of it and so what you’re left with, when you… formulate the scientific world, is a world that’s stripped of subjectivity. Now, the problem with that is that you’re a subject and so, when you strip the world of its subjectivity, that sort of leaves you isolated, like an isolated being with no necessary connections to objective reality, in the midst of a set of impersonal facts. And, that seems to have psychological consequences and the psychological consequences are that, well, for example, I think it’s easier to develop a nihilistic sense of being, for example, if you believe that the world is nothing but objects and that you’re,… fundamentally, an object among many and not a particularly important one, at that. So…there are psychological consequences to adopting the scientific worldview. Prior to the emergence of the scientific worldview, people were more embedded in what you might think about as a mythological landscape, you know, where every element of being had its place in something that approximated a master plan or, at least, a meaningful plan. And so…the idea of … the meaningfulness of life was not necessarily such a pressing intellectual concern. And then… well, and so, we don’t know the full extent of that …I mean… I’ve talked to you a little bit about Nietzsche’s idea that’s expressed at the end of the 19th century about the death of God and his prognostication that the collapse of… classic systems of meaning open up people to posession by nihilism and also by potentially totalitarian political systems and that seems to have been what happened Now, Heidegger was very concerned about that, among other things. And so, he decided to reconsider reality from the bottom up. And so, what he did was generate an alternative set of axioms. He said something like “what if we decide to make reality everything that we experience? Forget about the subject/object divide. And…One of the other problems with the subject/object divide for example, is accounting for consciousness, right? because it’s a problem that science really hasn’t got any distance with at all, as far as I can tell. I mean, people have been trying to crack the secret of counsciousness, obviously, for a very long time but they’ve been trying to do it formally and using scientific methods, at least for the last 50 years and my sense of that is that they’ve got absolutely nowhere. Maybe, that’s a bit unfair. We’re better at representing how conscious experiences manifest themselves in the brain but we’re but we’re certainly no better at understanding how it is that we experience things. And that’s the problem of “qualia”. That’s how the philosophers describe it. And qualia is the quality of your experience, like the fact that pain, for example…A pain you feel is by no means identical, at least, as far as your concerned, to some pattern of neurological activity, right? It’s pain. It seems to be a fundamental reality of some… In fact, I think pain is THE fundamental reality. I think it’s the only thing that people will never deny. But… So, there’s these aspects of your existence that are subjective, like your experience of colour and your experience of beauty and just your experience of things or, maybe, just your experience. Your eperience plays an indeterminate role in the structure of being itself. ‘Cause you might ask, well, what would there be if there was nothing conscious? and you could say, well… what would there be if there was nothing conscious of being? Well, it’s a tricky question, because it depends on your a priori axioms but…it’s not obvious what there would be in the absence of a conscious oberver. There wouldn’t obviously be any duration between things. It would be very difficult to specify things in terms of size. There wouldn’t be any of the qualities that we experience… …that we experience our being is having ’cause colour doesn’t seem to be an intrinsic part of the world, smell doesn’t seem to be an intrinsic part of the world. It’s very difficult. The more you think about it, you’d find the more difficut it is to determine exactly what there would be if there was no one to observe it. And…that’s not the tree-in-the-forest idea, precisely It’s not so much if a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one to hear it, it doesn’t make a sound ’cause that’s more a matter of the definition of sound than anything else. This is more, like, if there’s a tree in the forest and there isn’t anyone, is there a tree ? And that’s a whole different question. Anyways, so, what Heidegger did, partly because he was not pleased, I suppose, with the metaphysical consequences of the scientific worldview, and also, perhaps, because he wasn’t very happy about our ability to account for consciousness, he decided to see what would happen if he played a different kind of game. And you can do that in an intellectual discussion, you know, you can say, well, here’s a set of axioms out of which a system will emerge, like, here’s a set of rules out of which a game would emerge. Same idea. What if we start with a different set of rules? Let’s see what we can do if we do that. You kind of do that when you play one video game rather than another. You know, there’re little worlds that pop out. There’s a different underlining structure. And then, you can go inside that world and experiment with it and see what comes out of it. So Heidegger decided to say “OK, what we’re gonna do instead is we’re going to assume that everything we experience is real. We’re going to make our field of experience itself reality”. And…So that would mean, from Heidegger’s point of view, that everything about the being that manifests itself to you is to be regarded as equallly real. So, then, you think, well, that makes pain a fundamental reality. That makes anxiety a fundamental reality. It makes beauty and colour fundamental realities. They’re not self-evidently reducible to anything else, which they would be… …which they are in a scientific…from a scientific perspective because you have to think about them as manifestations of some more fundamental underlying material reality. And I guess that’s another problem with the subject/object model and the material model. When you aggregate atoms, when you arrange them in certain forms. When they manifest themselves as certain molecules and then in more complex structures, they seem to take on all sorts of qualities that you couldn’t predict if you just knew about the subatomic particles and the atoms themselves and so, of course, the… those are called emerging properties and you say, well, you can observe hydrogen and you can observe oxygen but that doesn’t make it self-evident for you to be able to predict the properties of water. And, of course, that’s a more simpler problem, all things considered, than the problem of figuring YOU out. You’re this crazily complex aggregate of these hypothetical… hypothetically simple entities but it isn’t obvious how their elemental properties can combine to produce YOU. It’s not obvious at all. It’s certainly not obious how a material that’s supposed to be dead matter, so to speak, can manifest consciousness, no matter how complexly it’s arranged. So… The phenomenologists, Heidegger leading them, were… attempted to produce a philosophical model of being. And…We’ll talk more specifically about the phenomenologists after we’re done with Rogers, but he is… he fits in that philosophical framework. And… One of the things that I’ve thought… — This is a bit of a tangent but I’ll move back to the model afterwards. — See, I really like the psychoanalysts. And I like the idea that you have a psyche that’s inside of you and that is structured, in part consciously and in part uncounsciously. There’s something about that that’s really cool and I’ve learned a lot from the psychoanalysts. But, you know, there is a funny conesquence of thinking the way they think — and you do think the way they think, even if you don’t know it — like we tend to think that a lot of us is inside our head, you know. That’s the psyche model basically. But, the more I’ve practised as a clinical psychologist the less I’ve actually been convinced that that’s true So, I could say, well…Let’s say I want to know about your personality. We think, well, I wanna now you. I wanna know about your subjectivity and I want to know what’s inside of you. But that is not exactly what you do want to know if you’re doing clinical work, say, with someone. You wanna know do they have any friends? That’s really important. Because, if you’re miserable and anxious and badly placed in life and misbehaving, one of the reasons that all of that can occur is ’cause you don’t have any friends, you don’t know anyone. And that’s not something that’s inside you. It’s you, localized in a broader sphere. And then, you might say, well, do you have a job? And…Well, let’s talk about the job. Do you actually make enough money with your job? Is it satisfying for you in any way? Are you bullied all the time when you’re at work? Does it provoke anxiety? Is it a carrier that allows you to go somewhere? Are you overworked? Or…But let’s start with just the first question. Do you have a job? Well, if the answer to that is “no”, you have a serious problem and that would enough might be to depress you and make you anxious and hopeless and nihilistic and all of those things. And, you could say, well, you’re not reacting very well to not having a job but that’s kind of a foolish objection, even though some of it might be true. One problem is that you’re not reacting very well to not having a job but another problem is that you don’t have a job and that, actually, constitutes the problem, right? You don’t get to eat, you don’t have a place to live. Those aren’t psychological problems precisely, even though a psychological probem could make it worse. Well, are you as educated as you should be? That’s another question. How do you handle drugs and alcohol? Are they taking you down a bad pathway? Know? Uhmm… What about intimate relationships ? Do you have one? Do you have a plan for one? Or is that a never ending series of catastrophes or something that you avoid completely? That’s a big problem! And, maybe, people don’t… aren’t attracted to you for one reason or another and…. You can think about that as a psychological problem but…it’s an interpersonal problem. And the degree to which that’s a psychological problem is… is certainly unspecified when you first begin to talk to somebody. What about your family? Do you have a family? ‘Cause’ it’s hard to be in the world all by yourself. That’s for sure! It makes things a lot more stressful…even though having a family can also be extraordinarily stressful…you know.. Do you have plans to have children? How are you doing with your parents? Do you get along with your siblings? You know, all of that, all of that, to me, is more fundamental and it’s outside of you. Those are elements of your experience. More broadly…conceptualized… more than they are objects of your psychology or of your internal experience. You know, it’s sort of like Well, a person is a creature that exists at multiple levels of analysis. Right? Something might go wrong with you at a cellular level. So, maybe, you’re born with a genetic abnormality. So, something’s wrong with you molecularly. Or you have something wrong with a major organ. Or, maybe, there’s something wrong with you psycologically. Or, maybe, you’re in a pathological family. Or, maybe, you’re stuck in a pathological social system. And… figuring out why you’re suffering means going up and down those different levels trying to specify the appropriate level for analysis and also the appropriate level for intervention. And, for me, as I said, even though I’m a great admirer of the psychoanalysts and I do things like dream analysis which I really find incredibly useful and enlightning, the first, the fundamental level of analysis is, well, what’s your experience structured like… exactly? And that isn’t localized in you. Now, the behaviourists do that to, because… — which is one of the things I really like about the behaviourial approach of psychotherapy. It’s very very concrete and practical. It’s like, they’ll say, well, there’re certain things that you need to have in order to live properly and, maybe, you don’t have the skills or the wherewithwall… wherewithal to accumulate them and we’ll break them down into tiny little pieces and you’ll practice. So, for example, someone who doesn’t have any friends and you do a micro-analysis of their…social skills, say, and maybe an analysis of the kind of anxiety that are stopping them from going out and meeting people and then you address those things practically one by one. You try to get the person have some friends. You try to figure out how they can establish an intimate relationship. You see if you could help them sort out their family. You do what you can about their employment and…A lot of that’s only tangentially related to — really, in some sense — to the structure of their psyche. But, one of the things you’ll see, if you work as a clinician, or as a counsellor, is that, most of the time, people come and see you because they have problems, not because they have psychological problems. And those things are not that easy to distinguish. You know, it’s sort of the psychoanalytic idea, sort of like, well, if you juste got your act together, everything would work out for you. It’s like, yeaaaah… There’s some truth in that. But… But, you know if you’re 55 years old and you’ve just been laid off work, and, maybe, through no fault of your own, it isn’t obvious how much getting your act together is gonna help you find another job…because… the actual problem that you’re facing may have relatively little to do with you. And that would especially be the case if you’re, maybe, on the bottom half of the itelligence distribution, for example, and so…it isn’t as easy for you just to go out and pick up new skills at the drop of a hat…you know…and that gets harder as you get older because your IQ actually declines quite substantially as you get older, the working or the…. the fluid intelligence part, anyways — exercise can keep that at bay, by the way, it’s the best way to keep that at bay. So, anyways…you can think, from the phenomenological viewpoint, of your experience as a whole, instead of you being a subject in an objective world. And so…here’s another way of…here’s something that’s quite useful. Jung talked about this ’cause he was moving towards a phenomenological perspective later in his life. The last book he wrote was called Mysterium Coniunctionis. He talked about three conjunctions that needed to take place in order for someone to be well constituted psychologically. And, you know how Piaget talked about learning that you could, not only follow rules, but that you could make rules for new games as sort of a highest level of moral development. I would say Jung extended the Piagetian moral continuum up past what Piaget had envisioned. Now, he didn’t… he didn’t do that ’cause he wasn’t trying to extend Piaget’s model. But… But you can think about it the same way. And it’s not easy to come up with a moral mode of being, say, that transcends the ability to make rules for new games. That’s damn smart, man, that’s… That’s a major home run by Piaget, as far as I am concerned. But Jung said something like this. He said, look, when you’re going through the process of psychological integration… Here’s a way of conceptualizing it. He thought about this as… symbolically, as male-female pairings, because… as I’ve tried to point out, the most… one of the most fundamental categories that our mythological imagination uses to structure the world is the category of masculine and feminine. And it moves that around, you know, it’s a fundamental metaphor so you can move that around anywhere. And so Jung thought well, one of the things that you’re trying to do is to get your thoughts and your emotions integrated. And so, you know, the classic Enlightenment viewpoint, roughly speaking, is something like, passion is the enemy of reason. Right? And so, to the degree that you’re rational, it’s sort of a Freudian viewpoint ’cause you’ve got your emotions under control. And…there’s some truth in that but…not enough truth. I like the Piagetian idea better, which is that, no, no, that isn’t what happens. What happens is if… if you’re playing the proper game is that, you integrate your emotions underneath your thinkings, something like that. So, they’re all working in the same direction, you know. So, for example, you can make your anxiety work against you or for you. And, one of the ways… I made a program, called the Future Authoring Program that I think helps people do that. ‘Cause, one of the things you see when you’re talking to people and they’re trying to solve problems is that they’re afraid to face the problem. And so, then, their anxiety is working against them and you can think about it as a… as antagonistic to rationality. But then, I could say, well, what if you think for a while about what your life would be like if you didn’t face this problem? Because, if you think that through, if you have a problem and you really think through what the consequences are gonna be in two to three years of not facing it, then you’re gonna get more afraid of not facing it than facing it. And that’s great because then, your anxiety, instead of standing in front of you…instead of… you having a dragon that’s guarding the path in front of you, you have one chasing you down the path from behind. That’s a lot more useful. And so… you know, that’s just a… a minimal example of the utility of getting your emotions and your… and your thoughts aligned the same way. The same thing happens with the aggression. You know…One of the most common reasons that people come and seek psychotherapy, really, is because they’re too agreeable. But…what that means is they’re not assertive enough. They haven’t integrated their capacity for aggression. And so, other people can push them around. And…and they’re very conflict avoidant. And…and so, the consequences of that across time is that you don’t stand up for yourself well enough and you get taken advantage of and that spirals badly downwards. And so, partly what you do when you’re doing assertiveness training with people is you find out what they’re angry about…and… They’re usuallly angry, if they’re not assertive enough, because other people are taking advantage of them or, you could say, because they’re not putting their own… necessities forward with enough force. It’s hard to distinguish between those two things. But, anyways, you… get them to talk about what they’re angry about, that often makes them cry, often many times, and then, you get them to kind of envision what they would want to have instead, which they’re often afraid to do because people are afraid to think about what they want because that makes it more clear when they’re not getting it and that’s painful, right? Or, maybe, they’re afraid of hoping so they won’t specify a clear aim. But, anyways, you get them to think about what they might want instead. You get them to think about the cost of not pursuing that and then, you help them develop strategies for integrating their aggression and… with their thinking, so they can come up with a plan to approach the world in a more confident way. So, for example, someone might come to me and say “I’m being bullied badly at work”. And so, then, I’ll say “well, what are your options? You have to put up with it? Well, we’ll figure that out cause maybe you do, maybe you don’t have options. But here’s how to find out. Get your damn CV together, so it’s pristine, right? It’s ready to go. Get over your fear of a new interview, because people are generally afraid of that. Get over your fear of applying for a new job. Start thinking about what it would mean to have a different job. Start thinking about what it would mean to have a better job, even. Cause, maybe, your fear is just making you stuck here but I can tell you one thing : if someone’s picking on you at work and you don’t have options, you lose.” So you get the person to start building a strategy. It’s like, “OK, if you’re gonna tell this person to stop, you have to know how to make them stop and the one thing you need for sure is an option, and, if you can’t…if you don’t have an option then, maybe, we start thinking about the fact that you need some more training or something like that. Because you cannot negotiate if you don’t have any power. So…because while….especially if you’re dealing with someone who’s really out to get you or really disagreeable, If you don’t have a leg to stand on, they’ll just push you over and, maybe, they’ll jump on you too because that’s what they’re like and enjoy anyways, so… It’s no joke. So… You put your options behind you and then you start to think about strategy.” So I tell people “Look, if you’re being harassed at work, you document it every time it happens. You write it down. So you’ve got like twenty stories about it and it’s fully documented. And then, you go confront the person at some point with, at least, 3 pieces of evidence. And you have some sense about what you tell them about what will happen if they don’t stop. So you have to figure out : well, they don’t stop? What are you gonna do about it? Leave? Not if you can’t leave. So, you have to be able to — what is it? — wield a big stick and speak softly. But, you see, that way…that’s how you take your aggression, which is an absolute necessary part of your psyche and manifest it up into a sophisticated means of dealing with the world. You don’t just suppress it and say “well, I should be able to put up with it” or “I wish I wasn’t so angry” or some…it’s like…forget that! That’s… All that’ll happen is your blood pressure will stay high and you’ll die of a heart attack. Because anger, for example, is a very toxic emotion. And it does cause heart damage over time. It’s the only emotion that we really know that’s been linked to things like cardiovascular risk. And anger is toxic because it’s like, you’re driving a car, you’re stepping on the gas and pushing on the brake at the same time. Because anger tells you to run away and to attack …at the same time, cause you don’t know what’s gonna happen. And so, it really amps up the physiological demand on your body. And so, if you… — including your heart and your musculature — so, if you stay like that for like 10 years, you know…you’re gonna age 20 years. And that’s a bad plan. So… So, you know, you take your underground emotions and you integrate them into a sophisticated reality. Now… Jung said, so “FIrst of all you unite your mind, your thinking, let’s say, with your emotions. So that makes one thing, instead of two fighting things.” OK. That’s a good one. And then, the next conjunction he talked about was “It isn’tenough to unite your mind and your emotions”. And he tought about that as male/female pairing, symbolically. That’s how it would manifest itself sometimes in dreams. So you take the masculine element and the feminine element, the thinking and the emotion, unite those and that makes you more like one thing. OK and now, all of a sudden, that’s represented as symbolicaly male, that one thing. And it unites with something else that’s now represented symbolically femin…female. That’s the body. So you take the mind/emotion integration and integrate that in your body. So what’d that be? You act it out! Instead of just thinking. So, there’s this philosophical idea called a… — now I’m gonna forget what it’s called — It’s a contradiction in action! There’s actually a technical term for it. But that’s when you think and believe something but you don’t act it out. And so, that means there’s a dissociation in you somehow between your abstract representations and what you manifest in action. Wel that’s another form of discontinuity that isn’t doing you any good. You know, the driver is going one way and the car is going the other. And you won’t even be able to understand yourself, if you do that. But, even more, you’re not putting your principles into practice. So, you’re dissociated. Your being is dissociated. So… Once you get your mind and your emotions working together, then the next thing to do is to act that out consistenly. That was the second conjunction, as far as Jung was concerned, and then the third one was — this is the tough one, and this is the one that’s related to phenomenology — you erase the distinction between yourself and the world. OK. That’s a tough one. So, imagine you’re dealing with someone who’s hoarding. Now, people who are hoarding are often older or neurologically damaged or they have obsessive compulsive disorder. But then, you walk into their house and there’s like ten thousands things in their house. There’s…there’s…there’s There’s, maybe, a hundred boxes. And you open up a box and, in the box, there’s some pens and some old passports and some checks and… there’s collections of silver dollars and some hypodermic needles and some dust and… you know, a dead mouse and…and… there’s boxes and boxes and boxes. It’s like that in the house. It’s absolute chaos in there. Absolute chaos. Not order…chaos. And then, you think, is that their house or is that their being? Is that their mind? And the answer is : there’s no difference. There’s no difference. So, you know, I could say, well, if you want to organize your psyche, you could start by organizing your room…if that would be easier, cause, maybe, you’re a more concrete person and you need something concrete to do. So…you go clean up under your bed and you make your bed and you organize the papers on your desk and you think, well… Just exactly what are you organizing? Are you organizing the objective world or are you objecting your field… are you organizing your field of being, like your field of total experience? And Jung believed that…and I think there’s a Buddhist doctrine that’s sort of nested in there, that, at the highest level of psychological integrration, there’s no difference between you and what your experience. Now, you think, well, I can’t control everything I experience. But that’s no objection because you can’t control yourself anyway, so the mere fact that you can’t extend control over everything you experience is no argument against the idea that you should still treat that as an extension of yourself. Well, let’s say that you have a longstanding feud with your brother. Well… Is that a psychological problem? Is that him? Is it a problem in the objective world or is it a problem in your field of being? And it’s very useful to think that way because you might ask what could you do to improve yourself? Well, let’s step one step backwards. The first question might be why should you even bother improving yourself? And I think the answer to that is something like : so you don’t suffer any more stupidly than you have to. And, maybe, so others don’t have to either. It’s something like that. You know, like, there’s a real injunction at the bottom of it. It’s not some casual self-help doctrine, it’s that if you don’t organize yourself properly, you’ll pay for it. And in a big way. And so will the people around you. Now… And, you could say, well, I don’t care about that but that’s actually not true. You actually do care about that. Because, if you’re in pain, you will care about it. And so, you do care about it. Even if it’s just that negative way, you know. It’s very rare that you can find someone who’s in excruciating pain who would ever say well, it would be no better if I was out of this. This sort of pain is one of those things that brings the idea that it would be better if it didn’t exist along with it. It’s incontrovertible. So…You get your act together so that there isn’t any more stupid pain around you than necessary. So then, the question might be: well, how would you go about getting your act together? And the answer to that — and this is a phenomenological idea too — it’s something like: look around for something that bothers you and see if you can fix it. So…Now, you think, well let’s say you go into a — you can do this in a room. It’s quite fun to do it just when you’re sitting in a room, like, a room…maybe, your bedroom, you can sit there and then just sort of meditate on it, think, OK, if I wanted to spend 10 minutes making this room better, what would I have to do? And you have to ask yourself that, right? It’s not a command, it’s like a genuine question. And things will pop out in the room that, you know, you…like…there’s a stack of papers over there that’s kind of bugging you and you know that, maybe, a little order there would be a good thing and, you know you haven’t… There’s some rubbish behind your computer monitor that you haven’t attended to for, like, six months and…the room would be slightly better if it was a little less dusty and the cables weren’t all tangled up the same way and… like, if you…if you allow yourself just to consider the expanse in which you exist at that moment, there’ll be all sorts of things that will pop out in it, that you could just fix. And, you know, I might say, well, if you’re coming to see me for psychotherapy, the easiest thing for us to do first would just be to get you to organize your room. You think, well, is that psychotherapy? And the answer is, well, it depends on how you conceive the limits of your being And, I would say, start where you can start. You know, if something announces itself to you, which is a strange way of thinking about it, as in need of repair, that you could repair, then, hey! fix it! You fix a hundred things like that, your life will be a lot different. You know, I often tell people too, “fix the things you repeat every day. Cause people tend to think of those as trivial. Right? You get up, you brush your teeth, you have your breakfast, you know, you have your routines that you go through everyday. Well, those…those probably constitute 50% of your life. And people think “well, they’re mundane, I don’t need to pay attention to them”, it’s like no, no, that’s exactly wrong. The things you do every day, those are the most important things you do. Hands down. All you have to do is do the arithmetic. You figure it out right away. So… A hundred adjustments to your…broader domain of being and there’s a lot less rubbish and.. there’s a lot less rubbish around and a lot fewer traps for you to step into. And so… That’s in keeping with Jung’s idea about erasing the diss…once you’ve got your mind and your emotions together and once you’re acting that out, then you can extend what you’re willing to consider yourself and start fixing up the things that are part of your broader extent. Now, sometimes, you don’t know how to do that. So, you might say, imagine you’re walking down Bloor Street and there’s this guy who’s, like, alcoholic and schizophrenic and he’s been on the street for ten years. He sort of stumbles towards you and, you know, incoherently mutters something. That’s a problem! And…it would be good if you could fix it but you haven’t got a clue about how to fix THAT. You just walk around that and go find something that you could fix because, if you muck about in that, not only is it unlikely that’ you’ll help that person, it’s very likely that you’ll get hurt yourself. So… you know, just because, while your experiencing things announce themselves as in need of repair doesn’t mean that it’s you, right then and there, that should repair them. You have to have some humility, you know. You don’t walk up to a helicopter that isn’t working and just start tinkering away with it. You have to stay within your domain of competence. But, most of the time, when people look at their lives, you know…. — It’s a very interesting thing to do. I like…I like the idea of the room because you can do that at the drop of a hat. You know, go back to where you live and sit down and think “OK, I’m gonna make this place better for half an hour. What should I do?” You have to ask. And…things will just pop up like mad. And it’s partly because your mind is a very strange thing. As soon as you give it an aim, a genuine aim, it’ll reconfigure the world in keeping with that aim. That’s, that’s actually how you see, to begin with. And so, if you set it a task, espec… — you have to be genuine about it, which is why you have to bring your thoughts and emotions together and then, you have to get them in your body, so you’re acting consistently. You have to be genuine about the aim – But once you aim, the world will reconfigure itself around that aim, which is very strange. And…and… it’s… it’s..it’s technically true. You know, the best example of that — you’ve all seen this video where you…watch the basket ball being tossed back and forth between members of the white team versus the black team and, while you’re doing that, a gorilla walks up into the middle of the video and you don’t see it. It’s like… — you know, if you thought about that experiment for about five years, that would be about the right amount of time to spend thinking about it. Because, what it shows yo isthat you see what you aim at. And that, man, if you can get one thing through your head as a consequence of even being in University, that would be a good one: you see what you aim at. And so, because…one… inference you might draw from that is… be careful what you aimt at! Right? What you aim at determines the way the world manifests itself to you. And so, if the world is manifesting itself in a… very negative way, one thing to ask is: are you aiming at the right thing? Now… you know, I’m not trying to reduce everybody’s problems to an improper aim. People get cut off at the knees for all sorts of reasons, you know. They get sick, they have accidents, There’s a random element to being, that’s for sure. But — and so, you don’t want to take anything, even that particular phrase too far. You want to bind it with the fact that random things do happen to people. But it’s still a great thing to ask.– OK, so, Rogers was a phenomenologist. He was interested in…he didn’t start his philosophy from the perspective of subject versus object or from the idea of psyche, like, sort of inside you, your mind with it’s layers. That’s not how it looked at it. And so, let’s go through… (now…) I’ll introduce you to Rogers. I think that… then we’ll talk more about him next time. I’m gonna start though, with something that I learned from him that I think was of crucial importance. And so, we’ll set the stage for the further discussion with this. And I’m gonna read it to you. ROGERS : “Assuming a minimal mutual willingness to be in contact and to receive communications, we may say that the greater the communicated congruence of experience, awareness and behaviour on the part of one individual, the more the ensuing relationship will involve a tendency towards reciprocal communication with the same qualities. Mutually accurate understanding of the communications, improved psychological adjustments and functioning in both parties, and mutual satisfaction in the relationship.” It’s quite a mouthful. What does it mean? “Assuming a minimal mutual willingness to be in contact and to receive communications.” Okay, we are having a conversation. I’m deciding I’m going to listen to you. Right, That’s different than how people generally communicate, because usually when they communicate, they’re doing something like: Okay We’re going to have a conversation, and I’m going to tell you why I’m right, and I’ll win if you agree or maybe you’re having a conversation where i don’t know what your trying to do, maybe your trying to impress the person you’re talking to, so you’re not listening to them at all, you’re just thinking about what you’re going to say next. Okay, so that’s Not This. This Is: You might have something to tell me. And So, I’m going to Listen On the off chance that you’ll tell me something that would really be useful for me to know. and so, you can think about it as an extension of the Piagetian… you know Piaget talked about the fundamental The fundamentally important element of knowledge being to describe how knowledge is sought. The process by which knowledge is generated. Well, if you agree with me and I find that out, I know nothing more than I knew before. I just know what I knew before. And, maybe, I’m happy about that because, you know, it didn’t get challenged. But I’m no smarter than I was before. But, maybe, you’re different than me and so, while I’m listening to you, you’ll tell me something I would… I don’t like. Maybe, it’s something I find contemptible… or difficult, whatever. Maybe you’ll find…you’ll tell me something I don’t know. And then, I won’t be quite as stupid. And then, maybe, I won’t run painfully into quite as many things. And that’s a really useful thing to know, especially if you live with someone and you’re trying to make long-term peace with them and they’re not the same as you. And their way they look at the world and the facts that they pull out of the world aren’t the same as your facts. And… even though you’re going to be overwhelmed with the procilvity to demonstrate that you’re right, it is the case that two brains are better than one. And so, maybe, nine of the ten things they tell you are dispensable, or, maybe, even 49 out of 50. But one thing…all you need to get out of the damn conversations is one thing you don’t know. And one of the things that’s very cool about a good psychotherapeutic session is that the whole conversation is like that. All you’re doing is trying to… express the truth of the situation as clearly as possible. That’s it! And so… Now, Rodgers’ proposition — and I’ll tell you why he derived it — was that, if you have a conversation like that with someone, it will make both of you better. It will make both of you psychologically healthier. So, there’s an implicit presupposition that the exchange of truth is curative. Well, that’s a very cool idea. I mean, it’s a very deep idea. I think it’s the most profound idea… It’s the idea upon western civil… upon which western civilization — although not only western civilization — is actually predicated. The idea that truth produces health. But for Rogers, that was the entire purpose of the psychotherapeutic alliance. You come to see me because you want to be better. You don’t even know what that means, necessarily. Neither do I. We’re gonna figure that out together. But you come and you say “Look, things are not acceptable to me and maybe, there’s something I could do about that”. So that’s the minimal precondition to engage in therapy. Something’s wrong. You’re willing to talk about it truthfuly and you want it to be better. WIthout that, the therapeutic relationship does not get off the ground. And so, then, you might ask: well what relationships are therapeutic? And the answer to that will be: if you have a real relationship, it’s therapeutic. If it isn’t, what you have is not a relationship. God only knows what you have. You’re a slave, they’re a tyrant. You know, you’re both butting heads with one another. It’s a primate dominance hierarchy dispute or, I don’t know, you’re like two cats in a barrel or two people with their hands around each other’s throats. But what you have is not a relationship. So… All right. ROGERS “We may say that the greater the communicated congruence of experience, awareness and behaviour on the part of one individual”…PETERSON That’s a reference to the same idea that I was describing, with regards to Jung. so… Let’s say, you come and talk to me and you want things do go well. Well, I’m gonna have to more or less be one thing. Because,
if I’m all over the place, you can’t trust any continuity in what I say. There’s no….and…you There’s no reason for you to believe that I’m capable of actually telling you… …I’m capable of expressing anything that’s true. So, the truth is something that emerges as a consequence of getting yourself lined up…and beating all the… — what would you call? — …all the impurities out of your…out of your… out of your…. soul, for lack of a better word. You have to be integrated for that to happen. And you do that, at least in part, by wanting to tell the truth. ROGERS “…the more the ensuing relationship wil involve a tendency towards reciprocal communication with the same qualities….” PETERSON : So, one of the things — ’cause I’ve been quite influenced by Rogers — One of the things I try to do in my therapeutic sessions is, first of all, to listen, to really listen. And then, while I listen, I watch. And while I’m listening, things will happen in my head. You know, maybe, I’ll get a litte image of something or I’ll get a thought or a question will emerge and I’ll just tell the person what that is. But it’s sort of directionless, you know. It’s not like I have a goal — except that we’re trying to make things better — I’m on the side of the person…I’m on the side of the part of the person that wants things to be better, not worse. And so, then, those parts of us have a dialogue and the consequence of that dialogue is that certain things take place. And then, I’ll just tell the person what happened. And it isn’t that I’m right. That’s not the point The point of this is that, they get to have an hour with someone who actually tells them what they think. Here’s the impact you’re having on me. You know…This is making me angry. This is making me happy. This is really interesting. This reminds me of something that you said an hour ago that I don’t quite understand. And the whole… the whole point is not, for either person to make the propositon or convince the other that their position is correct, but merely to have an exchange of experience about how things are set up. And it’s extraordinarily useful for people because it’s often difficult for anyone to find anyone to talk to that will actually listen. And so…another thing that’s really strange about this listening is that, if you really listen to people, they will tell you the weirdest bloody things so fast you just cannot believe it. So, if you’re having a conversation with someone and it’s dull, it’s because you’re stupid. That’s why. You’re not listening to them properly. Because they’re weird. They’re like wombats or albatrosses or rhinoceroses or something, like, they’re strange creatures. And so if you were actually communicating with them and they were telling you how weird they really are, it would be…it would be anything but boring. So…. And you can ask questions, that’s a really good way of listening. But, you know… one of Rogers’ point is that, well, you have to orientate properly in order to listen. And the orientation has to be: look, what I want out of this conversation is that the place we both end up is better than the place we left. That’s it! That’s what I’m after. And, if you’re not after that, you gotta think: why the hell wouldn’t you be after that? What could you possibly be after that would be better than that? You walk away smarter and more well equipped for the world than you were before you had the conversation. And so does the other person. Well, maybe, if you’re bitter and resentful and angry and anxious and, you know, generally annoyed at the world, then, that isn’t what you want. You want the other person to walk away worse, and you too, cause you’re full of revenge. But…you know… You’ll get what you want, if you do that. So… ROGERS “We know from our research that such empathic understanding…” PETERSON: It’s already defined, that. I want to hear you, I want to hear what you have to say, so we can clarify it and move forward. I want to have your best interest in mind…And mine as well…but… you know…both at the same time. Your family’s too, if we can manage that. We’re after making things better. ROGERS: “We know from our reserach that such emphatic understanding — understanding with a person, not about them — is such an effective approach that it can bring about major changes in personality. Some of you may be feeling that you listen well to people and that you have never seen such results. The chances are very great that you have not been listening in the manner that I have described. Fortunately, I can suggest a little experiment that you can do to test the quality of our understanding. the quality of our understanding. The next time you get into an argument with your wife, or your friend, or a small group of friends, stop the discussion for a moment and, for an experiment, institute this rule. Each person can speak up for himself only after he has first restated the ideas and feelings of the previous speaker accurately.” PETERSON: What “accurately” means is they have to agree with your restatement. Now, that’s an annoying thing to do! Because, if someone is talking to you and you disagree with them, the first thing you wanna do is take their argument and make it the stupidest possible thing out of it that you can — that’s the straw man — and then, demolish it. It’s like…so then, you can walk away feeling good about it and, you know, you primate domins… dominated them really nicely. So… But that is not what you do. You say, OK, well, I’m gonna take what you told me, and, maybe, I’m even gonna make your argument stronger than the one you made. That’s useful if you’re dealing with someone that you have to live with. Because, maybe, they can’t bloody well express themselves very well but they have something to say. So you…make their argument strong. All right…then… ROGERS: “You see what this would mean. It would mean that before presenting your own point of view, it’d be necessary for you to really achieve the other speaker’s frame of reference — to understand his thoughts and feelings so well that you could summarize them for him. Sound simple doesn’t it? But if you try it, you’ll find that it’s the most difficult thing that you’ve ever done.” PETERSON: OK, good, we’ll leave it at that and then, we’ll see you on Tuesday.