I am developing a basic framework for a ‘visitation team’ at my church. This team will help connect with those in the congregation who are physically unable to regularly participate in church. This morning I was looking through a few resources that I could use to help equip this team with some basic approaches to care and visiting. A while back I bought a cheap copy of Carl Rogers’ classic On Becoming a Person in which he outlines his client-centered model which is based on the belief that each person has the inherent ability to change and that particular relationships can help facilitate that change.
I have strongly mixed feelings about this approach. It is very easy to critique this book on its optimism about the possibility of becoming an ‘autonomous individual’. However, I am respectful of the sort of posture Rogers wishes to nurture. I am constantly bewildered expressions from those who reject an individualist approach to contemporary issues and those who want to address systemic issues. It almost invariably seems as though the people wanting to address systemic issues must, must, heap scorn upon actual individuals (particularly if they do not agree with a particular view of systems). In any event, as I was working through a few his very readable chapters what troubled me more than the dichotomy between systems and individuals is the notion of what positive change could look like.
Rogers cites a study which explores the implication of various parenting styles. The best model in his estimation is the ‘acceptant-democratic’. Here is his description the children,
Children of these parents with their warm and equalitarian attitudes showed an accelerated intellectual development (an increasing I.Q.), more originality, more emotional security and control, less excitability than children from other types of homes. Though somewhat slow initially in social development, they were, by the time they reached school age, popular, friendly, non-aggressive leaders (41-42).
I tried to imagine what these kids looked like and it was not hard. These are the children of upper-middle class families who excel in school and have enough restraint and insight so as to manipulate passive-aggressive acts for the purpose and maintenance of social dominance. I also expect that these are the families that nod assent to the value of church and social responsibility but don’t give a shit about making any significant change for those values because they have already arrived. And they are also afraid of those who ‘unstable’, that is, not like them.
This is just a guess. But if it is correct then Carl Rogers has unfortunately succeeded because there seems to be a whole glut of these families.
** Update – Perhaps it is with a Rogerian sort of unconditional acceptance that Senator Clinton has approached the Mubarak family.