How to host personal growth

“If I can create a relationship characterized on my part:

by a genuineness and transparency, in which I am my real feelings;

by a warm acceptance of and prizing of the other person as a separate individual:

by a sensitive ability to see his world and himself as he sees them;

Then the other individual in the relationship:

will experience and understand aspects of himself which previously he has repressed;

will become more similar to the person he would like to be;

will be more self-directing and self-confident;

will become more of a person, more unique and more self-expressive;

will be more understanding, more accepting of others;

will be able to cope with the problems of life more adequately and more comfortably.”

From On Becoming a Person by Carl Rogers (1961)

Achieving the transparency, acceptance and skill to see another’s point of view that can host self-actualization requires much more practice than I ever imagined. Philosophy had not prepared me for the pragmatic social work demands self-awareness as a necessary condition to help others. To the philosophical imperative to “know thyself” social work adds “so you can help others know themselves.”

Relentless self-assessment, self-care, self-awareness can be demanding. Carl Rogers working during mid-20th century tells us why this practice is the precondition to help another. This is the difference between service as pity and service as love. One make me feel “better than” while the latter makes me feel “better with.” It is a small but important distinction that requires constant cultivation.

What if I’m too afraid to be transparent with others? Isn’t easier to hide behind a facade of a professional distance? This way I don’t have to be human and vulnerable with a client, or ever…

Carl Roger’s client centered approach challenges me to questions:

“Can I be in someway which will be perceived by the other person as trustworthy, as dependable or consistent in some deep sense?

Can I be expressive enough as a person that what I am will be communicated unambiguously?

Can I let myself experience positive attitudes toward this other person — attitudes of warmth, caring, liking, interest, respect?

Can I be strong enough as a person to be separate from the other?

Can I step into his private world so completely that I lose all desire to evaluate or judge it?

Can I free him from the threat of external evaluation?”

Can I meet this other individual as a person who is in process of becoming, or will I be bound by his past and by my past?

If my past is equally implicated in the change process of another, doesn’t the others past also affect me? The philosophical insight of Carl Rogers’ work is that we are always becoming a person with others.

My subjectivity is conditioned by intersubjective experiences.

Social work is pragmatic philosophy. At least that’s my how and why I want to host personal growth, self-actualization, self-awareness.

How about you? How would you describe relationships that helped you grow?

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