Fifty years ago I drove that old Chevy into the city of Monterrey, Mexico to begin anthropological field work. I participated in life there, I observed, I inquired; I made sense for myself as a foreigner from the north. My personal engagement, enjoyments and sorrows, was part of the richness that occurred. What’s written here was fruit of ten years considering and explicating those experiences. I’ve selected and slightly edited text from a 1976 book I wrote and never published entitled Buena Gente.
I write this essay from my personal experience in a long career as a consultant to people who are working in North American organizations. The organizations have had different social aims — large and small profit-seeking corporations, governmental and not-for profit groups.
I listen to clients tell of their hopes and struggles and I work to help them find their next step; I notice synergies and miscommunications between people and offer suggestions; I seek in a person’s complaints what he or she wants and is committed to do. Upon reflection I ask myself, “Toward what possibilities have my clients and I been moving?” I encourage workers at all levels of an organization to exercise their active, resourceful, and personally responsible selves. I believe people will more readily find happiness and fulfillment if for themselves they can become clearer – “Who am I?
My aim today is to confuse those of you who try to understand me. I seek to become present with you. I want you to not withdraw. I seek your empathy.
Not the ‘empathic understanding’ which suggests that by ‘putting your self aside’ you will be able to see the world through my eyes. I want acceptance in your whole being of the particular, peculiar person I am today.
Not for you to walk a mile in my moccasins, I seek your empathy…
The day they told me Johnny was dead I lit a candle and smoke reached up I tried to recall the widow’s name Brought out my old deflated basketball Loved my life a little tenderly as I squeezed it
The day they told me Johnny was dead I remembered that moose we saw, the one of wide, kind eyes and sharp beard, I wondered if we lived old enough to enjoy our maturity, If his ex felt a pang any like mine.
By all accounts, Ludwig van Beethoven lived through experiences of depression. Yeah, “Roll Over Beethoven, dig these Rhythm and Blues,” ’cause l’m talking with you today about Blues and its rhythms, and about American people preceding me by a generation or two. As a child I listened late into the nights to my tiny black Arvin radio tucked against my pillow. I fell a dream to live broadcasting jazz and the Blues from New Orleans, New York, Nashville, St. Louis and Chicago. Hear today my telling you – sounding – the old nights, and the old guys and gals, their blues, their depressions, and oppression and legacies: this is a way l’ve come to understand and express my personal and social move away from fear and despair. My topic is Depression and some of its contexts and some of its possibilities.
I have been inspired to make something of these wandering thoughts from visits to places which to me are foreign in our world. Over several seasons in the United Kingdom, then Russia, then Brazil I am grateful to friends and colleagues who have allowed me some intimacy in their home places, even as I’ve played trying to express my own and local people’s chaos. These are my suggestions on presence in psychotherapy revisited from my remarks at a 2014 Brazilian forum concerning crisis, emergence, and transformations in psychotherapy.