Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mirrors & guides

This is a reply to a blog post written by my friend bel.

I enjoyed reading your post, and I always appreciate a good ole' Rogerian shout-out as well. :-)

One thing that I was thinking about, regarding this topic... There is an approach to these spiritual / personal growth stuff that says basically that people are so un-self-aware, so very mechanical & predictable, and the old repetitive patterns that they carry out when left to their own devices are so self-destructive, that what is best for people to do is to find & totally dedicate themselves to someone who is more wiser, evolved, aware and more developed than they are for guidance. In other words: find your Teacher and commit yourself to them. I think that the Sufi tradition is the best example of folks who take this approach.

To a much lesser degree, this same mentality shows up in the NVC scene as well. I have found places where great importance was placed on having a "mentor" relationship with a certified trainer, or emphasizing "coaching" as the primary mode for learning. The whole Focusing partnership process, and Focusing-oriented psychotherapy as well, also has an air of a wiser person pointing the direction towards what is best for the person to focus on in the moment. As a result of all this, the whole question of "non-directivity" vs. "directivity" within a helping relationship is a huge one in the Person-Centered Approach scene. Regarding this Gendlin once told me: "be shamelessly directive, but always pause and check in with the person's experiencing".

Speaking for myself here, I recognize that it really *can* be quite helpful for me to have someone who is more aware than I am at the moment to guide me back to more "sanity" or balance. There have been moments when I have felt very weak or confused that you have served that role for me. Sometimes I just get so very caught up on my own thoughts and reactivity that it is quite helpful for someone to say "Stop. Breath. Step back, and look at *this*"

However, at the same time, I notice also that I feel much more free, happy, and I generally just enjoy myself, humanity, and life in general so much more when I take the straight-up Rogerian approach that you talk about here. In other words - TRUSTING PEOPLE, trusting life, trusting yourself, is all so much more uncomplicated, free and at ease, I find.

Perhaps a crucial part of the "empathy session" relationship, one of the things that makes it such a helpful experience, is that at that moment one of the people is more grounded, balanced and aware than the other, and the two are having an honest open-hearted conversation. Eventually, the person who is distraught and "receiving empathy" takes guidance and inspiration simply from from this way of being of calm groundedness & awareness that the other is embodying.

Conversely, perhaps part of the helpfulness of the Carl Rogers approach is that it is a set of stories, particularly, stories that say that you can trust people, that you can trust yourself, and that we all have it naturally built into us already to grow, heal, and to develop in positive and healthy ways. That story almost goes hand-in-hand with a big sigh of relief for me.

So perhaps in the empathy session, with the Focusing partner, the Teacher or guide - it best can be seen as being a kind of mirror for yourself. In other words, the parts of yourself that you want to see, that you want to remember, you go find this mirror... to reflect.