Oh Carl Rogers–what a sexy beast! I was studying up on humanistic psychology for one of my grad school pre-requisites (Grad school, Kate? Huh? –I’ll share more on that in another post) and later in the day, driving across the Bay Bridge with the city of San Francisco all dolled up in the spring sunshine, I couldn’t help but think of his fundamental principles–and how deeply, utterly, wholly courageous his worldview is.
Rogers was one of the founders of humanistic psychology, the branch of psychology that posits that humans are inherently good at their core (the ideal self), and that while they may find themselves thwarted along the way (incongruence with the ideal self), it is the desire of any organism (read: person) to “self-actualize” (expand, grow, become more whole and complete). Rogers is also the person who knocked the psycho-therapeutic world onto its Freudian ass by positing a client-centered model where the client directed the course of therapy rather than a therapist having “the answers” for the client. He believed in personal power (!) and its ability to help oneself and others, and in addition to being a psychotherapist, he also wins my love because he was influential within education and social justice, encouraging people to drop the hate and start communicating.
“I would like to propose…that the major barrier to mutual interpersonal communication is our very natural tendency to judge, to evaluate, to approve or disapprove, the statement of the other person, or the other group.” — Carl Rogers
Here’s why he’s courageous–because he’s asking you, me, and the person you most despise to adopt a worldview of love and trust in the inherent goodness of people. Ultimately, I see him as a great advocate of compassion.
To adopt a worldview of love and trust in the inherent goodness of people and then choosing actions that support that worldview, is the greatest act of courage any human being could take on.
It’s courageous because it requires peeling away the armor.
It’s courageous because there’s so much evidence that peeling away the armor will hurt, and that for awhile we’ll be fumbling and without a structure to replace the old.
It’s courageous because it’s the kind of fully alive big-vision living that can seem so overwhelming to change when all we’ve practiced is putting up walls.
It’s courageous because we might do that and someone might react by tearing us apart right when we’re vulnerable.
It’s courageous because so often, it’s just…easier (lazier?) to close one’s heart down. To make fun of love and acceptance, to mock it, to parody it as being far too goody-two-shoes for the oh-so-cool hipster–that’s what shows up when people are buying into fear rather than living from their courage.
I think that humanity has reached a place where we need to stop mocking such ideals. To his critics he wrote:
“I would not want to be misunderstood on this. I do not have a Pollyanna view of human nature. I am quite aware that out of defensiveness and inner fear individuals can and do behave in ways which are horribly destructive, immature, regressive, antisocial, hurtful. Yet, one of the most refreshing and invigorating parts of my experience is to work with such individuals and to discover the strongly positive directional tendencies which exist in them, as in all of us, at the deepest levels.”
You, the person reading this–how deep would you dig, how courageous would you be willing to get, to live from a place of seeing your fellow human beings on the planet as inherently lovable, and thus worthy of your compassion and kindness?
How much would it be worth it to you to courageously lean into those edges that resist seeing another’s goodness, that want to simply categorize them and write them off–not because they’ll change if you do, but because you know deep down that you are called from within to love on a much, much bigger scale than the kind of conditional love that you were taught?
So many of us talk about compassion and love and acceptance, and then those world views don’t always play out in our day-to-day choices. We get to choose this–to take this work on with a singular focus, to let it inform our words, actions, the Stories we tell.
And of course, this work starts within–it starts with you making the courageous choice to love and trust in your own inherent goodness, and treat yourself with that level of kindness and care. The love for yourself extends to others.
Can there really be a bigger choice, a more courageous choice, than that?