All Paths Lead To The Person

Anthony Rose

A half century ago I came to La Jolla to walk by the side of persons who offered an alternative path for psychologists. A positive path. A soft path. A path with heart. A person-centered path that, for me, has wound ‘round the world, exploring the myriad manifestations of personhood in humanity and beyond to all living beings.

In celebration of CSP’s 50th Anniversary, Will Stillwell has given us the gift of his inspired work – Psychotherapy of Carl Rogers: How It Seems To Me – an intimate look into the personal approach to psychotherapy taken by that man – Carl Rogers. Thanks to Will for finding the perfect place to begin our exploration of the diverse person-centered activities that have emerged from Center for Studies of the Person during our first half-century search for wisdom & healing. While many CSP members have worked in fields other than psychotherapy, we’ve plied our trades with our own personal & professional adaptations of person-centered process.

If person-centered psychotherapy is the foundation on which CSP was built, I’d venture to say that my person-centered path has moved the farthest from that original therapeutic base. For over five decades I’ve roamed six continents and lived in countless cultures investigating, innovating, and promoting person-centered social synergy in humanity and among all organisms. Today, as we face chaos throughout civilization and the biosphere induced by human biodominance, I’ve committed to devote the time I have left to illuminate universal personhood and support person-centered restoration of Biosynergy – the synergy of all living beings.

I met Carl Rogers in 1967 while finishing doctoral research on the neuropsychology of drug abuse and addiction at UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric & Brain Research Institutes. When I learned Rogers was about to conduct a weeklong Encounter Group with clinical psychology grad students, I decided to crash the party. Despite having spent six years with laboratory animals, my human empathy and authenticity impressed Carl: he suggested I apply for a postdoctoral fellowship with him. Six months later I was an NIMH Fellow at Western Behavioral Sciences Institute (WBSI). As a behaviorist who had implemented UCLA’s first laboratory course in animal learning and induced experimental alcoholism in monkeys, adopting Rogers’ positive person-centered approach was a profound professional and personal revolution.

I was ready! In my encounter group with Carl at UCLA, I had told with teary eyes how a research monkey I’d been tormenting with brain implants and shock training for years had escaped his cage. He was perched atop a bookshelf making a fierce threat display as I entered the lab. He recognized me, leapt into my arms and held on like a child holds his father. I told Carl and the UCLA group how this had driven me to stop experimenting with primates. Later I told my CSP friends how empathy for and recognition of the positive personal core of other animals had made me leave the laboratory, turn
down a professorship in comparative psychology, take the WBSI postdoc, and move from reductionist behaviorism to holistic humanism.

During CSP’s first 15 years I was asked to facilitate in scores of situations calling for person-centered approaches to individual, social, and organizational change. I adapted person-centered psychology to preventing drug abuse on Navy warships, celebrating community in Episcopal parishes, consolidating Forest Ranger Districts and Veterans hospitals, and installing a huge health-care quality-of-service program in 40 hospitals & clinics. All the while, I mused on the state of wildlife & nature.

In 1982 I took a break from working with urban humans to trek through Indonesia searching for wild great apes. In a Sumatran rainforest, once homeland to my late laboratory monkey, I had another interspecies epiphany – this time with a family of orangutans. They appeared on my third day trekking along narrow muddy paths through thick undergrowth under a lush 100-foot high canopy of hardwoods. By chance I stopped to rest, looked up, saw a splash of orange hidden in the green.

Like my escaped monkey, the apes perched above me; looked down from a huge fruit tree. Having never been captured, caged, or tortured by humans, they showed neither hostility nor fear. Mama with babe in arms and her youngster on a nearby branch stared at me with more than curiosity. I sensed a mutual longing to connect, and I cooed as I had done when greeting monkey friends 20 years earlier in the lab. Orangutan faces softened; their bodies shifted, leaned closer, into open airspace. Mama orangutan twisted a fig from the vine above her and gently tossed it down to me. That invitation to share fruit sent my mind whirling, my heart beating, my tears falling. I realized why people across the Indonesian archipelago called these great ape cousins “Orang Utan – Person of the Forest.” We are all kindred spirits!

Two months later I returned to Los Angeles and told my staff at Kaiser Permanente that I’d be leaving. Two years later I was out of the corporate world, tracking mountain gorillas in Rwanda, following the path to personhood for all living beings.

Gorilla
Gorilla-2
Gorilla

For more about Interspecies Epiphanies read:
http://bushmeat.net/pdf/tortoisemonkeymen.pdf

2 Comments

  1. Hi Tony I appreciate all these articles and I believe that I finally empathise with some of what biosynergy means for you. I was deeply touched by the scene you describe in which you turned away from experimenting on – and if the word is not too strong, torturing the sentient being of the monkey and became its friend and companion. I get a sense of how that moment reinforced your own humanity. In my own life I have not had as much prolonged contact with animals apart from a loved cat when growing up. I would say that between me and the animal kingdom there is a ridiculous amount of fear. I would add to that a layer of sensing their feeling my fear and then both sides acting to ‘control’ the unpredictability of the unknown. It strikes me that this last sentence could in some part be a description of the psychology of racism – or any ‘exclusionism’. The opposite is being able to trust enough to relax with the unknown – and that I guess that’s what we practice in CSP encounter..My thoughts are winding on in ways too convoluted for a reply to a blog post now. My final idea is a sense of how what we have lost (but not irretrievably) in our distance from nature? We’ve known this for a long time.. .
    “The world is too much with us; late and soon,
    Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
    Little we see in Nature that is ours;
    We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon”
    Will Wordsworth 1807

  2. Dear Carol … I have read and reread your posting here on the CSP website. Of course we’ve been friends a while and I am aware of your deep self awareness and keen perceptive capacities: you know us, we persons of the human type, so fully. Unlike most, you also write of personhood with brilliant artistry. Thus there’s little to add to your reaction, perhaps save this. My sudden discovery of the loving bond I had developed with my laboratory monkey compatriot came after three years caring for him: late enough in our constant daily relationship to shock me into a deeper/higher reality. It was a profound interspecies event of the highest order: a transformative Epiphany. And I let it teach and Change me.

    You have grown up in the company of humans, with what feels like too much fear of “animal kingdom” and that mutual fear segways into our human “exclusionism” … how we shudder and hide in the face of one another’s differences. I sense your wish to trust-the-unknown and admit that I often feel great reticence. I’d no sooner dive into certain “coveys of others” than I would a lions’ den. Indeed, CSP encounter is nearly always safe; I still need caution. My lifelong quest for Community with all forms of Life only increases my longing for unending communion. The poet Carol knows — Wordsworth said it: …”we have given our hearts away…” My heart is with everyone I’ve ever touched who touched me back. Humans and horses, ants and apes, tigers and tortoises and trees of all types with their ornaments of birds and bats that land as we do for a moment to chatter on a safe branch in the shade of Nature. I breath in All Life / I breath out my One Self…. All…One…All…One…all…one… all…

    … in synergy / ** Tiro – ALRose

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