Paper Psychotherapy & Pedagogy
Lecture at the University of Patras, Greece
(c) 1999 by Peter F. Schmid
Keywords, Abstract | Zusammenfassung, Stichwörter
Article | Text
References | Literatur
Overview What is it that makes you be you?
Peter F. Schmid
H ennoia tou proswpou
kai oi epiptwseiV thV gia thn proswpikh beltiwsh kai anaptuxh
|Sumposio «Paideia kai EkpaideutikoV»
Paidagwgiko Tmhma DhmotikhV EkpaideushV
Ergasthrio ScesiodunamikhV PaidagwgikhV
Se authn thn parousiash, oi epiplokeV kai sunepeieV gia thn proswpikh anaptuxh kaqwV kai h ekpaideutikh epidrash qa suzhthqoun upo mia hqikh prooptikh orioqethmenh sthn paradosh tou liqouanou sunanthsiakou filosofou Emmanuel Levinas.
The concept of the person
and its implications for personal development and growth
Symposium "Education and Educators"
University of Patras
December 17-19, 1999
According to European philosophy and rooted in the Jewish-Christian tradition the human being is understood as person. This term and view includes both, a substantial-individualistic notion and a relational-transcendental notion, I and We, autonomy and solidarity. Both traditions which can be found throughout the history of theology, philosophy and psychology are dialectically constitutive. In the anthropology and developmental psychology of the person-centered approach, founded by Carl Rogers in mid-century, both meanings are implied in a unique way and lead to important consequences in interpersonal acting like psychotherapy, counselling, teaching/learning, education, partnership etc.
In this paper implications and consequences for personal growth and educational impact will be discussed from an ethical point of view in the tradition of the Lithuanian encounter philosopher Emmanuel Levinas.1
conception de la personne
et ses implcations pour l'amélioration et le développement personnel
Symposium "Éducation and l'Enseignant"
Université de Patras
Decembre 17-19, 1999
L'existence humaine, enracinée dans la tradition judéo-chrétienne, mais aussi conformement à la philosophie Européenne, est perçu comme une personne. Ce terme, cette consideration inclut dans son sens une conception substantionisteindividualiste ainsi que relationalistetranscendante, "Moi" et "Nous", autonomie et solidarité. Tous le deux traditions qu'on peux les retrouver tout au long de l'histoire de théologie, de philosophie et de psychologie, se mêlent, se forment d'une façon dialectique. Dans l'anthropologie et dans la psychologie du developpement de l'Approche Centrée sur la Personne qui a étè introduite par Carl Rogers, au milieu du siècle, toutes les deux sens sont sousentendues avec une façon unique. Elles conduisent à des consequences importantes dans la communication interpersonnelles, comme la psychothérapie, le counseling, l'enseignement/apprentissage, l'education, la collaboration etc.
Dans cet exposé, les complications et les consequences pour l'évolution personelle ainsi que l'influence pèdagogique seront discutés sous une optique éthique déterminée par la tradition du Lituanien philosophe de la rencontre, Emmanuel Levinas.
Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues,
first of all let me thank Prof. Kosmopoulos and the organising committee for your kind invitation which comes as an honour to me.
Secondly I want to excuse myself: English is not my mother tongue, so I have to read my lecture and cannot speak without notes. And have to apologize to the interpreters and thank for their difficult job.2 What is it that makes you be you?
To start I would like to invite you to a little fantasy experiment: Imagine, you will end up lets say due to the "Y2K bug", the millennium computer problems on a remote island and you will have to start a completely new life. Would you develop as a different person than you were before? Or would you be quite the same with some external differences, but in the core the same person as you were? What do you think about yourself? What is it that makes you the person you are: what you brought with you, what was given to you from the very beginning and what in the course of time grew out of your inner? or what you developed through the important relationships of your life and thus will keep on changing in new relationships? What is it that makes you be you? And please dont say too quickly: both. Everybody has a deep and often implicit, not reflected theory about him- or herself. If it really matters, he or she thinks: "I can handle that from out of my inner strength", or he or she is convinced to be fully dependent on the relationships he or she is in. Did you find out your conviction?
Today I am going to deal with the subject of this symposium on a basic, philosophical and partly even on a theological level, because I believe that talking about education, about the person of the educator, about the person of the child or pupil or student and the educational relationship between or among them has to be rooted in anthropology, in an image of men which for Jews and Christians is inseparably linked to the image of God, who created man in his own image (Gen 1,27).
I am a practical theologian teaching at the university and a person-centred psychotherapist and psychotherapy trainer. When I founded person-centred training in Austria thirty years ago, I had no idea where my encounter with Carl Rogers and his colleagues in the eighties and the ongoing challenge of dealing with person-centred relationships in several fields would lead me to. As a matter of fact I was led to ask on multiple levels again and again what it really means to be person-centred. What is the core of the radical paradigm shift of Carl Rogers approach? This question more and more became an existential one to me. What is the essence of being a person and encountering other people as persons? In order to deal with that I was attracted to do some research on the notion of the term from which the approach got its name: the person.The meaning of "person"
Semantics and etymology
Even if the name may first have originated for pragmatic reasons (that is, to find a comprehensive term for clients, pupils, communication partners, group members etc.), Rogers also deliberately chose it because of its essential meaning (cf. Kirschenbaum 1979, 424). For, unlike other psychotherapeutic and socialpsychological interpretations, the PersonCentred Approach takes a radical look at the human being as a person.
Philosophy took a long time to consider man of sufficient value to be worth asking questions about and only in the twentieth century has philosophy really become serious about the fact that man can never include himself in his questions without entering into dialogue with his own kind. The mainstreams of psychology and some orientations of pedagogy have not even now really undertaken this paradigm shift. Likewise, psychotherapy still considers its task as one of diagnosis and interpretation. This is exactly what Carl Rogers spoke out against. The PersonCentred Approach does not ask, as objectifying philosophy did for many centuries and subsequently psychology and psychotherapy did and still do, what man is, and accordingly does not orient its practice of assistance towards treating a human being as an object. It asks, as does personalism (the philosophy of dialogue), following a shift of philosophical paradigms, who man is, and consequently considers it to be its goal to encounter a human being as a fellow man. This takes into account that such a question always includes the person asking and that he or she is always inextricably involved. Strictly speaking, the question as to who man is can also no longer be phrased in a general way; on the contrary, the appropriate question would be put in concrete terms: "Who are you?" This question, however, asks about the personhood of a particular human being. Thus, person is not the concrete term for a general notion, but always refers to someone unique.
Etymologically, the word very probably originates from the Etruscans via the Latin "persona": tomb paintings were found depicting a man looking like a demon and wearing a mask. Next to it the word "jersu" is written. Depending on whether one applies the word to the mask which is probably wrong or takes it to be the name of the demon probably right , one can find different interpretations: it indicates either the mask or the one wearing it. A similar case is the Greek word "proswpon [prósopon]", from which "person" can be derived, according to another interpretation. Originally, it meant "face" (Aristotle, bible) and, derived from that, the mask of an actor who "pulls a face"; here one has to consider, however, that in ancient Greek theatre the mask did not, as we associate nowadays, serve to hide, but to reveal (the personified god). This is how "person" gained the meaning of the one who played a role in the theatre. Later, in Roman times, "persona" was also used for the (social) "role in life". The theological and philosophical conceptions of the person
But how was this expression adopted by philosophy? The colloquial term which denotes the relationship in the social structure was first introduced by theologians to their terminology when, following the experiences with Jesus, they aspired to define more precisely the relationship between him, God, whom he called his father, and his spirit (the Holy Ghost). Reflecting on this, the Fathers of the Church used the Roman relationship term "persona" in their doctrine of the Trinity and they formulated the concept of "one God in three persons" in order to accentuate equality (and also to emphasise that God is one but not lonesome; on the contrary, he is community). Therefore up to the present day the notion of person as a professional term has been characterised by two still relevant factors: it has been used to define an empirical fact, and from the very beginning it has aimed at characterising equality (cf. Schmid 1991).
This terminology, however, did not really solve the problem, but intensified the conflict: What is the crux of being a person? The individual component? The relationship? It is this very question that has occupied almost two thousand years of philosophy until today. Two traditions emerged, an individualistic one and a relationalist one. The person as an independent being the individualistic notion
The individualistic (or substantialistic) conception of the person was first defined by Boëthius (480525 AD), quoting Aristotles "De Anima": "Persona est rationalis naturae individua substantia [the person is the indivisible substance of a rational being]." Substance derives from "substare" which literally means "achieving a standing position from below", which therefore means standing by oneself, being based upon oneself and thus implies autonomy and independence or, to be precise, indivisible independence ("individuum"), which ultimately cannot be divided, shared, communicated. In this tradition we find Thomas Aquinas, the Enlightenment, Kant who emphasises the status and dignity of the person who may not be used as a mere device, but who is an end in himself or herself deserving freedom and therefore capable of being held responsible.
This becomes explicitly clear in existential philosophy: Heidegger, Jaspers and particularly relevant Søren Kierkegaard (18131855) stress mans responsibility, man who experiences himself in his existence, his "Dasein", in his individual uniqueness and nontransferability, in his potential for choice and for freedom and for whom it is essential "to be that self which one truly is" (Kierkegaard 1849, 17) a quotation with which Carl Rogers (1961a, 163, 166) prefaces a chapter about genuineness.
Therefore, whoever associates person with independence and uniqueness, freedom and dignity, unity, sovereignty and selfdetermination, responsibility, human rights etc., sees himself or herself in the tradition of such an individualistic conception of the person. That is what is meant when man is defined as a person, starting from the moment of conception and regardless of his physical or mental health and development. Being a person therefore means beingfromoneself ["AussichSein"] and beingforoneself. ["FürsichSein"].
This conception of the person is especially influential in the early period in Carl Rogers thinking during which, based on the actualising tendency, he mainly understands man from the individualistic point of view and consequently sees therapy as a process of the development of personality with its emphasis on confidence in the organism, a realistic Self and, above all, positive regard and empathy as beneficial conditions. The person as being in relationship the relationalistic notion
As the initiators of the other, the relationalistic tradition, we find the Fathers of the Church. In patristic theology the person is understood as being in relationship. Gods being is relationship, is pure being related, "esse ad". Centuries later Richard of St. Victor (died 1173 AD) defines person as "naturae intellectualis existentia incommunicabilis [incommunicable existence of an intellectual nature]". Here, person is not conceived as a subsistence, but as an eksistence, as coming into being from outside ["ex"], through others, as standing opposite to others (and hence as inexchangeable, "incommunicabilis"). Therefore, a person is he or she who has become himself or herself precisely through others. A constituent element of the person is his her originating relationship for example the relationship between the child and its mother. Phenomenology, existentialism and the philosophy of values [Wertphilosophie] emphasise that as a subject the person is beyond any objectification.
In particular, however, personalism (also called "dialogical thinking") underlines that thinking in terms of subject and object is not applicable to the person. Fichte already had suggested: "Man only becomes a human being when he finds himself among human beings if there are human beings at all, then there must be several of them". The personalistic philosophers, first and foremost Martin Buber (18781965), constantly underline the dialogical existence of man: "The I is developed through the Thou. While becoming an I, I say Thou. All real life is encounter." (Buber 1923, 18). "The person emerges while entering into a relationship with others" (Buber 1948, 164). Here we have arrived at Rogers second "favourite philosopher", one by whom he himself was significantly inspired (cf. Rogers/Buber 1960). The "IThourelationship" of dialogue, which Rogers often quotes, is characterised by immediacy, that is devoid of any "media" (means), and by presence, therefore it always occurs in the present moment. "Between the I and the Thou there is no purpose. All means are obstacles. Only wherever all means are disintegrated, does encounter take place." (Buber 1923, 78f).
The Lithuanian encounter philosopher Emmanuel Levinas (19051995), the "Otheroriented thinker" who is still to be discovered for the PersonCentred Approach (Levinas 1961; 1974; 1983), interprets the fact that the person depends on relationship in an even more radical way than Buber: the foundation of selfawareness is not reflection (by the I facing the Thou), but the predetermined experience of relationship (ThouI instead of IThou). As such, the Other is not an alter ego, but remains a mystery and hence a continuous challenge. He "descends upon us", for which Levinas uses the metaphor of "visage", evoking the origin of the term "person". This visage addresses us and its need challenges us. This is why ethics is the foundation of every philosophy and why responsibility Levinas calls it "diakonia [service]" which precedes every dialogue is the fundamental category of being a person: from the encounter arises the obligation to a response. Thus he criticises all European philosophy so far as mere egology. Even a sentence like "The I is developed through the Thou." is suspect of using the Other in order to become oneself.
Teilhard de Chardins (18811955) conception of personalisation (becoming a person) also belongs to this relationalistic tradition. Teilhard refers to the ability of the person to transcend, and he understands personalisation as an evolution of the person linked to the socialisation of humanity [socialisation de lhumanité], leading to the coincidence of the personal and the universal. One is reminded instantly of Rogers assertion that the most personal is the most general (1961a, 26).
So, whoever understands the person through relationship, through dialogue, through partnership, through connection with the world, through the condition of being dependent on others, through interconnectedness, whoever sees him or her in the totality of the community, as basically unavailable, whoever emphasizes that man is person as far as he has a relationship with others, follows the tradition of the relationalistic (transcendent) conception of person. Being a person thus means beingfrom and inrelationship ["Aus und InBeziehungSein"], being through others.
This conception of man as a person particularly characterises Rogers later work, where he understands the human being as "person to person", as being in a group and in community. Consequently, mutual encounter is a decisive element in therapy and personal development, and Rogers now considers genuineness as a preeminent facilitative condition. The person is brought to fruition in dialogical encounter: He who becomes himself while encountering others becomes a person. Teilhards conception of a personalisation of the entire creation in the direction of future perfection and Rogers conception of a formative tendency, together with his references to spirituality, point to considerable similarities, as do Rogers conception of therapy in accordance with the encounter concept and Levinas interpretation of ethics as the primary philosophy that recognizes the obligation of responsibility deriving from the primordial experience of relationship and the perception of the Other as a continuous challenge.Sovereignty and commitment the person-centred point of view
In the substantialistic as well as in the relationalistic conceptions of the person we find important approaches which render it impossible for a current point of view to regress to earlier conceptions. If the substantialistic approach underlines what the person is, then the relationalistic approach accentuates how this person has become a person. From the very beginning man is an individual person and from the very beginning he is related in personal community with others. It is only through the relationships with other persons that he develops and actualizes his being as a person: he becomes a personality. Thus essential elements of the person are both, independence and dependence on relationships, sovereignty and commitment, autonomy and solidarity.
Only in the dialectic of both interpretations, not in an "eitheror", but in a "bothand" does the mystery of the person become accessible to whoever allows himself or herself to become involved in a relationship from person to person. A conception gained from these two perspectives of the person contrasts with an individualisticprivatistic conception of the human being just as it does with a collectivistic one.
The dialectic basic axiom in personcentered anthropology is the actualising tendency as the force of the individual embedded in the interconnectedness, the social nature of the person. They both form the foundations of the understanding of personalisation of "on becoming a person" (Rogers 1961a).
Interpersonal relations as encounter
Offering help, doing psychotherapy, social or pastoral work, educating in a personcentered understanding means letting oneself in for a personal relation. That implies putting oneself into play and trusting in the possibility that such a relationship, be it among two persons or within a group (Rogers 1962a; 1970a; 1980b; Schmid 1994; 1996a; 1997; 1998a; 1998b; 1998c), is the most important contribution to facilitating the development of each individuals personality (Rogers 1961a; 1970a; 1980a; Schmid 1989; 1991; 1998b).
This kind of relationship person to person is called encounter.The meaning of encounter
Etymology shows that the English word "encounter" as well as the French word "rencontre" contains the root "contra", the Latin word for "against"; in the same way the German word "Begegnung" is formed from the root "gegen [against]". Semantics point to the "against", indicating the visàvis as well as the resistance. One can encounter an object (a landscape for instance or a piece of art: "reality encounter") or a person ("Thouencounter", "interpersonal encounter").
One of the important roots of the meaning of encounter lies in the JewishChristian tradition: the Jewish precept of charity considers the Other (through love) to be a brother. This concept becomes particularly clear in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10, 2937). The reason for biblical brotherly love is the universal love of God in whose sight all are equal. God, who identifies himself with "the least", is loved if man loves his brother; man encounters God in concrete brotherly love as is expressed in the parable of the Last Judgement (Mathew 25, 3146): "What you did to the least of my brothers, you have done to me."
In encounter philosophy encounter is understood as an amazing meeting with the reality of the Other. Encounter means that one is touched by the essence of the opposite (Guardini 1955). To let this happen, a nonpurposeoriented openness and a distance which leads to amazement are indispensable conditions. In an encounter the relationship "centres in the Other". According to Paul Tillich (18861965), with whom Rogers entered into an open dialogue as he did with Buber (Rogers/Tillich 1966), the person emerges from the resistance in the encounter of the Other: if the person "were not to encounter the resistance of other selves, then every self would try to take itself as absolute. [...] An individual can conquer the entire world of objects, but he cannot conquer another person without destroying him as a person. The individual discovers himself through this resistance. If he does not want to destroy the other person, then he has to enter into a community with him. It is through the resistance of the other person that the person is born." (Tillich 1956, 208) To Martin Buber the "IThou"relationship, the encounter happens where one becomes presence to the Other. Being a person consists in the event of encounter or dialogue, of communicating oneself.
Emmanuel Levinas (19051995) anthropological premise is, in a much more radical way than Buber"s, the "absolute beingdifferent" of the Other. His approach leads from the encounter experience towards ethics as a foundation for all science. The movement goes from the Thou to the I. This Other is an appeal and a provocation: out of the being addressed by the Other (which is a demand) grows a fundamental responsibility [diakonia]. By responding I only fulfil my duty. But what people do owe each other is love. Thus, encounter in dialogue turns out to be a condition for selfconsciousness, to be a common transcendence of the (totalitarian) status quo, to be a start without return: Abraham, who starts his journey to an unknown country without return, and not Ulysses, who at the end returns to his startingpoint, is to be seen as the symbolic character.
While Buber starts to explore the question of what man is by understanding him as the dialogical nature of beingtwo and thus relatively contained, Levinas pushes on: from the Other to the Others. I and the Other, my fellowman, are not an isolated entity, there is also "the Third One", who himself is a fellowman; there are the Others. Therefore how to act is no longer obvious, and among others the question of justice and the necessity of judgement arise. A new understanding of We emerges: not anymore the We of the two of us, but rather of the three of us where two lovingly include a third one in their community (as Richard of St. Victors term "condilectio" indicates). In such a way instead of duality, the pair, I and Thou, now the triunity turns out to be the foundation of interpersonality. Duality does not, therefore, exclude the Third One, but rather includes him, because it is predisposed to transcend itself towards the group.
The importance of presence in the kairos instead of means and techniques
Helping, educationg is facilitating, as Professor Kosmopoulos (1999) already stressed.
Such an approach quite fundamentally rules out any conception of oneself on part of the therapist or helper or teacher or educator etc. as an expert on the problems or on the person of the partner in counselling, therapy, education, supervision or any other helpful relation whatsoever. Such an approach also rules out that this person considers him or herself as an expert in the correct usage of methods and means, and even excludes any preconceived use of methods and techniques, which is not rooted in the immediate experience of the relationship. The only "means" or "instrument" employed is the person him or herself. And only where any means has fallen apart encounter takes place, as Martin Buber (1923, 19) stated unsurpassably and precisely also grasping the process of such a relationship. Therefore the PersonCentered Approach differs radically from those other approaches in both therapy and education as well as in many other fields of life, which in the meantime have all more or less found their way to the core conditions of authenticity, unconditional positive regard and empathy brought out and accurately described by Rogers (1957a; 1959a). However, these approaches consider Rogers conditions, attitudes and definitions only as preparatory design of relations meant to establish a certain climate or rapport, as obviouslyhuman preconditions so to speak, upon which the actual therapeutic or pedagogic work still has to be constructed. For the person working in the personcentered field the realisation of these basic attitudes, which at the time has to be newly put into effect during the process, represents the help which needs no supplementation by specific methods and techniques reserved for the expert. "Expertism", if it has to be described, lies exactly in the ability to resist the temptation of behaving like an expert that means, organising the relationship or solving problems with the help of techniques rather than facing them as persons.
The existential and immediate presence as understood by encounter philosophy, the personal beingwith which leads to a togetherness means that, in his or her psychophysical presence, the person who offers a personcentered relation opens up to his partner, either another person or a group, the possibility to concentrate on the fertile instant and thus on oneself and his or her relations. In the "kairos" (which the very instant is called according to the Greek god of "the favourable opportunity", who had to be seized by his thick front mop of hair when hurrying past in the back he was closecropped) in the kairos it is important to take advantage of fallow potential and to seize the opportunity.
Education as personal encounter
I am convinced that also in the field of education the essence of the PersonCentered Approach has not yet been sounded out by far, let alone has it been put into effect, in its radicalism, its profound humanism and in its critical potential, a potential towards emancipation. Carl Rogers positions and visions are not at all outdated, they have not even been caught up with. Without doubt it is a valuable merit of the approach that today, half a century later, even behaviour therapists, psychoanalysts and systemic people realise the importance of the personal, the personal and actual relationship, the core conditions ("without which nothing works", as these therapies now also agree). But even if others adopt some of these positions, they have by no means yet got at the core of the approach, centred on the person of the human being.
If education has to do with better: if it is "real life", then, according to Buber (1923, 18) and Levinas, it has to be a dialogue, it has to be encounter. And "Freedom to learn" (Rogers 1969a) turns out to be a fruit of personal encounter.
Thus it is in principle nondirective, non directing; but direct
and not without direction. It is
education. The method in the meaning of "
It is not a bundle of techniques but an art form, as Professor Wojnar (1999) elaborated, in the original meaning of technique, as "texnh".
Encounter I hope I could make that clear is not at all meant in a pathetical way. It is the experience of being, the experience of life with all its (and my and your and our) limitations. In an age of pluralisation and constructivist thinking in André de Perettis (1999) neobaroque era encounter also means to endure multiple ways, multiple realities, multiple concepts, multiple truths. If education, according to DieterJürgen Löwisch (1989) has to do with openness for cultures, cultural freedom and critique of culture, in our days educators have to practise modesty: Education is the attitude and capability of a person who learned to know not to know. It is a constant, steady and reliable invitation to mutually learn from each other and to become who you are by encountering each other person to person. It is a "way of being", more precisely "a way of being with", as Carl Rogers coined it as, on the field of healing, is therapy, as is counselling. As such primarily it is an ethical task in the sense of Levinas: It is an ethical challenge to respond to each other out of our responseability.
1 For the whole paper cf. Schmid 1991; 1994; 1996a; 1997; 1998a; 1998b; 1998c; 1998d; 1999 (detailed references).
2 In the whole paper always men and women are meant and addressed. For the simplicity in reading, however, not always both formulations are used.
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Department of Education
Laboratory of Schesiodynamics Education and Counselling
Ministry of Education and Religion Affairs
Education and Educator
Ada Abraham (Israel), Malcolm Blakeney (UK), Marija Bratanic (Croatia), Alexandros Kosmopoulos (Greece), Michel Lobrot (France), André de Peretti (France), Peter F. Schmid (Austria) et al.
December 16-19, 1999
Keynote lecture by Peter F. Schmid
"The concept of the person and its implications for personal development and growth"