“People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be. When I look at a sunset, I don't find myself saying, "Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner." I don't try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds.” (Carl Rogers)

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Freedom to Learn Section VI: The Philosophical and Value Ramifications (part one) – a modern approach to the valuing process

In this chapter Rogers offers observations on the ‘problem of values’ in education and in the modern world generally: “It is no longer possible … to settle comfortably into the value system of one’s forbears or one’s community or one’s church and live out one’s life without ever examining the nature and the assumptions of that system.” He sees some “directional threads emerging that might offer a new concept of the valuing system.”

1.   Some definitions

  • Operative Values: “Charles Morris points out that value is a term we employ in different ways. We use it to refer to the tendency of any living beings to show preference, in their actions, for one kind of object or objective rather than another.
  • Conceived Values: “This is the preference of the individual for a symbolized object.
  • Objective Values: what is objectively preferable – this last does not enter Rogers’ account of values.

2.   The infant’s way of valuing

“The living human being has, at the outset, a clear approach to values. She prefers some things and experiences, and rejects others.” This is a flexible, evolving valuing process, not a fixed system – it is also organismic with choices depending on what will actualize the organism at any one moment; it is an operative value system.

Another point is that the source or locus of evaluation is clearly within the infant herself – she does not refer to her parents to know if she is hungry or cold, she simply makes those decisions, those choices of behaviour that follow on from it.

3.   The change in the valuing process

Changes come as the infant grows and her parents/the culture rewards or sanctions certain forms of behaviour, which come to be the chosen behaviours/values of the growing child – thus, the source of evaluation is external to the organism. Indeed, she “learns to have a basic distrust for her own experiencing as a guide to her behaviour.”

3.1 Some introjected patterns

Rogers lists a number of the commonly held – often highly contradictory - introjected[1] value patterns by which we live: sexual desires are mostly bad, disobedience is bad, making money is the highest good, learning scholarly facts is highly desirable, and so on. Individuals often introject and hold these conceived values as their own without every considering their inner organismic reactions to them.

3.2 Common characteristics of adult valuing

The characteristics of the value system of the usual adult:
  • Values are introjected from other individuals or groups, but held as her own 
  • The locus of evaluation lies outside of self
  • Values are set to the degree to which they will cause her to be loved or accepted.
  • These conceived preferences are not related to her own process of experiencing.
  • There is often a wide unrecognized discrepancy between the evidence of her own experience and these conceived values.
  • Because not open to testing by experience, the values must be held in a rigid and unchanging fashion. 
  • Again, because untestable, there is no way of solving contradictions. 
  • Because others hold the locus and she has lost touch with her own valuing process, she feels profoundly insecure and easily threatened in her values. 

4.   The Fundamental Discrepancy

This picture of the individual, with values mostly introjected, held as fixed concepts, rarely examined or tested, is the picture of most of us. The fundamental discrepancy is that between the individual’s concepts and what she is experiencing, between the intellectual structure of her values and the valuing process going on unrecognized within – “this is a part of the fundamental estrangement of the modern person from his or her self.”

4.1 Restoring contact with experience

When an individual finds a climate favourable to the growth of the person, they are able to go beyond this picture and develop further in the direction of psychological maturity. She begins to sense and feel what is going on within her and as her experience becomes more and more open to her, as she is able to live more freely in the process of her feelings, then significant changes begin to occur in her approach to values – it begins to assume many of the characteristics it had in infancy.

4.2 Introjected values in relation to experiencing

Rogers gives some examples of the introjected values and what happens to them as the individual comes closer to what is going on within them, for example, “the adult recognizes that sexual desires and behaviors may be richly satisfying and permanently enriching in their consequences, or shallow and temporary and less than satisfying. She goes by her own experiencing, which does not always coincide with the social norms.”

5.   Valuing in the mature person

In some ways this is like the valuing process in the infant and in some ways quite different. It is fluid, flexible, based on this particular moment, and the degree to which this moment is experienced as enhancing and actualizing. Values are not held rigidly, but are continually changing. The locus of evaluation is again established firmly within the person, who obtains feedback from her own experience – which is itself self-correcting if the chosen course of action is not self-enhancing.

6.   Some propositions regarding the valuing process

Rogers sharpens his meaning by stating two propositions that contain the essential elements of this viewpoint:
1.    There is an organismic base for an organized valuing process within the human individual
2.    This valuing process in the human being is effective in achieving self-enhancement to the degree that the individual is open to the experiencing that is going on within.
Rogers suggests a corollary to the second proposition: “One way of assisting the individual to move towards openness to experience is through a relationship in which she is prized as a separate person, in which the experiencing going on within is empathically understood and valued, and in which she is given the freedom to experience her own feelings and those of others without being threatened in doing so.”

7.   Propositions regarding the Outcomes of the valuing process

The nub of any theory of values is its consequences – Rogers states two propositions as to the qualities of behaviour which emerge from this valuing process, including supporting evidence from his own experience as a therapist:
3.    In persons who are moving toward greater openness to their experiencing, there is an organismic commonality of value directions.
4.    These common value directions are of such kinds as to enhance the development of the individual, of others in the community, and to contribute to the survival and evolution of his species.
From his therapeutic experience, Rogers states that where individuals are valued, where there is greater freedom to feel and to be, certain value directions seem to emerge. These are not chaotic directions but have a surprising commonality across individuals, cultures and time, and include:
·         Moving away from the pretence of defensive façades
·         Moving away from ‘oughts’
·         Moving away from pleasing others
·         Being real is positively valued
·         Self-direction is positively valued
·         One’s self, one’s own feelings, is positively valued
·         Being a process is positively valued
·         Valuing an openness to all inner and outer experiences
·         Sensitivity to and acceptance of others is positively valued
·         Deep relationships are positively valued
These preferred directions of people moving towards personal maturity are universal – instead of universal values ‘out there’, perhaps imposed by philosophers, rulers or priests, we have the possibility of universal human value directions emerging from the experiencing of the human organism.

8.   Summary

Rogers directly summarises the main points of the chapter.

[1] Introjection (German: Introjektion) is a psychoanalytical term with a variety of meanings. Generally, it is regarded as the process where the subject replicates in itself behaviors, attributes or other fragments of the surrounding world, especially of other subjects.

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