“We” in community at ADPCA in Rochester had a fight and I feel sad in the wake of it. I guess I was already sad and not up to the argument in the first place because I found in the course of it that I had no words with which to argue my point in the battle within what I believe has been a thirty, forty or fifty year war within the approach.
I haven’t really had my words for this ongoing fight since Barbara Brodley died. I more completely lost my words and my energy when my own mother died. I was trying to pick up my pieces when Nat died — he died about a month after I wrote an email about death to the ADPCA listserv — an email that had words but was incomprehensible.
I woke up this morning, the last day of a much needed vacation for me and Bert. We spent our vacation walking in forests (but sleeping in motels). So as I write (still to a far degree without my words) I see forest shadows with little sprinkles of sunshine, green moss, and mud, vermillion, yellow and white mushrooms, green leaves, pine needles, dying growth, stricken and dead trees, friendly chipmunks and endless mosquitoes.
So I woke up thinking about the ADPCA fight and about Carl Rogers.
To me Rogers’ theory has a trajectory that soars into the netherworlds of philosophy and post-modernism.
The 1959 theory statement is a crystalline work of art.
Embedded as it is in the Koch book with the Koch mission, the theory seems grounded in science (social science). But, within that chapter, Rogers states that we do not know what the far philosophical reaches of the statement will come to mean. The theory, in 1959, is crystalline, embedded as if in rock, with a symmetrical diagram no less. But the crystal is like coral reef — it is alive and moving, delicate and ephemeral like a snowflake, lost but not gone, but the moment has died, or is it dead? Is it particle or wave?
Is it a bird, a plane? It is certainly not Superman. It is as flickering as each of our capacity to experience the attitudinal conditions from moment to moment. But it is also in the cracks of our fatigue and prejudices — in our incongruence as well as our congruence.
So back to our war within the approach. How do we survive? Are we incapable of compromise and resolution? I say, yes, I am incapable even though I don’t want to fight. I think to myself thoughts like, “They” don’t understand Rogers, “they” don’t get the theory, “they” don’t register the trajectory of the theory. Particle and wave? With all of the space in the universe, doesn’t “it” have to be more wave than particle — or is it really all emptiness and death?
There’s a good bit of the rub. It’s with this death stuff. That’s what I’ve been learning these last three years since my deaths began. It’s a lot in all the stuff, the left-over papers and artifacts. The wonderful inheritances and solid treasures I can touch and feel strengthened by, filled within into a sense of my own landedness in my own power. But really all I’m left with is my own attachments and my own moods and fears.
So I woke up thinking about Rogers and that “they” don’t get the man the way I do (even though some of them actually knew and rubbed shoulders with him and I never did). But it’s not really about the man. It’s about the trajectory of a theory, of words, of an idea, of an example of how to be in constructive rather than destructive relationship with another. The idea did not start with Rogers, but he, with his words and ways and personal growth brought it to psychology (and to groups, and to all the helping professions, and the predatory professions, and to peace conferences) in a unique way. He brought us the glimmers and flickers of sunlight and photosynthesis within the darkness of entropy and the hope within relatedness. But entropy does not have to be dark, and relationship can be deadly.
My next thought was that Rogers’ did not have the energy to protect the wave trajectory of his theory. He didn’t feel he owned the theory, and the theory is about not controlling others, so it would be a theoretical lie to fight to protect the public clarity of the trajectory. And, after all, the essential ideas of the trajectory are older than Rogerian theory.
There are those who get the paradigm and want to preserve it within the mainstream. Those who want to band together for greater effectiveness and political/economic survival. This mission is real to them and who am I to badger and hinder them. Again, the rub. Rogers did not say before his death, as I might wish he had, — “Shut up, you over-active crusaders and self-serving revisionists. Don’t you see that you are on a slippery slope of snowflakes. If you do this and take that and use it, then our dreams are back to mud on the particles of old physics and you’ve obfuscated the trajectory of the life’s breath of the Person.” Maybe Rogers didn’t say it because it is all true. The life is in the mud, in the dust when the water is evaporated, or is it still in the air within the water?
At any rate he didn’t say something to arrest the march of the good soldiers who want to take the banner to the mountain and stake out some economic territory for the person-centered approach.
But the good soldiers are my mosquitoes. The flag of the person-centered approach does not, because it cannot, declare all the stars in my universe. It’s presence, like a billboard on the horizon where others see it, where some apparently hope it is maybe going to finally force the “mainstream” to recognize our entitlement to the territory we’ve claimed, and some apparently think the banner can represent the philosophy of person-centeredness. This rag of a flag that does not belong on my horizon, is blocking the trajectory of my personal truth and is an inaccurate representation of the trajectory of Rogerian theory. But that’s not true. I’m no more lasting than a mosquito and my personal truth just is, except when it isn’t.
Rogers is dead. My lament is for myself. For my own mosquito life and my wish to enjoy and bask in my flicker of sunshine and relationship to my world. How long is the shelf life of the packaging of an idea? Longer than my own capacity to experience its way of being within a single therapy session. Not true. The being is in the incongruence as well as in the congruence.
Both the base and the top of many columns in ancient Greece were decorated with the eternal circle of the egg and the sword. 0I0I0I0I0I0I0I
The moss and the chipmunks and Bert’s and my escape into greenness have helped me find some of my words.
The mosquitoes in Michigan’s upper peninsula were unrelenting but the chipmunks were more playfully “in relationship” with us.
Editor's Note: Thanks to Kathy Moon for her kind permission to reproduce this item (and for sharing the photographs too).
It first appeared as a post to the international listservs (email lists), which remain perhaps the best sources of discussion about the Person-Centred Approach.
There are three lists - PCINTL, NDSU-CCT-C-PCA and ADPCA - although membership and posting is to a great extent interchangeable.
They are not advertised publicly, but if anyone reading this is inspired to join these lists, please email for further details.