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Carl Rogers - A Way of Being

Updated: May 3, 2021

From Wikipedia: Carl Rogers (January 8, 1902 – February 4, 1987) was an American psychologist and among the founders of the humanistic approach (and client-centered approach) in psychology. Rogers is widely considered to be one of the founding fathers of psychotherapy research.

A Way of Being was written in the late 80's. Reading it today, I find myself seeing how eerily it resonates in the present-day. I spend a lot of the week talking with clients about their individual processes and struggles while also realizing there is a bigger context and "society" out there. Nobody would deny that there is a message of:"more is better, bigger is better, faster is better." Just thinking about technology's role in shaping all of us is terrifying.

Many of us wrestle with an "outer child" or sabotaging part of ourselves - wrestling with not being able to get off our phones or scrolling through social media, and living days where we ignore our true values and what is important in our lives. Some of the Western ideas here abandon the reality that at any point things can go terribly wrong, we can get hit sideways by a job loss, romantic breakup, physical illness, death of a family member etc. There is a lack in honoring each person's individual process; in its place is a collective message that we are inadequate/not good enough (shame) and that we don't measure up (more shame).

The present-day environment is difficult to navigate as there is clear and obvious polarization. This all or nothing thinking is a result of both individual and collective trauma. How common it is now to use our phones to make others go away when we disagree (Curt Thompson): instead we ghost, label, go on the attack, or villify "the other." Maybe it is idealistic to value everyone's opinions and to realize that each person has arrived at specific views due to their experiences and environment, but what a noble goal to try and reach.

Brene Brown talks about how accountability is the way to change but not by shaming others (Brené podcast on Shame and Accountability). It's easier to call someone "stupid" or "uneducated" when really if we tried to be more curious about others, or try to put ourselves in others' shoes, there would be more compassion for others' struggles and true connection (which at the end of the day is what each person wants/needs). The US specifically is individualistic and not in a healthy way. We are more isolated, more alone, and living lives dominated out of an outer child/reactionary stance. Almost on a daily basis, I step out the door and am met with complete rage of strangers. Rage is just a reaction to feeling powerless/out of control. What if we could focus on the value of community while respecting the gifts and uniqueness each individual offers.

I think it boils down to a culture that shames listening, shames being attuned to others, and instead rewards/respects the person or tech company with the biggest machete. Who cares who has the nicest house, biggest salary, most expensive car when in the end it all boils down to a pile of nothing (DMB). I wonder if listening is a dangerous thing, because some of us don't actually know what to do when someone is present with us. We want it while also it terrifies us that someone might see us and that this could be an ok thing. The deep fear that at the core - we are wildly flawed and inadequate - must be challenged with the concept of all of us having an inner child in there who is wildly capable, deeply gifted in unique ways, and able to exist in this world without being tied to results to feel ok about who we are.

Carl Rogers Quotes:

  • "We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet listening, of this very special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know."

  • "The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change."

  • "The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change."

  • "The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction not a destination."

  • "When I look at the world I'm pessimistic, but when I look at people I am optimistic."

  • "With the price of life these days, you've got to get everything for free you can."

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