This post is formatted to reflect an original journal entry.
It’s finally starting to feel like fall. An airy afternoon run. Autumn leaves and a pleasant breeze. Getting deep into Carl Rogers’s On Becoming a Person. Fascinating. So much talk of feelings. Harmony of feelings. Integration, flow, and differentiation of feelings. I imagine it all as one gigantic, glorious montage. The drive for precision in the articulation of one’s inner experiences (and so much talk of openness to experience). I feel wide-eyed as I read these segments of his discussion. I’ll bet he liked to design his feelings, too. I feel greater justification, somehow (Was I looking for justification?), in the efforts I make to articulate, as best I can, the components of my inner experiences, those that comprise an overarching aesthetics of self. The experience of being in my own skin. Femininity. Creativity. Other dimensions of sexuality. Together, the greatest sources of luminosity, energy, and color in my daily life.
I knew it was useful. The practice of giving form to one’s feelings. I am a big believer in the power of intuition. That listening to the urgings of that inner voice will tell us exactly what it is we need to do in order to mend, improve, or otherwise enhance our own well-being. Which is exactly why I started exploring the finer points of my feelings in the first place. Perhaps, this is what Rogers is driving at. Psychotherapy as a means of showing people how to listen to that voice—to find it in the whole of one’s experience, to not be afraid of it, realize it is as a source of nurturance, of compassion for, and fondness of self. Not as pointing to something bad, ugly, shameful, or unworthy. How wonderful. But, surely, this can be done outside of therapy for many of us. I think he discusses that later in the book…
Question: Does Rogers ever move beyond the discrimination and acceptance of feelings and their changing-ness with experience? A hallmark of the fluidity of one’s personality, just like self-actualization is for Maslow. For Rogers, a kind of pinnacle in the experience of self:
When the individual has, in his process of change…incorporated the quality of motion, of flow, of changingness, into every aspect of his psychological life…He lives in his feelings, knowingly, and with basic trust in them and acceptance of them…He values exactness in differentiation of his feelings and of the personal meanings of his experiences. His internal communication between various aspects of himself is free and unblocked. He communicates himself freely in relationships with others…Indeed, he feels a fully responsible relationship to his life in all its fluid aspects. – Carl R. Rogers
To my thinking, the ultimate in becoming is to actually make a work of art of those feelings. Shouldn’t the next step, beyond mere recognition and articulation of those feelings, be to transform them into something beautiful? Sounds more like Maslow or a combination of Maslow and May. And, I don’t mean to use one’s feelings in the service of a craft, as a poet, visual artist, or novelist might. But, to sit with the feelings themselves, to address them directly, to identify the nitty-gritty—all their nuances, gradients, oppositions—and to intentionally translate each into its meaning, its symbol, its role in creating a more refined, more beautiful self. A solitary and all-encompassing work of art. My intuition tells me, yes. The self can reach a higher, more artful pinnacle. The highest self is largely the work of the imagination.
Would be interesting to play around with this idea more. Perhaps, delve into the finer points of my inner experiences again, as with the femininity experiment. Something to think about. Excited to keep reading Rogers. An observation: reading humanistic psychology excites me so much I cannot read at bedtime. Otherwise, I will not sleep. My mind is overcome by the proliferation of ideas. Wild note-taking. I think that what excites me is all the talk of human potential, of becoming, of the promises of a future self I can sense all the time. Makes me feel lucky. Also, makes me enthusiastic. If I am fortunate enough to live a long life, I wonder who, in time, I can make myself into. I realize that, through the work I’ve done on The Used Life, I have, in fact, come to see myself—my inner experiences, in their totality and their changing-ness—as a work of art separate from all others. I am forced to pause for a moment. Isn’t The Used Life exactly the kind of project in becoming, or self-actualizing, I’ve just advocated? Or, is this vision incomplete? Time to ease into a much deeper contemplation.