A personal philosophy

I thought I’d tell you a little about my personal philosophy and how it relates to my counselling and psychotherapy practice.

Where to start

I was just re-reading a chapter from Carl Rogers’ (1980) book ‘A Way of Being’*.  As I read the conclusion, although anyone watching would see me quietly reading, inside I was jumping up and down, shouting “yes that’s it! That’s it!  I must tell the world!”.

It was tempting to type out word for word and say – “This is Me!” – until it occurred to me: he was an American man, nearly 80 years old when he wrote it, and he died in 1987. 

So, my own words.  Right.  Should be easy – I spent four years of psychotherapy training doing just that.  How to write it in a way that doesn’t sound like it’s an academic essay, though…

Here goes…
My manifesto

I want to live an extraordinary life**.  An extraordinary life requires me to face with open arms the ups, downs and risks of life otherwise it can only be ever safe; ordinary.

I want to live my life in a way that is optimistic.  That sees the value in everyone, even those that perhaps “press my buttons” or don’t seem to have my (or the world’s) best interests at heart.

I want to feel every piece of my experience, be it joy, love, pain, anguish, excitement, hope, despair, anger.

I want to respond to others in a way that is respectful to others and to me.  I want to show up.

I truly believe that the person most able to understand them, is that individual, not someone else, and I want to promote powerful conversations to help people find their way.

I know that all this this can only be done in relationship with others.  It is not a solo endeavour.  Sometimes I’m bl**dy rubbish at it (the number of times I want to tell those I care that I love them but don’t, or want to shout at someone who “does my head in”…).  Other times, I think “this is bl**dy brilliant”, when being present for another person as we reach a new connection, a new understanding, just fills me with a sense of peace and elation.

I want to share that knowledge so others can experience it too and grow in ways that were, previously, unimaginable.

So what now?

In the wider world, we are beginning to see signs of recognition and promotion of the following reality:

  • one of the few human instincts is to seek connection; it is what we need to thrive throughout life
  • we aren’t “fixed”; our brains change constantly, and we can influence that change
  • feelings are not just ok, they are vital

I just hope that I can help promote this and be part of the evolution from disconnect to connection, connecting with others and ourselves.

Three fundamentals

There are 3 fundamental elements for living this way, for promoting those connections (in no particular order):

  • prizing^ others
  • genuineness
  • understanding
Personal philosophy, watering can for Genuine, Sun for prize, acorn for understanding, tree logo

They form the basis of what is known as the ‘person-centred approach’ (sometimes ‘person-centred philosophy’).

I don’t think you can have any of the elements on their own, without the other two.  Try it yourself: imagine a deep & meaningful conversation without one of them.  Because of this, psychotherapists will sometimes combine them under a label of “presence”.  And it’s how we are able to “turn up” for all our clients, without judgment.

Something so straightforward can’t be so profound, right?

As surprising as the power of nature can be, so the power of someone caring about us, being honest, trying their best to understand how we feel can have a surprising, powerful affect.  And, when we get into it, we realise it’s perhaps not so straightforward after all.

The problem is, as well as providing those elements for other people, we must provide it for ourselves.  That’s where it starts to get really difficult…

Warning: Psychotherapy could seriously change your life.

Counselling / psychotherapy with the person-centred approach is incredibly powerful.  I had weekly therapy for 4 years so can attest to it.  It’s not always (rarely?!) “warm & fuzzy” but can have a profound impact on any mental health issue, or desire for personal growth. 

It can seem weird, at first, that I don’t “diagnose you” or provide a treatment plan; you may even be a bit annoyed (“what – I’m paying you so that I can do all the work?!”) and assume I don’t know what I’m doing.  I don’t even provide any sense of direction or agenda^^; it’s all driven by you, with me alongside helping you gain insight and work out how to make the changes you want. It’s an incredible, free-ing experience.

It provides a powerful relationship where you can begin to truly discover the person within, begin to value yourself and change your life once and for all.

I hope to meet you soon.


* I love that I still have that reaction.  It is chapter 2 ‘My Philosophy of Interpersonal Relationships and How it Grew’. If you fancy a read, Google “A Way of Being Carl Rogers”.  The conclusion is pp43-45, less than 3 pages.  If you do take a look, I’d love to hear your reflections.

** I recently shared this with a client and realised I’d never said it to anyone else.  I wonder if I’d ever actually said it to myself in that way. That’s the wonder of psychotherapy; on the face of it the focus is on the client, but we are learning about ourselves too.

^ Prizing seems an odd word that we don’t use much these days.  The thing is, alternatives like “unconditional positive regard” (what?!) that Carl Rogers used needs at least 15 minutes to work out, “love” is often a politically- or emotionally-charged word and “valuing” seems to imply something to trade. “Treasuring” maybe although I’m not sure that’s any more contemporary.  “Prizing” was also used by Rogers and has a special-ness quality to it for me. 

^^ Those that have known me for many years or in the business consulting arena find this hard to believe; I am highly unlikely to have a meeting without an agenda, improvement endeavours always have a plan attached and I was often the one organising everyone!