An encounter with Carl Rogers

Or an encounter group with Carl Rogers. I recently found and just watched it - it would be great if you'd watch it, too, then perhaps read my comments below the video and/or make your own comments about your own thoughts and feelings on the video.

The context is as follows (from YouTube) -  Release Date: 1968 Duration: 47 min (but note that the extract here ends quite suddenly and the whole is just over half an hour). Cast: Stanley Kramer. Journey Into Self is a documentary concerning a group-therapy session of eight well-adjusted people who have never met before. Doctors Richard Farson and Carl Rogers lead the group discussion which include a cashier, a theology student, a teacher, a principal, three businessmen and a housewife. The 16-hour session is edited to a revealing 47 minutes in which the participants reveal their innermost feelings, wants and needs in this engaging psychological study.

I have experienced one encounter group, at BAPCA's biannual conference - it was a profound and moving experience with courageous and open people and the experience has added real benefit to my being. However, I'm also conscious of how artificial it is to view this experience from the outside - nevertheless, this video is still a profound document of a genuine group experience, of persons, together, trying to BE.

These are exerpts from what sounds like quite a marathon session - 16 hours - and I found watching these exerpts a strange, incredible, moving experience and I was grateful to those who were so brave and shared themselves with the group and now with the world... There are nice markers for the times, too - a woman being complimented on being "a great broad" (and replying with a genuine thank you) - and also frequent lighting up of cigarettes - must have been a hazy old atmosphere in there!

It's also rather special to see the great Carl Rogers himself in his element (although see also Gloria) and it's easy to get a sense of his realness, his empathy and his trust - he comes across as a person who is calm, gentle, unobtrusive, but a strong presence in the room. It was especially moving when Carl Rogers said to the woman who clearly demonstrates poor self-image: "I like you very much." It came as something of a shock, a thunderbolt - when does anybody say something like that? This created a real change in the room, a sense of being liberated by something so simple yet so powerful. I think this intervention set such a good and positive level for the group and I got a sense that the group itself moved up a level from that point on. It broke my heart to hear the man who says he has no friends, but that he doesn't need them - and again Carl Rogers hit the nail on the head by talking about the need for persons to share their selves. Finally, Carl Rogers to a man so emotional he couldn't talk and tears were falling down his cheeks: "Even if you can't talk I'm feeling very much with you." This is just so beautiful, it's not conversation, it's poetry. I would love to be told this and I plan to tell others this. I like you very much. I am feeling very much with you.

I think the overall lesson of this video and the whole point of encounter groups is simply being an explorer and asking what is it like to be yourself, and what is it like to be yourself with other people? Becoming yourself by sharing yourself.