Reconstructing each other.

When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves”. -Viktor E. Frankl

Most people do have the need to feel safe, accepted, experience life as meaningful and desires a sense of belonging. People want to trust others and be trusted; we engage in efforts to construct a world that is conducive for growth and further development. Humans present with the self-determination and personal power to grow, change and enhance the self in a self-actualising direction. We want to experience the environment as conducive to our inner empowering potential, self-determination and strength towards constant development.

At times our attempts to change our current circumstances seems unproductive. Daily people adapt to stress, crisis and experiences that threaten the self in some other form. The threats could be physical, social, emotional and could even be on subconscious level. The person might even experience psychological tension, but not always be aware of what lies at the root of the emotional discomfort. However, we strive in times of crisis to discover our strengths and resilience.

People have the natural tendency to protect, maintain and enhance the self. This process of self-protection might be tiring, especially if the person is not aware that energy is spent in constantly protecting the self. Even the perception that the self needs to be protected will result in efforts to maintain and construct defences. Carl Rogers (1951:515) identified these experiences as follow: “Any experience that is inconsistent with the organisation or structure of self will be perceived as a threat, and the more of these perceptions there are, the more rigidly that self-structure is organised to maintain itself” (Grobler, Schenck & Mbedzi 2013:79,113). The person would thus organise itself at all levels to secure self-preservation. This proposition also addresses strength and self-determination as the need for change, growth and development.

Human beings have diverse types of experiences that could be at a conscious or unconscious level and many ways to adapt to these experiences. According to Carl Rogers (1951:488) everyone uniquely presents with the strengths to continually develop the self: “The organism has one basic tendency and striving – to actualise, maintain and enhance the experiencing organism” (Grobler et al 2013:30,43). Giving the uniqueness of each person, several experiences could be experienced as fitting with the concept of self while others might not. The frame of reference of every individual is unique, every person’s tendency in striving to uphold and develop the self will vary and persons will enhance themselves in new ways during the journey of self-preservation and development.

The construction of the self is a continuous process where internal and external experiences are related to the self, world, direct environment and others. The self would thus also be continuously changing in relation to the own inner and external experiences. Carl Rogers (1951:498) describes the self as being fluid and ever changing: “As a result of interaction with the environment, and particularly as a result of evolutional interaction with others, the structure of the self is formed” [an organised, fluid, but consistent conceptual pattern of perceptions of the characteristics and relationships of the “I” or “me”]. The construct of self is developed through interactions and experiences related to significant others and environments. Significant others are an integral part in the process self-construction and that is why we seek interaction with others. Congruency and trustworthy relationships becomes the central feature in the process of change and necessitate a positive attitude and view of others.

The concept of “who I am” is formed in relation to those I interact with. It is also within these interactions that I find my strength and become aware of my potential to develop and grow. Others might assist me in becoming aware of my internal strengths that I was not aware of. No person, ideally, would exist in isolation; interactions form part of the “who” persons are growing to become. We therefore need to be congruent in our relations with ourselves, others and the environment that we construct meaning from. The importance of aspects such as genuineness, authenticity and congruency when constructing relations with others seems vital in the process of creating non-threatening and meaningful experiences.

Persons have the potential and strength to construct their own awareness of what they really want for the self. The person-centred view emphasises that people would develop in a self-actualising direction that would benefit the self, others and environment. The direction of change and development is however determined by the uniqueness of the person and context. When the need for change and growth comes to awareness, persons would from their own self-determination decide on the “what needs to change”. The aim is to create conditions in which persons can explore experiences and are free to decide in which direction they want to develop and grow.

 To draw on the above ideas in the psychotherapeutic or counselling relationship; the quality of our relationships and facilitative communication determines the way we construct the climate for change and growth. A non-threatening empathetic environment allows discourse and experiences to be freely explored. Perceptions and understanding of the self, others and the world is respected and understood from everyone’s unique frame of reference. A safe and conducive “breathing space” where persons can express and explore themselves freely, would contribute to free-flowing creative energy. Unconditional positive regard for each other would be crucial in creating a safe space and would motivate consideration of the internal frame of reference of others without judgement.

The climate of change was referred to by Rogers as a “growth promoting interpersonal” relationship: “A sensitive ability to hear, a deep satisfaction in being heard; an ability to be more real, which in turn brings forth more realness from others; and consequently a greater freedom to give and receive love – these, in my experience, are the elements that make interpersonal communication enriching and enhancing” (Rogers 1980:26).

How people perceive themselves and their universe, how this perception amount to own reality remains a first-time journey and experience for each individual. Understanding, feeling, information, thinking, conduct, wants, principles, behaviour and bodily characteristics all form part of the wholeness of a person and cannot be viewed in separation from each other. In this process of constructing a person we also have the ability to reconstruct the self and our world(s), this restructuring of the self refers to revolutionised self-determination of human potential and strengths.

For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person's life at a given moment”. -Viktor E. Frankl

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