A Way of Being

a way of being coverThis post is based on a review of Carl Rogers’ book A Way of Being that first appeared in Conjunction, magazine of astrological psychology, November 2013.

Those interested in counselling will be familiar with the work of Carl Rogers, one of the founders of the modern approach of person-centred counselling. You may have even read some of his numerous publications, such as Client Centred Therapy. His ideas are of much broader interest as they are relevant to personal relationships in general.

A Way of Being was published in 1980. At the age of 78, these were Rogers’ reflections on the development of his ideas and wisdom over a lifetime. Its chapters comprise a number of talks and articles by Rogers during his later years, so represent the fruition of a lifetime’s work. What a pleasure it is to read through one of these from time to time, gaining insight into the development of his ideas in therapy, counselling, encounter groups and education from the perspective of the man himself.

It is impossible to summarise, but I will give you a flavour by simply selecting quotes from the book:

“When I truly hear a person and the meanings that are important to him at that moment, hearing not simply his words, but him, and when I let him know that I have heard his own private personal meanings, many things happen. There is first of all a grateful look. He feels released. He wants to tell me more about his world. He surges forth in a new sense of freedom. He becomes more open to the process of change.”

“a creative, active, sensitive, accurate, empathic, nonjudgmental listening is for me terribly important in a relationship.”

“In place of the term “realness” I have sometimes used the word “congruence.” By this I mean that when my experiencing of this moment is present in my awareness and when what is present in my awareness is present in my communication, then each of these three levels matches or is congruent.”

“When I am able to let myself be congruent and genuine, I often help the other person. When the other person is transparently real and congruent, he often helps me. In those rare moments when a deep realness in one meets a realness in the other, a memorable “I-thou relationship,” as Martin Buber would call it, occurs. Such a deep and mutual personal encounter does not happen often, but I am convinced that unless it happens occasionally, we are not living as human beings.”

“I challenge, with all the strength I possess, the current American belief, evident in every phase of our foreign policy, and especially in our insane wars, that “might makes right.” That, in my estimation, is the road to self destruction.”

“…the individual has within himself vast resources for self understanding, for altering his self-concept, his attitudes, and his self-directed behavior— and these resources can be tapped if only a definable climate of facilitative psychological attitudes can be provided.”

“Our culture, increasingly based on the conquest of nature and the control of man, is in decline. Emerging through the ruins is the new person, highly aware, self directing, an explorer of inner, perhaps more than outer, space, scornful of the conformity of institutions and the dogma of authority.”

“…perhaps we are touching the cutting edge of our ability to transcend ourselves, to create new and more spiritual directions in human evolution.”

“a high degree of empathy in a relationship is possibly the most potent factor in bringing about change and learning.”

“whether we are functioning as therapists, as encountergroup facilitators, as teachers, or as parents, we have in our hands, if we are able to take an empathic stance, a powerful force for change and growth.”

“We are deeply helpful only when we relate as persons, when we risk ourselves as persons in the relationship, when we experience the other as a person in his own right. Only then is there a meeting at a depth that dissolves the pain of aloneness in both client and therapist.”

“Only the younger generation, I believe, can help us to see the awful dehumanization we have bred in our educational system by separating thoughts, which are to be approved, from feelings, which are somehow seen as animal in origin.”

“I am deeply concerned with what is going on in American educational institutions. They have focused so intently on ideas, have limited themselves so completely to “education from the neck up” that the resulting narrowness is having serious social consequences.”

“Only in recent years have I recognized how threatening were my views. If accepted, they effectively reduced the political power of therapists or teachers”

This is indeed a rich resource, with much food for thought. I read it in the Kindle edition, which is very suited to occasional ‘dipping in’.


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