Chapter 4: Growth Resources in Traditional Psychotherapies, Carl Jung, the Existentialists, and Carl Rogers
Carl Gustav Jung was born in Kesswil on Lake Constance in Switzerland in 1875. His father was a clergyman. Carl was very precocious, reading Latin books at age six. To escape his loneliness and the marital conflicts of his parents, he often played for hours alone in the attic with a wooden figure he had carved for himself. Feeling isolated from the external world, he turned to the inner world of his own dreams, fantasies, and thoughts.(1) When he entered the University of Basel he chose to study medicine and later psychiatry because those disciplines seemed to combine both of his major interests — science and the humanities.
At twenty-five Jung became an intern at one of the most progressive psychiatric centers in Europe,the Burgho1zli Mental Hospital in Zurich. From then on, Zurich was his home. By age thirty, he was chief of the clinic and a lecturer in psychiatry at the University of Zurich. He wrote a book reporting his research on schizophrenia, developed the word-association test, and introduced the terms “intravert” and “extravert.” Jung married Emma Rauchenbach. They had five children. His wife trained as a psychologist and lectured at the Jung Institute, which was established in 1948.
When Jung became convinced of the validity of many of Freud’s ideas, he wrote to him, sending a copy of his book on schizophrenia. Freud invited him to Vienna. When they first met, the two men talked almost non-stop for thirteen hours. A close friendship developed between them. For a time. Freud considered Jung his logical successor. But Jung could not accept Freud’s reductionism and his insistance that the roots of all psychopathology are sexual. Freud was troubled by Jung’s interest in and views on religion. The break between them finally came when Jung published a book in 1912 developing the view that libido is basically generalized life energy rather than always being sexual. The rupture of their relationship was painful to both men. Jung experienced three years of depression during which he felt that he was going insane. On the surface he was a respected psychiatrist with a thriving private practice, a university lectureship, and a large family. But underneath, Jung felt he was losing contact with reality and that life had lost all meaning. He wrote little and resigned his lectureship because he felt he could not teach. His efforts to treat his problem by attempting to understand it intellectually were to no avail. In desperation, he decided to surrender to the impulses of his unconscious. These led him to build a model village out of small rocks, reliving a time in his childhood when he loved to “play with blocks.
This play therapy was the turning point of his crisis. He discovered that “the small boy is still around.”(2) Playing with the village of stones opened him to a prolonged exploration into his unconscious during the next two years, following his inner images. fantasies, and dreams. What he discovered in his unconscious was like “a stream of lava. and he heat of its fires reshaped his life.”(3) From this traumatic mid-years crisis Jung developed a new center and meaning for his life, and a new understanding of personality which he called “analytic psychology.” He came to focus increasingly on the resources of the unconscious as revealed in myths, symbols, art, folk tales, dreams, and fantasies. He traveled to Africa and India to study non-Western folklore and symbols. He also came to New Mexico to study the symbols and myths of the Pueblo Indians.
During his recovery from a near-fatal heart attack at sixty-nine. Jung had a series of visions. These precipitated a highly productive period during which he wrote some of his most original and creative books. Of this experience of illumination he later wrote: “I might formulate it as an affirmation of things as they are: an unconditional ‘yes’ to that which is, without subjective protests — acceptance of the conditions of existence as I see them and understand them, acceptance of my own nature, as I happen to be.”(4) After a remarkably productive lifetime of research, writing, and psychotherapeutic practice, Jung died in 1961 at the age of eighty-six. Some of Jung’s insights anticipated similar thrusts in therapies such as gestalt and psychosynthesis. The resources I will now highlight are those which I have found useful in facilitating growth work.
Jung insisted (as did Rank that creativity is at the center of every person’s potential. But he was keenly aware of the ways it is wasted in most people: “The art of life is the most distinguished and rarest of all arts. . . . For so many people all too much unlived life remains over . . . and so they approach the threshold of old age with unsatisfied claims which inevitably turn their glances backward.”(5) Jung’s essential growth-centeredness comes through clearly in this criticism of Freud’s pathology-orientation: “I prefer to look at man [sic] in the light of what in him is healthy and sound, and to free the sick man from that point of view which colors every page Freud has written. Freud’s teaching is definitely one-sided in that it generalizes from facts that are relevant only to neurotic states of mind; its validity is really confined to those states. . . Freud’s is not a psychology of the healthy mind.”(6) He saw psychopathology as rooted in undeveloped resources in persons: “Hidden in the neurosis is a bit of still undeveloped personality, a precious fragment of the psyche lacking which a man is condemned to resignation, bitterness, and everything else that is hostile to life. A psychology of neurosis that sees only the negative elements empties out the baby with the bath-water.”(7) He saw that there is a natural process and drive toward wholeness in all persons, on which therapy must depend: “The driving force . . . seems to be in essence only an urge toward self-realization.”(8) Therapy is simply a way of facilitating and accelerating this natural developmental process. Jung called the process of moving toward wholeness “individuation.” He wrote: “Individuation means becoming a single, homogeneous being and, in so far as ‘individuality’ embraces our innermost . . . and incomparable uniqueness, it also implies becoming one’s own self. We could therefore translate individuation as ‘coming to selfhood’ or ‘self realization.'”(9)
Jung distinguishes between the ego — the center of consciousness — and the self, which potentially is the integrating center of the whole personality. The process of wholeness involves the harmonious integration of all aspects of the personality, and the movement of one’s center from the conscious ego to the self, which integrates both the conscious and the unconscious personality resources. Wholeness involves the union of opposites. Whole persons have their four psychic functions — thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuition — in balance and available for use when appropriate, even though one function is usually dominant.
Although each person’s individuation journey is unique, there are four general dimensions of the process. The first is the unveiling of the persona, the mask of social roles by which we relate and express ourselves to the world. The. persona has both constructive and destructive possibilities. Those who are overidentified with their social roles and overinvested in the impression they are making on the outside world need therapeutic assistance to reduce the rigidity and weight of their persona so that it will not exhaust their creative energy. Yet, a healthy persona is necessary to protect us from the full impact of social attitudes and forces.
The second stage of individuation involves confronting our shadow, the rejected aspects of our personalities which we consider inferior and in conflict with our persona, standards, and ideals, and therefore have repressed into our personal unconscious. Jung held that repressed memories and desires become organized around the shadow, forming a hidden, negative self, which is the shadow of our ego. As long as the shadow is repressed and unrecognized it tends to be projected onto others (as in scapegoating) and to dominate us without our being aware of it. Although in dreams the shadow often appears as a dark, primitive, or repellent figure, it is a potential source of spontaneity, instinctual energy, and creativity. As the shadow becomes conscious in therapy, the rejected parts of ourselves are reclaimed, causing it to lose much of its dangerous quality and its ability to dominate the inner life.
The third growth stage of individuation is to confront one’s “soul image,” the anima or the animus. Jung held that in the unconscious of women there is an animus and in a man an anima.
These are contrasexual psychic structures around which focus all those tendencies and experiences that do not fit one’s self-definition as a woman or a man. This part of the unconscious appears in dreams as a person of the other sex. As long as this structure is unconscious, persons tend to project it onto persons of the other sex, and to love it or reject it there. In marriage counseling it is often helpful if couples can develop some awareness of how much of their unproductive conflict results from their projection of unaccepted aspects of themselves onto the other person, where these attributes are related to with deep ambivalence. For example, a “macho” man and very “feminine” woman each fears, represses, and projects onto the other those feelings and tendencies in themselves that don’t fit the rigid sex-role stereotypes of their culture. If the man can reclaim his rejected anima and the woman her animus, they will be more whole, androgynous people. If such a man can reclaim his soft, vulnerable, feelingful side, and the woman her rational, assertive, analytic side, they will no longer need to either worship or fight these sides of themselves in each other.
The fourth stage of individuation involves developing one’s true self as the integrating nucleus of the whole personality, conscious and unconscious. In the self, the opposites can be reconciled in complementary union. The ego is still the center of consciousness, but the self becomes the center of the whole personality. The self is the divine spark, the image of God within each person.
Jung wrote: “I thank God every day that I have been permitted to experience the imago Dei in me.”(10)The self is often symbolized in dreams as a mandala, a circle, or by some symbol of divinity. Jung’s concept of the self is very similar to Assagioli’s “higher Self,” and to the idea of the soul in the Christian tradition. Each refers to the same vital truth — that there is a dimension of transcendence in us human beings and that we are whole only when this dimension becomes the center of our personhood.
Jung believed that the unconscious (which is 90 percent of the psyche) provides the major resources necessary for moving toward wholeness. The unconscious expresses itself mainly in symbols. In contrast to Freud’s view, he understood the unconscious as “a great repository of creativeness”which can be used for good or for ill. Prior to the process of individuation, the shadow, the anima, and the self are all unconscious. As they are brought into consciousness, as one’s self-awareness grows, they enrich that dimension of personality tremendously.
The deepest level of personality, the collective unconscious represents our psychological heritage from the long story of evolution, it is also our connection with all that now is. The archetypal images of the collective unconscious can be understood as universal symbols of our common human experiences. They appear in many parts of the world in folk tales, legends, and myths, as well as in the dreams and fantasies of individuals.
Even if one does not take all Jung’s views about the collective unconscious literally, it seems evident that there is within us a deep level where we are not alone but instead are somehow related to the whole of human kind, history, and nature. The imperfect but meaningful image that expresses a part of what I understand Jung to mean by the collective unconscious is that of a fruit orchard. Each tree has its individual life, unique identity, and space. Yet all the trees are grounded in the same soil, experience the flow of common streams of water and nutrients through the soil, and interact with the same energizing air and sunlight. Each tree interacts with the environment in unique ways that express its own nature and potential — e.g., apple trees produce apples, plum trees produce plums. So it is with us human beings. Each of us is unique and autonomous; yet at the deepest level of our beings, we all are interrelated in a great interdependent network of living things within which we are called to live with sensitivity and caring. Opening ourselves to this transpersonal dimension of ourselves can enhance the sense of meaningful relatedness to the whole ecosystem. This can provide the basis for the ecological consciousness and caring on which our collective survival or spaceship earth may well depend.
Dreams, as the major form of communication from the unconscious, play a decisive role in Jungian as they do in Freudian therapy. But Jung understood dreams very differently from Freud. He saw them as messages from the unconscious, luring us toward greater wholeness. Learning to understand the messages of one’s dreams by “befriending”(11) them (rather than analyzing them) is vitally important in removing the blocks and claiming the resources of growth in the unconscious. Frightening dreams reveal those aspects of ourselves which we have rejected and which return as self-created “demons” to stymie our potentializing. When these aspects of ourselves are befriended and reintegrated, they become resources rather than blocks to our growth. The unconscious is the source from which religious experience flows. This conception led one Jungian pastoral counselor, John A. Sanford, to speak of dreams as “God’s forgotten language.” This view is very similar to the understanding of dreams in the Bible.
There is in Jung a sense of the relational nature of wholeness that has deep affinities with the interpersonalism of Martin Buber. Jung wrote:
The unrelated human being lacks wholeness for he can achieve wholeness only through the soul, and the soul cannot exist without its other side, which is always found in a “you”. Individuation has two principal aspects: in the first place it is an internal and subjective process of integration, and in the second it is an equally indispensable process of objective relationship. Neither can exist without the other, although sometimes the one and sometimes the other predominates.(12)
The living mystery of life is always hidden between Two, and it is the true mystery which cannot be betrayed by words and depleted by arguments.(13)
Jung was much more hopeful and optimisitic than Freud about human beings and their potentializing. Yet, he had a keen awareness of the powerful obstacles and resistances to growth. He wrote, “People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls.”(14) Each stage of individuation has its dangers and difficulties. In his discussion of marriage as a psychological relationship, he observed, “There is no birth of consciousness without pain.”(15)
Jung had a continuing interest in understanding human destructiveness and evil. In reflecting on our world he warned: “Today as never before it is important that human beings should not overlook the danger of the evil lurking within them. . . .Psychology must insist on the reality of evil and must reject any definition that regards it as insignificant or actually nonexistent.”(16) Persons become destructive when the opposites within them — conscious-unconscious, introvert- extrovert persona-shadow, and so on — are alienated from each other. The unconscious becomes destructive only when it is cut off from consciousness by repression. As an individual gradually claims and develops the neglected dimensions of the unconscious and integrates these balancing aspects with consciousness, the destructiveness of the reclaimed dimensions is transformed so that they feed the creativity of the person’s inner life.
Jung had a strong sense of the many ways in which cultures block individuation. He criticized modern Western societies for having lost touch with the individual, with the mythical and the symbolic, and for having overemphasized the development of the rational, analytical, and mechanical aspects of life. Because of the widespread alienation of people from the resources of their unconscious, modern society breeds psychological problems as a swamp breeds mosquitos.
Jung believed that spiritual growth is a central, indispensable dimension of all movement toward wholeness. He saw the religious need of humankind as so universal and powerful that he regarded it as an innate instinct in all human beings: “However far-fetched it may sound, experience shows that many neuroses are caused by the fact that people blind themselves to their own religious promptings…. The psychologist of today ought to realize once and for all that we are no longer dealing with questions of dogma and creed. A religious attitude is an element in psychic life whose importance can hardly be overrated.”(17) Jung believed that the discovery of adequate meaning is essential for human growth and health. “It is only meaning that liberates.” (18) Much of the suffering and many of the problems of people today are derived directly from the lack of meaning in their lives. “Man [sic] needs general ideas and convictions that will give a meaning to his life and enable him to find a place for himself in the universe. He can stand the almost incredible hardships when he is convinced that they make sense; he is crushed when on top of all his misfortunes, he has to admit that he is taking part in a ‘tale told by an idiot.’ It is the role of religious symbols to give a meaning to the life of man.”(19)
Jung had a deep appreciation for the spiritual riches of the great Eastern and esoteric traditions, which he saw as balancing and complementing the Western religious traditions. It is the nonrational, mythical, symbolic, and mystical aspects of religions that are healing and growth producing, according to him. Completely demythologized religions lose their power to be channels through which we can appropriate the riches of the unconscious. Religion, in its mythical and mystical aspects, is needed today to save us from culture’s mass-mindedness. Scientific rationalism which makes “objectivity,” quantifiable knowledge the only real spiritual authority, feeds mass-mindedness. It causes us to forget that “the distinctive thing about real facts … is their individuality.”(20) Inner experiences of transcendence are our best defense against losing oursense of individuality in the mass. Religion, according to Jung, can help us balance the overpowering influence of objective “reason” and external reality by keeping us in touch with the rich, nonrational side of reality, and giving us a point of reference that transcends society and all the statistical generalizations on which scientific rationalism focuses. Freud saw and reacted against the old arrogance of religion. Jung saw and reacted to the new arrogance of science.(21)
Jung’s approach to growth offers particularly rich resources for the growth tasks of the second half of life. He believed that the approaches of Freud and Adler could help people master the growth tasks of the years before thirty-five, which focus mainly on coping constructively with the external world. But the goals of growth and therapy change radically in the second half. As Jung put it: “We must distinguish between a psychology of the morning of life and a psychology of its afternoon.”(22) Jung described the mid-years crisis in this way: “No wonder that many bad neuroses appear at the onset of life’s afternoon. It is a sort of second puberty, another ‘storm and stress’ period, not infrequently accompanied by tempests of passion — the ‘dangerous age.’ But the problems that crop up at this age are no longer to be solved by the old recipes. The hands of this clock cannot be put back.”(23)
Growth work in the second half of life must be inner- directed. The meanings that were found in the outer world in the first half, must now be found within oneself. The mid-years crisis is, at its heart, a spiritual crisis. The values, meanings, and spiritual experiences of one’s earlier life must be revised and deepened if one is to cope with the problems and develop the potentials of the second half. Jung wrote: “Among all my patients in the second half of life . . . there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because had lost that which the living religions of every age have given to their followers, and none of them has been really healed who did not regain his religious outlook.”(24)
For many people, growth work in life’s second half involves claiming the neglected resources in their “other side,” their anima or animus, and developing whichever of their four psychic functions have been neglected earlier. A man (myself, for example) whose assertive, rational, out-directed side was overdeveloped in his earlier years, needs in the mid-years to balance this by developing his soft, intuitive, relational, feelingful side. Similarly, a woman who overinvested herself in her feelingful, caring, and relating side during her family-nurturing years, needs to develop her neglected rational and assertive side (expressed perhaps in a job outside the home). It is, of course, better for men and women to develop balanced personalities early in life.
One thing I find useful in facilitating the growth of work addicts is Jung’s affirmation of the pleasure principle. To the degree that we are whole, we can enjoy the psychological, interpersonal, and spiritual pleasures of our rich, many-leveled psyches. Whereas Freud put his
trust ultimately in reason and the control of the pleasure principle by the ego (guided by the reality principle), Jung trusted the nonrational, mystical, artistic side of human experience. He saw the glorification of the rational, divorced from this other side, as destructive to individuals and to society. There is something playful about Jung’s style that feels liberating and energizing to me. His use of “active imagination” and art in therapy, and his view of the value of fantasies, are expressions of this spirit:
Truth to tell, I have a very high opinion of fantasy. To me, it is actually the maternally creative side of the masculine spirit. . . . All the works of man [sic] have their origin in creative fantasy. . . . The creative activity of the imagination frees man from his bondage to the “nothing but” and liberates in him the spirit of play. As Schiller says, man is completely human only when he is playing.(25)
It seems clear that Jung’s robust emphasis on the use of intuitive and playful modalities in therapy is one reason for the effectiveness of this approach. Such activities probably produce change by energizing the resources of the right hemisphere of the brain, in both client and therapist. Such an emphasis is needed to complement and balance the rational, analytical (left-brain) modalities, which have dominated most traditional therapies.
Jung’s understanding of growth-enabling therapists emphasized their own continuing growth. Analyst and analysand work together on a shared inner journey in which the analyst must also be open to change. In spite of his fascination with theory, Jung observed: “It is a remarkable thing about psychotherapy: you . . . can cure only from one central point; that consists in understanding the patient as a psychological whole and approaching him as a human being, leaving aside all theory and listening attentively to whatever he has to say.”(26) As I reflect on the ups and downs in my counseling relationships through the years, I can resonate to Jung’s observation that one can recognize effective therapy by the fact that both the therapist and the client change and grow.
Jung believed that effective therapists must be involved in the life of the world and open to learning from it:
The critical state of things [socially and politically] has such a tremendous influence on the psychic life of the individual that the doctor must follow its effects with more than usual attention. . . . He cannot afford to withdraw to the peaceful island of undisturbed scientific work, but must constantly descend into the arena of world events, in order to join in the battle of conflicting passions and opinions. Were he to remain aloof from the tumult, the calamity of his time would reach him only from afar, and his patient’s suffering would find neither ear nor understanding. He would be at a loss to know how to . . . help him out of his isolation.(27)
Therefore anyone who wants to know the human psyche would be better advised to bid farewell to his study and wander with human heart through the world. There, in the horrors of prisons, lunatic asylums and hospitals, in drab suburban pubs, in brothels and gambling-halls, in the salons of the elegant, the Stock Exchanges, Socialist meetings, churches, revivalist gatherings and ecstatic sects, through love and hate, through the experiences of passion in every form in his body, he would reap richer stores of knowledge than textbooks a foot thick could give him, and he will know how to doctor the sick with real knowledge of the human soul.(28)
Although Jung’s seminal thought offers invaluable growth resources, there are limitations to his system as a total growth therapy. The “mystic” side of me is drawn to some of his esoteric theories. But the danger in this side of Jung’s thought is that it lends itself to those who need to make of a therapy a kind of esoteric religion. Jung says some very wise and growthful things, but he sometimes says them in an unnecessarily complicated and speculative way. The highly speculative theories, on which his obviously wise thoughts are allegedly based, often seem superfluous. Many of his ideas stand on their own as valid and useful, independent of the theories.
The central thrust of Jung’s system is more growth enabling for outer-directed, extraverted people, in my experience, than for those who are inner-directed. Many of us (in our society, which so values extraversion) do neglect the riches of our inner worlds — the riches that the artists and mystics of all cultures have explored. For those of us whose inner world is impoverished, Jung’s invitation to explore this vast terrain can help us move toward a more balanced awareness of the inner and outer worlds. But some people who are already too inward-turning become even more so as Jungians, investing enormous energy in a seemingly endless exploration of inner reality. The resources in Jung’s system, to be used most constructively, need to be balanced by a strong reality-therapy thrust in the therapist. Such a dual thrust is more likely to produce a balance between the inner and the outer reality (which was what Jung meant by wholeness).
From the perspective of feminist psychologists and therapists, Jung is both good and bad news. He recognized and valued the so-called “feminine side” of the psyche (and also of God), which Freud had misunderstood and denigrated. He also showed how wholeness, in both men and women, must involve an integration of both the so-called masculine and feminine sides of their personalities. But in two ways, Jung reflected and reinforced rather than challenged the sexism of his (and our) culture. By labeling the two sides of the psyche “masculine” and “feminine,” he unwittingly helped reinforce cultural stereotypes. The soft, nurturing, feelingful side and the assertive, rational, analytical side are human capacities in persons of both sexes. In his writings on women it is clear that he misunderstood their traditional home-centered roles, seeing them as normative expressions of inherent biological necessity. Naomi Goldenberg, a psychologist trained in Jungian therapy, declares: “The anima/animus model and its goal of unification works better for men than for women. The model supports stereotyped notions of what masculine and feminine are by adding mystification to guard against change in the social sphere, where women are at a huge disadvantage.”(29)
Jung’s therapy, like most traditional and contemporary therapies, was essentially apolitical in that he did not see the therapeutic value and, in the case of obviously oppressed people, the necessity of helping to empower and motivate those in therapy to work to change growth-oppressive social systems. His brilliant critique-of modern, society did not prevent his therapy from being weakened by its hyperindividualism.
Growth Resources from the Existential Therapists
A young woman who knew she had been born out of wedlock, unwanted, the result of an accident, struggled in therapy with her haunting sense of rejection and anxiety. She lamented: “I feel I have no right to be!” The issues that she was confronting are those which existential
therapists regard as crucial in all therapy — the existential anxiety that stems from the awareness that one might not have been; one’s basic sense of identity; and the deep need to be affirmed in one’s very essence or being. When such fundamental human issues are ignored by therapists, the growth-enabling effects of their therapy are reduced. The uniqueness of the existential therapies lies not in their methods but in their underlying philosophical assumptions. A variety of therapeutic approaches — from Ludwig Binswanger’s psychoanalytic approach to Viktor Frankl’s neo-Adlerian methodology — have been associated with the existentialist position in philosophy. (30) The existential therapists hold that therapists’ basic philosophical assumptions about the human situation have a profound influence on everything they do in the practice of their art — how they perceive and relate to the client, how they understand the causes of human problems, how they use particular techniques, and how they understand the growth possibilities inherent in crises situations.
I now can reaffirm with even greater conviction (having experienced the existential confrontations of the mid-years) what I wrote earlier:
The clergyman-counselor’s [sic] effectiveness will be increased if he immerses himself in the existentialist perspective in psychotherapy. Its emphasis on values, awareness, creativity, freedom (choice and responsibility), authenticity, existential anxiety (and also existential guilt and joy), being, actualization, encounter, confirmation, dialogue, and meaning are all consistent ith a religious view of human beings.(31)
The basic philosophy of the existential therapies and its understanding of the nature of human growth is also an invaluable resource for growth-oriented secular counselors and therapists.
My own thinking and practice of counseling and therapy have been challenged and enriched through the years by the existentialist views of the human situation. I was first influenced by the impact of Paul Tillich’s theology and its underlying existentialist philosophy in his classes at Union Theological Seminary and through my discussions with him as he advised me on my Ph.D. dissertation. My occasional contacts with Rollo May (at the White Institute of Psychiatry and in the Columbia Seminar on Religion and Health) awakened my awareness of the psychotherapeutic relevance of the existential perspective. In more recent years, therapeutic theories of Viktor Frankl and James Bugental have added further existential input to my thinking. I now see that the underlying philosophy on which Growth Counseling is based as a variation on the existential theme. In this section I will discuss some working concepts from the existential therapies that are useful in helping people increase the depth and effectiveness of their growth work. It will be evident, as I explore these themes, that there are prominent existentialist thrusts in several other therapies, including those of Jung, Peris, Assagioli, and Rogers.
The guiding motif in the existentialist therapies is an emphasis on the uniquely human qualities in all people — e.g., freedom, choice, valuing, awareness, creativity — and on the distinctiveness of each individual. Therapy aims at helping people develop their own authentic being-in-the-world. The working concepts of these therapies are all variations on this underlying theme.
The problems that bring people to therapy are essentially unconstructive ways of attempting to deal with existential anxiety.
Anxiety in general is the response of the human organism to anything that is perceived as a threat to what one regards as essential to one’s welfare or safety. Pathological (neurotic) anxiety arises when contradictory impulses, desires or needs clamor simultaneously for expression or satisfaction. It is the result of inner conflict. It serves the function of keeping material that is acceptable to the self-image repressed. In contrast, existential anxiety is nonpathological or normal anxiety. It arises from the very nature of human existence.(32)
We human beings are the animals who know we will die. We are trapped by our roots in nature with its aging, sickness, tragedy, and eventual death. This existential reality is made profoundly painful by the fact that we are aware on some level (usually not conscious) that we are living-dying creatures. We know that today we are one day closer to death than we were yesterday. This awareness of our mortality is like the background music that plays constantly in many settings, but to which ordinarily we do not consciously listen. Even though we try in countless ways to ignore or blot out the awareness of our finitude, it colors everything we feel, think, and do. Our eventual death and the many forms of living death (e.g., meaninglessness) affect the quality of our consciousness, our relationships, our creativity, and every other aspect of our living.
Psychopathology and the neurotic anxiety that fuels it are abortive attempts to cope with existential anxiety. To paraphrase Tillich’s insight, neuroses are ineffective attempts to escape nonbeing by not allowing ourselves to be. Or, as Horney put it, neurotic problems are very costly efforts to avoid the fear of death by not allowing ourselves to feel really alive. To illustrate, when I “depress myself” (as a gestalt therapist would say) and make myself feel only slightly alive, death loses much of its terror because I have so little to lose. But such an avoidance response to existential anxiety is a catch-22 solution because it cuts one off from the only way to constructively cope with this anxiety — saying yes to life by living creatively.
There are no psychological or psychotherapeutic solutions to existential anxiety. There is no way to make it go away. It is “existential” in the sense that it is inherent in our human experience as self-aware creatures. Our frantic attempts to deny it and run from it make its impact on us more destructive (even “demonic”), waste potentially creative energy, and diminish our awareness and aliveness. But existential anxiety can either cripple our growth or be the deepest source of empowerment of the growth elan. Existential therapies seek to help people learn to confront and cope constructively with existential anxiety, using it as a source of motivation and energy for creativity and growth. As Rollo May states: “The goal of therapy is not to free the patient from anxiety. It is rather, to help free him from neurotic anxiety in order that he may meet the normal anxiety constructively. Indeed, the only way he can achieve the former is to do the latter. Normal anxiety . . . is an inseparable part of growth and creativity.”(33)
Existential anxiety can be transformed into a “school,”(34) as the foreparent of contemporary existentialists, Soren Kierkegaard put it. In the context of trust and meaning, it becomes our “teacher” who challenges us to face ourselves, our trivial values, our meaning-starved life-styles. Thus, existential anxiety can become the “mother of the need to know”(35) and a wellspring of energy for developing our potential for full, authentic humanness. Any therapy that focuses only on neurotic anxiety, ignoring the existential anxiety behind it, cuts people off from the basic way of resolving neurotic anxiety — by confronting and transforming existential anxiety into the energy of becoming!
Neurotic and existential anxiety are intertwined in the problems that bring people to therapy. The woman whose discovery of her accidental, unwanted conception triggered a cold wave of existential anxiety, found, as she explored this anxiety in depth, that it was entangled with her
guilt-laden neurotic conflicts about sex and anger, pleasure and assertiveness. The intense fear of death, which had been a prominent presenting problem when she came for help, was a blend of her neurotic fears of dying (based on her feeling she deserved to die because of her rage and her “dirty” sexual fantasies) and her existential anxiety. Neurotic and existential anxiety tend to reinforce each other. As Tillich observed, “Those who are empty of meaning are easy victims of neurotic anxiety,” and a high degree of neurotic anxiety makes one vulnerable to self-destructive ways of responding to one’s existential anxiety.(36) In a therapy relationship, the therapist’s awareness of the presence of existential anxiety is crucial to helping the client untangle it from neurotic anxiety and then gradually transform it so that it will not feed the neurotic anxiety.
Existential therapies regard a viable philosophy of life and value system as essential to the transformation of existential anxiety. Viktor Frankl points to the collective “value vacuum” in our society that breeds an epidemic of existential neuroses. The inner emptiness in many people is fed by their distorted values, priorities, and beliefs. Rollo May asks:
May not the patient’s distorted view of the world sometimes constitute his ultimate problems? May not the effective motive of his life lie wholly in the distorted outlook? . . . More and more we are coming to ascribe motivational force to cognitive conditions. Instead of the patient’s phenomenological view offering us only the first page, perhaps it constitutes the whole problem; it is ultimate as well as preliminary.(37)
There is an inverse relation between the soundness of an individual’s value system and his anxiety. That is, the firmer and more flexible your values, the more you will be able to meet (existential) anxiety constructively. . . . Arriving at sound values is, in the long run, an integral part of the therapeutic process.(38)
To be most healing and growth-enabling, one’s values need to have a firm foundation in a personally meaningful philosophy of life or theology. From his death-camp learnings, Frankl concludes: “Belief in an overmeaning — whether as a metaphysical concept or in the religious sense of providence — is of the foremost therapeutic and psychogenic importance. As a genuine faith springs from inner strength, such a belief adds immeasurably to human vitality.”(39) Vital, authentic religion (which satisfies what Frankl calls the will-to-meaning) is a powerful resource for growth toward wholeness. “The power of the divine,” as Tillich describes it, can enable us to both confront and transform our awareness of finitude.
As I have struggled to handle my own existential anxiety and guilt (the guilt of unlived life) in more life-enhancing ways through the years, I have become aware at times of the power of existential acceptance. This experience, I believe, is available to all persons. When we open ourselves to it, we sense our deep at-homeness in the universe, derived from our acceptance by the loving Spirit who is the source and wellspring of life. Feelings of quiet self-affirmation — the serenity and enjoyment of simply being oneself — flow from such an experience. Existential acceptance is a crucial resource for coping constructively with existential anxiety and guilt.
As the existential therapists make clear, therapists should be willing to deal with the spiritual and value issues explicitly in the process of therapy. Because spiritual growth is the key to the total growth of persons toward wholeness, all counselors and therapists need to have the skills to be effective spiritual growth enablers. Unfortunately, pastoral counselors are the only therapeutic professionals who routinely receive academic and clinical training in how to deal effectively with spiritual growth issues.
Existential therapists emphasize the complexity of the interrelation of existential anxiety and growth. The courage to be is really the courage to become. Only as we continue to come alive (which means continuing to develop our unlived potentials) will we be able to transform existential anxiety and guilt. In May’s words:
“Being” is the potentiality by which the acorn becomes the oak or each of us becomes what he truly is. . . . We can understand another human being only as we see what he is moving toward, what he is becoming; and we can know ourselves only as we “project our potential in action.” The significant tense for human beings is thus the future — that is to say, the critical question is what I am pointing toward, becoming.(40)
Yet, to become takes courage because the new possibilities, as they emerge, increase existential anxiety.
Anxiety occurs at the point where some emerging potentiality or possibility faces the individual, some possibility of fulfilling his existence; but this very possibility involves the destroying of present security, which therefore gives rise to the tendency to deny the new potentiality. . . . If there were not some . . . potentiality rying to be “born,” we would not experience [existential] anxiety.(41)
The process of moving to transform existential anxiety by coming alive more fully is itself fraught with existential anxiety. Yet it is only as one takes the leap of trust into one’s emerging potentials, letting go of old securities, that growth is possible.
The existentialist emphasis on the potential power of one’s future is closely linked with the awareness that hope has tremendous energy for motivating human change. Awakening a sense of realistic hope for a new future is an essential dynamic in facilitating growth.(42) The pull forward of our living future — the hopeful future that lives in our imagination — is a powerful resource for creative change. Affirming goals that effect persons’ authentic potentialities is one step toward creating their own futures. But working toward their goals is often ineffective unless persons are encouraged to keep picturing the futures toward which they desire to move. As both Jung and Assagioli make clear, imaging yourself as you’d like to be tends to energize the effort it will require to move toward that potentiality.
Another prominent theme in existential therapies is freedom, with its correlates choice and responsibility. Therapists in the existentialist tradition reject all forms of determinism (including those of Freud and Skinner). Such views are seen as invalid ways of understanding human beings which can be used to escape from the freedom and responsibility that are essential for growth. As James Bugental puts it, the main task of existential therapy is to correct clients’ distorted perceptions of themselves and others, which arose in an attempt to block awareness of existential anxiety, and thereby help them “accept the responsibilities and opportunities of authentic being in the world.”(43) Growth is understood as involving a continuing series of choices. May writes: “Actually in real life it is a matter of long, uphill growth, to new levels of integration — growth meaning not automatic progress but re-education, finding new insights, making self-conscious decisions, and throughout being willing to face occasional or frequent struggles.”(44) The aim of existential therapy is to encourage people to choose life — i.e., to choose to really live, fully and authentically. The urgency and importance of making pro-life choices usually doesn’t dawn on people until they get in touch with the excessive costs of choosing not to choose (drifting) and of choosing not to live as authentically and fully as they can. Commitment to change and growth is seen by existential therapists as a prerequisite for both depth insight and creative change: “The patient cannot permit himself to get transforming insight or knowledge until he is ready to decide, takes a decisive orientation to life, and has made the preliminary decisions along the way.”(45)
The existential perspective, in my experience, is particularly valuable in crisis counseling. Every significant crisis is a potential spiritual growth opportunity. Experiences of sickness, loss, and bereavement crack the fragile shell of pseudo-omnipotence that most of us wear, confronting us with the brevity and vulnerability of our lives. The existential anxiety from such a crisis can motivate a much-needed reformulation of our life investment plans. Looking death in the face (as one does during medical crises and in bereavement) can enhance life. I remember well an experience of confronting my own vulnerability and fear of death, during an unexpected hospitalization, several years ago. As I gradually emerged from this existential crisis, I recall how precious life felt. The sky looked bluer, the grass greener, people more vivid — because I felt so much more alive than I had felt for years. Rollo May describes what one experiences in such crises: “With the confrontation of non-being, existence takes on a vitality and immediacy, and the individual experiences a heightened consciousness of himself, his world, and others around him.”(46)
What is the process by which the existential therapies enable growth? James Bugental reports that there are two dimensions to this process.(47) The analytic phase is the repair, restorative dimension on which most traditional therapies have concentrated. The ontogogic phase (I call this the existential phase) is the future-oriented potentializing, growth-in-meaning dimension. In my experience, these two dimensions do not necessarily follow one after the other in sequence. Rather, the therapist’s awareness that there is a dimension of active growth and spiritual potentializing, in addition to the dimension of removing the blocks to growth (pathology), allows the process to move back and forth between these complementary therapeutic-growth dimensions. A “celebration of being,” as Bugental calls it, is often experienced as one develops more of one’s unique potentialities.
Viktor Frankl has shed considerable light on practical ways of helping people develop meanings to live by. In his view, there are three kinds of values in which people can find meaning. In creative values, meaning is derived from doing something that one regards as significant: “The conviction that one has a task before him has enormous psychotherapeutic and psychohygenic value. . . . Nothing is more likely to help a person overcome and endure objective difficulties or subjective troubles than the consciousness of having a task in life.”(48) In experiential values meaning is derived from something beyond oneself — for example, enjoying beauty or being loved. In attitudinal values meaning is derived from choosing a life-affirming attitude toward even desperate situations. Frankl recalls: “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number but they offered sufficient proof that everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”(49) Even in terminal illnesses there is a possibility of actualizing attitudinal values: “Whenever one is confronted with an inescapable, unavoidable situation, whenever one has to face a fate which cannot be changed, e.g. in incurable cancer; just then one is given a last chance to actualize the highest value, to fulfill the deepest meaning, the meaning of suffering. For what matters above all is the attitude we take toward suffering, the attitude in which we take our suffering upon ourselves.”(50) According to Frankl’s approach, the role of the therapist is to challenge people to find their own meanings that are potentially present in their concrete life situations. These often are meanings that emerge from discovering how they can make some contribution to other persons or to the good of humankind. Frankl believes that there must be self-transcendence in one’s framework of meaning. Self-actualization, if sought only for its own sake, is self-defeating. Genuine self-actualization is a by-product of fulfilling meanings that involve self-trancendence.
The existentialists’ understanding of the therapist as an existential partner is one of their most growth-enabling contributions. To be effective in “rediscovering the real living person amid the compartmentalization and dehumanization of modern culture,”(51) therapists must be genuine persons who are really present with their full humanity including their own awareness of their finitude. The concept of “presence” means really being there with the other, experiencing vividly that particular person’s emerging uniqueness in that moment. Growth tends to be most energized in relationships in which the therapist is most present. To be present, we must set aside all the professional ways by which we distance ourselves from clients and seek to dull our own existential anxiety — e.g., diagnostic labels, psychodynamic theories that we “put” on people, professional roles and status symbols, favorite techniques that we use mechanically. Therapeutic techniques enable healing and growth only when the therapist is really present. Then the techniques flow from the awareness of the unique, changing, growth needs of a particular person. When two persons are really present with each other, there is genuine meeting. They can experience an enlivening I-Thou relationship, to use Martin Buber’s familiar term.
The basic philosophical orientation of the existential therapies is an invaluable resource in growth oriented counseling, therapy, and education. This orientation corrects many of the weaknesses of Freud’s reductionistic and deterministic philosophy of being human. The existential perspective restores the awareness that we human beings are formed in the image of the Spirit of the universe! The practical value of this philosophy of personhood and of therapy depends, of course, on how it is implemented in actually doing therapy. (In the case of Viktor Frankl, there seems to be some discontinuity, even contradiction, between the existential philosophy he espouses and the methods he uses.(52) Because I have discussed methods of counseling on existential problems and facilitating spiritual growth in detail elsewhere,(53) I will not explore the methods of such counseling and therapy further here.
Growth Resources from Carl Rogers’ Therapy
Carl Rogers was born in 1902 in Oak Park, Illinois. His parents were strict, fundamentalist Christians. During his sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin, he decided to study for the ministry. The following year, at the age of twenty, he spent six months in China as a delegate to the World Student Christian Federation conference in Peking. This experience opened up his world to people of diverse intellectual, cultural, and religious backgrounds. As he interacted with other student delegates his fundamentalist beliefs gradually weakened. He discovered he could think for himself and trust his own experiences. He describes the psychological transformation that resulted: “From the date of this trip, my goals, values, aims and philosophy have been my own and very divergent from the views which my parents held and which I had held up to this point.(54)
After graduating from Wisconsin, Rogers studied at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where he encountered persons influenced by the growth theories of John Dewey. His doubts about his religious commitment increased, and he decided to transfer to Teachers College, Columbia University, where he completed a Ph.D. in educational psychology with E. L. Thorndike. During his twelve years at a child guidance center in Rochester, New York, his therapeutic orientation changed from a formal, directive approach toward what became client-centered therapy. He acknowledges the influence of Otto Rank’s thought in this transformation. Subsequently, Rogers taught psychology at Ohio State University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Wisconsin. In 1963 he resigned his professorship at Wisconsin and moved to LaJolla, California, where he was one of the founders of the Center for the Studies of the Person, a loose-knit training-research group of persons from various helping professions. He now spends his time writing, lecturing, relating to his family and colleagues, and gardening. Of the latter activity he says: “I garden. Those mornings when I cannot find time. . .1 feel cheated. My garden supplies the same intriguing question I have been trying to meet in my professional life: What are the effective conditions of growth? But in my garden, though the frustrations are just as immediate, the results, whether success or failure, are more quickly evident.(55)
Rogers’ system was the first American psychotherapy that achieved widespread prominence. His ideas and methods have had a significant influence in America on education, industry, group work, and pastoral psychology, in addition to counseling and therapy. No therapy with the possible exception of Freud’s has had as great an impact on the development of pastoral counseling.
My first training in pastoral counseling was Rogerian in its orientation. I had more than two years of valuable therapy with a person whose methods were mainly client-centered. However, in retrospect I now see that my growth could have been furthered much more rapidly if that therapist had been trained in more active and confrontational methods. Rogers’ vision of growth, described in almost lyrical prose, helped to awaken my interest in exploring the growth approach further. Although my “revised model” for pastoral counseling(56) was an attempt to overcome certain inadequacies in the Rogerian and Freudian models of therapy, my model was built on many of the contributions of both these therapists.
Four motifs in Rogers’ approach to counseling and therapy represent continuing contributions to the psychotherapeutic enterprise — his growth orientation; his emphasis on listening responsively and acceptingly to clients; his awareness that the emotional quality of the therapeutic relationship is the key to whether or not it nurtures growth; and his commitment to subjecting the therapeutic process and outcome to careful research. When I read Rogers and when I have heard Rogers speak, I am impressed by the depth and vigor of his growth orientation.
Rogers’ thought, particularly about inner, psychological growth, includes a wealth of insights that are valuable for growth-oriented counselors, therapists, and teachers. More than any other therapist, he illuminates the flow and direction of creative change within persons. In his major theory book, On Becoming a Person, Rogers declares:
It [the process of growth] means taking continual steps toward being, in awareness and expression, that which is congruent with one’s total organismic reactions. To use Kierkegaard’s more aesthetically satisfying terms, it means “to be the self which one truly is.”. . .This is not an easy direction to move, nor one which is ever completed. It is a continuing way of life.(57)
The growth goal toward which Rogers’ therapy seeks to help people move is the “fully functioning person.” This concept has much in common with Maslow’s self-actualizing person. Rogers’ goal has many facets. Although persons move in ways that express their uniqueness, Rogers identifies what he sees as some universal directions of the process. These include letting go of facades and becoming more real and transparent, acquiring greater awareness of one’s total inner experiences, listening to and trusting the guidance of one’s organism, rediscovering and accepting those parts of oneself which have been “disowned,” learning to live fully in the now.
In general, the evidence shows that the process moves away from fixity, remoteness from feelings and experiences, rigidity of self-concept, remoteness from people, impersonality of functioning. It moves toward fluidity, changingness, immediacy of feeling and experience, acceptance of feelings and experience, tentativeness of constructs, discovery of a changing self in one’s changing experience, realness and closeness of relationships, a unity and integration of functioning.(58)
As people discover themselves more fully, they automatically come to trust and affirm what they discover:
When a client is open to his experience, he comes to find his organism more trustworthy. . . . There is a gradual growth of trust in, and even affection for the complex, rich, varied assortment of feelings and tendencies which exist in him at the organic level. Consciousness, instead of being the watchman over a dangerous and unpredictable lot of impulses, of which few can be admitted to see the light of day, becomes the comfortable inhabitant of a society of impulses and feelings and thoughts, which are discovered to be very satisfyingly self-governing when not fearfully guarded.(59)
Rogers’ profound trust in the dependability of the growth elan is clear:
Gradually my experience has forced me to conclude that the individual has within himself the capacity and the tendency, latent if not evident, to move toward maturity. . . . A drive toward self-actualization . . . is the mainspring of life, the tendency on which all psychotherapy depends. It is the urge which is evident in all organic and human life — to expand, extend, become autonomous, develop, mature — the tendency to express and activate all the capacities of the organism or the self. (60)
Yet, though spontaneous, the growth process is not easy: This process of the good life is not . . . a life for the faint hearted. It involves the stretching and growing of becoming more and more of one’s potentialities. It involves the courage to be. It means launching oneself fully into the stream of life. Yet the deeply exciting thing about human beings is that when the individual is inwardly free, he chooses as the good life this process of becoming.(61)
Rogers’ underlying theoretical concept, the phenomenological perspective, is one illuminating way of understanding persons. This view holds that each person’s unique phenomenal field, the total “world” of that particular person’s experiencing, determines her or his behavior. Those parts of this field which one perceives as relatively stable attributes of oneself constitute the self-concept. Only the configuration of perceptions of the self that are admitted to awareness are a part of the self-concept. Rogerian therapy aims at enabling people to change their self-concept in some of the ways described above.
The relationship between being and becoming in Rogers is almost identical to the paradoxical theory of change later articulated in gestalt therapy: “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, then I change. I believe that I have learned this from my clients as well as within my own experience — that we cannot change, we cannot move away from what we are, until we thoroughly accept what we are. Then change seems to come almost unnoticed.(62)
Rogers operates out of what might be called a “natural childbirth” understanding of growth in therapy: “I can state my overall hypothesis in one sentence. If I can provide a certain type of relationship, the other person will discover within himself the capacity to use that relationship for growth and change, and personal development will occur.”(63) The therapist’s only role is to provide such a relationship: “I rejoice at the privilege of being a midwife to a new personality. As I stand in awe at the emergence of a self, a person, I see a birth process in which I had had an important and facilitative part.(64)
There are six psychological conditions that are both necessary and sufficient to facilitate growth:
A psychological contact (sense of each other’s presence) between therapist and client, a state of incongruence in the client, a state of congruence in the therapist, unconditional positive regard for and empathic understanding of the client by the therapist, and the client’s perception of the therapist’s positive regard for and empathic understanding of him. Diagnosis, professional knowledge, are not considered necessary by Rogers and may, indeed, . . . be obstructive.(65)
The growthful quality of therapeutic relationships is dependent on the degree of authenticity and actualization of the therapist. Rogers observes: “The degree to which I can create relationships which facilitate the growth of others as separate persons is a measure of the growth I have achieved myself. In some respects this is a disturbing thought, but it is also a promising and challenging one.(66)
In his later thought, Rogers has moved beyond the exclusively intrapsychic focus of his earlier books to devote more attention to growthful relationships. In Becoming Partners: Marriage and Its Alternatives he concludes that four basic elements make for long-term sustained growth by both persons: (1) mutual commitment to working together on the relationship because that relationship is enriching their love and lives and they wish it to grow; (2) open and full communication of feelings, positive and negative; (3) not accepting the roles and expectations of others; (4) continuing personal growth by both persons toward becoming the unique persons they potentially are. In such relationships each person lives out of this awareness:
Perhaps I can come to prize myself as the richly varied person I am. Perhaps I can openly be more of this person . . . be free enough to give of love and anger and tenderness as they exist in me. Possibly then I can be a real member of a partnership, because I am on the road to being a real person. And I am hopeful that I can encourage my partner to follow his or her own road to a unique personhood, which I would love to share.(67)
As do the feminist therapists, Rogers affirms the essential equality of any relationship that is mutually growthful.
One of Rogers’ valuable contributions is his critique of the way most educators overemphasize intellectual skills and undervalue the intuitive and emotional dimensions of whole-person learning. He is critical of the way they defeat self-learning (the only real learning) and stifle creativity by their built-in coercion and by seeing the student as the passive, dependent recipient of the “knowledge” transmitted by the teacher. Rogers quotes one man’s reflections on the deadening effects of his graduate training: “This coercion had such a deterring effect [upon me] that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any problem distasteful for me for an entire year.”(68) The student Rogers quotes was Albert Einstein!
Rogers’ influence, together with my own disillusionment with the results of traditional teaching methods, has encouraged me to seek ways to make my classes more growthful. In the last ten years I have moved increasingly toward experiential teaching (using self-awareness exercises, role playing of counseling methods, live demonstrations of growth groups, and so forth), which involves the students’ own feelings, responses, and needs; asking the students to draw up their own “learning contract” based on what they want to get from a given course or workshop; expecting students to participate in the teaching by sharing in some systematic way the insights they have discovered to be meaningful; revealing my own struggles, uncertainties, and weaknesses; and asking the students to evaluate anonymously the course, including my teaching.
In spite of Rogers’ pioneering growth contributions, his approach has some serious inadequacies.
Although he challenges and rejects the pathology model that had dominated most traditional psychotherapies since Freud, Rogers retains the predominant intrapsychic focus that has weakened the growth impact of these therapies. This focus has been broadened to some extent in his writings on small groups, on close relationships such as marriage, and on intergroup relationships. But his approach to these relationships is mainly an extrapolation of the principles of one-to-one counselor-client relationships. Rogers under-emphasizes the special dynamics within and between social systems (e.g., families, industries, schools, economic-political systems) which must be changed if the whole system is to nurture rather than diminish individual growth within it. Even though he has given much attention to groups, he does not emphasize the fact that every personal problem is rooted in and fed by its social context. Furthermore he does not emphasize the wholesale diminishing of potentializing (for both women and men) caused by institutional-societal sexism or the therapeutic necessity of empowering persons to work together to eradicate systemic growth oppression through social-political action. Of the six dimensions of whole-person growth,(69) Rogers concentrates most of his energy on two dimensions (inner psychological and relational growth), underemphasizing the other four.
A closely related deficiency in Rogers’ approach is a neglect of the’ power dynamics of growth, which Adler and the radical therapists rightly emphasize as crucial. Most therapists would agree on the importance of the positive qualities in therapeutic relationships that Rogers sees as essential for making them growth-enabling. Research findings reported by Charles Truax and Robert Carkhuff show that the therapeutic triad — empathic understanding, positive regard, and congruence — are highly correlated with constructive change in therapy whatever the conceptual orientation of the therapist.(70) But few therapists would agree that these positive qualities are all that is needed for effective therapy with all types of persons. Rogers’ approach is excellent for establishing healing-growthing relationships, but with many people, it is what the therapist does within these relationships, after they are established, that determines the outcome! For clients who are crippled by self-rejection and guilt, unconditional (although I doubt if either acceptance or positive regard can ever be totally “unconditional” in us finite human therapists) positive regard and acceptance often are precisely what they need for healing and growth. But Rogers leaves no place for the constructive confrontation that is essential in working growthfully with many other people. To illustrate, among the people who come to our pastoral counseling and growth center for help, many desperately need a counselor who has the caring and courage to “speak the truth in love” to them. Persons with manipulative life-styles can easily manipulate passive therapists, who simply follow their lead. For persons with weak or confused consciences and those who act out their inner pain in ways that are damaging to themselves and others, the most loving and growthful thing a therapist can do is to confront them honestly with the consequences of their behavior! To fail to hold up the reality of their destructive behavior, in a context of genuine caring for them, is to withhold what they must have if they are to change. Rogers builds his total approach on only half the growth formula.(71) By making caring and acceptance, without confrontation with reality, the sole basis for therapeutic change, he provides an inadequate foundation for growth.
A related inadequacy in Rogers’ understanding of therapy is his lack of awareness of the ingenuity and power of the resistances to growth within us human beings. His faith in the spontaneous flowering of persons in an accepting-caring-honest relationship is naive and ineffective when one does therapy with those who are locked into self-sabotaging, self-deluding defenses against having to change. The dark, out-of-awareness destructiveness, the tragic trappedness, and the growth-stifling misuse of their limited degree of choicefulness (factors that were so brilliantly illuminated by Freud and other depth therapists) are virtually ignored by Rogers. It seems as if, in freeing himself from moralistic fundamentalism, he dismissed any need for a depth understanding of human pathology, evil, and destructiveness. When one encounters persons in whom the growth elan has been frozen for many years in a self-crippling psychosis, the inadequacy of Rogers’ understanding of such grotesquely distorted personhood is evident.
The exclusive use of Rogers’ midwifery model does not allow therapists to develop the differential methodology that is essential in responding to the needs of persons who require more active, structured, educative approaches. It behooves all therapists and teachers to respect the growth elan in people and to know that only as that vital energy is activated will they grow. But it does not follow that it is necessary or constructive to put all the responsibility for the direction, pace,
and content of the therapeutic sessions onto them. In my experience, clients who are bright, verbal, and strongly motivated to change (as many of Rogers’ clients must have been) often respond growthfully to a client-centered approach. But the majority of hurting people seen by mental health therapists and by ministers for counseling respond more rapidly and growthfully when therapists use more active, confrontational, and reeducative methods as these become appropriate in the flow of each session. In his resistance to behavioral methods (a la Skinner), Rogers seems to dismiss the fact that active, purposive reeducation (cognitive, relational, and behavioral) is precisely what some people must have to cope with life more constructively.
Many people need active involvement of the therapist as creative teacher, coach, and guide on their growth journey. Alcoholics, for example, often experience relatively passive therapists as essentially withholding.
Rogers’ phenomenological perspective has serious limitations when it is used as the only way of understanding human beings. The dimension of depth and mystery (represented in psychoanalysis by the unconscious) is underemphasized in Rogers’ thought. Furthermore, by itself, the phenomenological view leads to a subjective hyper-individualism that weakens Rogers’ approach to therapy; Rogers declares:
The individual increasingly comes to feel that this locus of evaluation lies within himself. Less and less does he look to others for approval or disapproval; for standards to live by; for decisions and choices. He recognizes that it rests within himself to choose; that the only question which matters is, “Am I living in a way which is deeply satisfying to me and which truly expresses me?” This I think is the most important question for the creative individual . . .
When one actively feels as though it is valuable or worth doing, it is worth doing. (72)
The emphasis on trusting their own feelings and wants can be a growthful corrective for people who have allowed the values, demands, and expectations of others to straitjacket their autonomy. But in the complexity and ambiguity of human relationships, many decisions can be made creatively only by dialogue and negotiation with those whose lives and needs intertwine and often conflict with our own. Furthermore, people who have been reared by permissive parents who did not set firm limits tend to use this emphasis to legitimate their narcissistic “me-ism.”
Rogers’ approach lacks a place for either explicit value reformulation or for actively facilitating spiritual growth. Apparently he does not regard either of these as essential. In a conversation with Paul Tillich, Rogers made his own lack of any need for a spiritual dimension clear.(73) One can affirm the values that are implicit in his philosophy of therapy — the value of feelings, of inner freedom and autonomy, of self-honesty (congruence), of empathic understanding and of respect for each person’s unique growth choices and direction. But in a time when value confusion reinforced by growth-strangling faith systems often is at the center of the problems that bring people for help, it is essential that counselors, therapists, and teachers be competent and free to deal with these issues explicitly whenever appropriate.
For Further Exploration of Growth Resources in Jung’s Therapy
Goldenberg, Naomi. Changing of the Gods, Feminism and the End of Traditional Religions. Boston: Beacon Press, 1979. Chap. 5 is a superb critique of Jungian psychology as it relates to religion.
Hanna, Charles B. The Face of the Deep: The Religious Ideas of C. G. Jung. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1967. Deals with Jung’s ideas about God and the unconscious, sin and guilt, the psychology of the soul, and the present spiritual crisis.
Hillman, James. Insearch: Psychology and Religion. New York: Scribner’s, 1967. Based on lectures given to ministers on analytical psychology and pastoral counseling; includes a discussion of the feminine grounding of religion.
Jung, CarIG. Memories, Dreams and Reflections. New York: Random House, 1961. Jung’s powerful, candid autobiography provides an excellent introduction to his major ideas.
— Collected Works of C. G. Jung, ed. H. Read, M. Fordham, G. Adler. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967; Pantheon Books, 1953-67. Includes almost all of Jung’s writings.
— Modern Man in Search of a Soul. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1933. Discusses the nature of spiritual needs and how they are frustrated in the modern world.
Sanford, John A. Dreams, God’s Forgotten Language. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1968. A Jungian pastoral counselor’s understanding of dreams.
Singer, June. Boundaries of the Soul: The Practice of Jung’s Psychology. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1972. A clear description of Jungian theory and therapy.
Ulanov, Ann, and Ulanov, Barry. Religion and the Unconscious. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975. Discusses the function of religion in the human psyche; mythology and religious experience; suffering and salvation from a Jungian perspective.
For Further Exploration of Growth Resources in the Existential Therapists
Boss, Medard. Psychoanalysis and Daseinsanalysis, trans. Ludwig B. Lefebre. New York: Basic
Books, 1963. Describes his basic revision of psychoanalytic theory and practice as these were influenced by existentialism.
Bugental, James F. T. The Search for Authenticity. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1965. Presents an existential-analytic approach to psychotherapy reflecting the influence of Maslow, Tillich, and May.
Clinebell, Howard. “Counseling on Religious-Existential Problems” in Basic Types of Pastoral Counseling, chap. 14.
—“Spiritual Growth — The Key to All Growth,” in Growth Counseling, chap. 4.
—“Philosophical-Religious Factors in the Etiology and Treatment of Alcoholism,” in Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol, September, 1963, pp. 473-88.
Frankl, Viktor E. Man’s Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy. New York: Pocket Books, 1963. A description of his death camp experiences and a brief statement about logotherapy.
—The Doctor and the Soul: An Introduction to Logotherapy. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962. Describes the basic philosophy and methods of this type of existential therapy,
May, Rollo, et al., eds. Existence, A New Dimension in Psychiatry and Psychology. New York: Basic Books, 1958. A collection of papers on existential psychotherapy by May, H. F. Ellenberger, Ludwig Binswanger, et al.
May, Rollo, ed. Existential Psychology. New York: Random House, Includes papers by Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and Gordon Allport, in addition to two by May.
May, Rollo. Man’s Search for Himself. New York: W. W. Norton, 1953. Applies the learnings from existential therapy to help readers understand the human predicament and rediscover their selfhood.
—Psychology and the Human Dilemma. Princeton: Van Nostrand, 1967. Essays on the contemporary situation, anxiety, existential psychotherapy, freedom, and responsibility.
Tillich, Paul. The Courage to Be. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1952. Explores the relationship between existential and pathological anxiety, theologically and psychologically.
Further Exploration of Growth Resources in Carl Rogers’ Therapy
Hart, J. T., and Tomlinson, M. E., eds. New Directions in Client-Centered Therapy. Boston:
Houghton Mifflin, 1970. Major figures in various fields discuss how they have extended Rogers’ approach in therapy, education, and research,
Rogers, Carl. Client-Centered Therapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1951. Rogers’ first formal
statement on theories of personality and of therapy. He now sees the statement as too rigid, but it is still a significant book.
—On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961. Spells out in a personal way his major concepts.
—Freedom to Learn. Columbus: Chas. E. Merrill, 1969. Rogers’ clearest challenge to educators; he develops the view that most education discourages real learning.
—Carl Rogers on Encounter Groups. New York: Harper, 1970. Reports his findings on the process of small growth groups.
—Becoming Partners: Marriage and Its Alternatives. New York: Harper, 1972. Explores various approaches to marriage, reporting on factors which make for long-term growthful relationships.
1. Some of the biographical data in this section are from Fadiman and Frager. Personality and Personal Growth, pp. 54-57.
2. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (New York: Random House, 1961). p. 174.
3. Ibid., p. 199.
4. Ibid., p. 297.
5. Modern Man in Search of a Soul (New York: Harcourt. Brace, 1933), pp. 110-11.
6. Ibid., p. 117.
7. Collected Works of C. G. Jung (Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1967-). 16:355.
8. Two Essays on Analytical Psychology (New York: World, 1958). pp. 193-94.
9. Ibid.. p. 182.
10. From a letter of Jung dated January 13, 1948.
11. See James Hillman, Insearch: Psychology and Religion (New York: Scribner’s. 1967). pp. 57ff.
12. Collected Works. 16:454, 448.
13. Letter dated August 12, 1960.
14. “Individual Dream Symbolism in Relation to Alchemy.” The Portable Jung, Joseph Campbell, ed. (New York: Viking, 1971). p. 362.
15. The Portable Jung, p. 167.
16. Psyche and Soul (New York: Doubleday, 1958). pp. 49-50.
17. Modern Man in Search of a Soul. p. 67.
18. “Psychology or the Clergy.” Collected Works. 11:330.
19. Man and His Symbols (New York: Dell, 1968), p. 76.
20. The Unconscious Self (Boston: Little, Brown, 1957), p. 9.
21. Gerald Sykes, The Hidden Remnant (New York: Harper, 1962), p. 71.
22. Modem Man in Search of a Soul, p. 58.
23. Two Essays, pp. 84-85.
24. Modern Man in Search of a Soul, p. 229.
25. Ibid., p. 66.
26. Jung’s Letters, ed. G. Adler (Princeton: Princeton University Press), 1973, p. 456.
27. Collected Works, 10:177.
28. Collected Works, 7:409.
29. The Changing of the Gods (Boston: Beacon Press, 1979), p. 59.
30. The thought of Martin Heidegger, whom Rollo May calls “the fountainhead of present-day existentialist thought,” has had a strong impact on the theory of several psychotherapists.
31. Basic Types of Pastoral Counseling, p. 263. This statement was written before my consciousness was raised regarding sexist language. It applies equally to clergywomen!
32. Howard Clinebell, “Philosophical-Religious Factors in the Etiology and Treatment of Alcoholism,” p. 477.
33. Psychology and the Human Dilemma (New York: Van Nostrand, 1967), p. 81 (emphasis added).
34. Saren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Dread (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1944), p. 104.
35. Fred Berthold, Jr., “Anxious Longing,” in Constructive Aspects of Anxiety, Seward Hiltner and Karl Menninger, eds. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1963), p. 71.
36. Tillich, The Courage to Be, p. 67.
37. Existential Psychology (New York: Random House, 1961), p. 98.
38. Psychology and the Human Dilemma, p. 82.
39. The Doctor and the Soul (New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1962), pp. 37-38.
40. Existence (New York: Basic Books, 1958), p. 41.
41. Ibid., p. 52.
42. See Growth Counseling, p. 48.
43. Bugental, The Search for Authenticity (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston), p. 31.
44. Man’s Search for Himself (New York: W. W. Norton, 1953), p. 136.
45. Existence, p. 87.
46. Ibid., p. 49.
47. Bugental, The Search for Authenticity, p. 15.
48. The Doctor and the Soul, pp. 61-62.
49. Man’s Search for Meaning (New York: Pocket Books. 1963), p. 65.
50. The Doctor and the Soul, p. 114.
51. May, Existence, pp. 14-15.
52. Frankl’s paradoxical intention methods seem to bear little relation to his existential philosophy; his description of how he does therapy with particular persons gives the impression of being manipulative and highly authority-centered.
53. See Growth Counseling, chap. 4; Basic Types of Pastoral Counseling, chap. 14.
54. Carl Rogers, in History of Psychology in Autobiography, eds. E. Boring and G. Lindzen, vol. 5 (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts. 1967). p. 351.
55. Carl Rogers, “In Retrospect: Forty-Six Years,” The American Psycholo- gist, 29:122-23; quoted by James Fadiman and Robert Frager in their succinct biographical statement on Rogers in
Personality and Personal Growth, pp. 279-84.
56. See Basic Types of Pastoral Counseling, pp. 27-40.
57. On Becoming a Person (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961), p. 181.
58. Ibid., pp. 64-65.
59. Ibid., p. 110.
60. Ibid., p. 35.
61. Ibid.. p. 196.
62. Ibid., p. 17.
63. Ibid., p. 33.
64. Client-Centered Therapy (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1951), pp. x-xl.
65. Harper, Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, 36 Systems (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Spectrum Books, Prentice-Hall, 1959).
66. On Becoming a Person, p. 56.
67. Becoming Partners: Marriage and Its Alternatives (New York: Harper. 1972), p. 209.
68. Freedom to Learn (Columbus: Chas. E. Merrill, 1969), p. 177.
69. See Growth Counseling, chap. I, for a discussion of these six dimensions.
70. See Charles B. Truax and Robert R. Carkhuff, Toward Effective Counseling and Psychotherapy (Chicago: Aldine Publishing Co.. 1967), p. 25.
71. Growth Counseling, pp. 55-56.
72. On Becoming a Person, p. 119, p. 22.
73. This is from a dialogue between the two men recorded shortly before Tillich’s death.