A while back, I was delighted to discover the source of one of my favorite quotes:
The quote is from psychologist Carl Rogers' 1956 essay "'This is Me': The Development of My Professional Thinking and Personal Philosophy", which can be found in the first chapter in his 1961 book, On Becoming a Person: A Therapist's View of Psychotherapy. I bought the entire book based on this one quote, and its elaborating paragraph. As I anticipated, the book is full of inspiring insights and experiences, far more than can be adequately expressed in a single blog post. I already applied and integrated some of his wisdom in a post on client-centered therapy, student-centered learning and user-centered design. In this post, I will excerpt some sections from his "This is Me" essay.
"This is Me" traces Rogers' personal and professional development, and the insights he gained into himself, his profession and the institutions and disciplines with which he was affiliated. Of particular relevance to me, in my own current professional context as a non-tenure track senior lecturer, is his judgment about the tenure process (based on his own context of having been hired, with tenure, at The Ohio State University):
I have often been grateful that I have never had to live through the frequently degrading competitive process of step-by-step promotion in university faculties, where individuals so frequently learn only one lesson - not to stick their necks out.
However, it is the more personal "significant learnings" that he shares that I find most inspiring (an example, perhaps, of the most personal being the most general). He is very careful to state at the outset that these learnings are true for him, and may or may not be true for others. Throughout the book, he carefully delineates data, feelings, judgments and wants, and he states each of his significant learnings with phrasing that makes the personal nature of his perspective clear. I will include the most direct statements of these learnings (with his emphasis) below, along with a few other excerpts that elaborate the learnings in ways I find personally useful.
- In my relationships with persons I have found that it does not help, in the long run, to act as though I were something that I am not.
- I find that I am more effective when I can listen acceptantly to myself, and can be myself ... a decidedly imperfect person ... the curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, then I can change.
- I have found it of enormous value when I can permit myself to understand another person. ... understanding is risky. If I let myself really understand another person, I might be changed by that understanding.
- I have found it enriching to open channels whereby others can communicate their feelings, their private perceptual worlds, to me.
- I have found it rewarding when I can accept another person. ... it has come to seem to me that this separateness of individuals, the right o each individual to utilize his experience in his own way and to discover his own meanings in it - this is one of the most priceless potentialities of life.
- The more I am open to the realities in me and in the other person, the less do I find myself wishing to rush in and "fix things."
- I can trust my experience. ... when an activity feels as though it is valuable or worth doing, it is worth doing.
- Evaluation by others is not a guide for me.
- Experience is, for me, the highest authority.
- I enjoy the discovering of order in experience. ... Thus I have come to see both scientific research and theory construction as being aimed toward the inward ordering of significant experience. ... I have, at times, carried on research for other reasons - to satisfy others, to convince opponents and sceptics, to get ahead professionally, to gain prestige, and for other unsavory reasons. These errors in judgment and activity have only served to convince me more deeply that there is only one sound reason for pursuing scientific activities, and that is to satisfy a need for meaning which is in me [an example, perhaps, of irritation-based innovation]
- The facts are friendly. ... while I still hate to readjust my thinking, still hate to give up old ways of perceiving and conceptualizing, yet at some deeper level I have, to a considerable degree, com to realize that these painful reorganizations are what is known as learning.
- What is most personal is most general. [full quote below]
Somewhere here I want to bring in a learning which has been most rewarding, because it makes me feel so deeply akin to others. I can word it this way. What is most personal is most general. There have been times when in talking with students or staff, or in my writing, I have expressed myself in ways so personal that I have felt I was expressing an attitude which it was probable no one else could understand, because it was so uniquely my own…. In these instances I have almost invariably found that the very feeling which has seemed to me most private, most personal, and hence most incomprehensible by others, has turned out to be an expression for which there is a resonance in many other people. It has led me to believe that what is most personal and unique in each one of us is probably the very element which would, if it were shared or expressed, speak most deeply to others. This has helped me to understand artists and poets as people who have dared to express the unique in themselves.
- It has been my experience that persons have a basically positive direction. ... I have come to feel that the more fully the individual is understood and accepted, the more he tends to drop the false fronts with which he has been meeting life, and the more he tends to move in a direction which is forward.
- Life, at its best, is a flowing, changing process in which nothing is fixed. ... It is always in process of becoming.
I hope this blog, and my personal and professional life will continue to evolve in a positive direction. Meanwhile, I will surely continue to incorporate other of Rogers' insights - implicitly or explicitly - in my future thinking and writing.