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Gendlin, E.T. (1967). Values and the process of experiencing. In A. Mahrer (Ed.), The goals of psychotherapy, pp. 181-205. New York: Appleton-Century. From

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Values and the Process of Experiencing

Eugene T. Gendlin, Ph.D.


PEOPLE usually tell us their value-conclusions (their choices, preferences, and goals) but they tell us little of the experiential process they engaged in to arrive at these conclusions. In this paper I will attempt to formulate some of the characteristics of an experiential process whose outcomes we usually respect as compared with a process of valuing we generally do not respect. I will try to show that the problem of values can be seen quite differently and more usefully if we consider not only value-conclusions, but also the characteristics of the process.

1. For example, if a young man in psychotherapy decides to apply to medical school, the value problem is not really the value he or we put on medical school, prestige, or on helping people through medicine. Rather, the question is, What kind of process, what kind of "working through," led to his decision? If he has worked through only a very few of his feelings; if, for example, he has yielded to his family's wishes without resolving a sense of resentment, we are likely to consider the therapeutic process in this respect a failure, no matter how strongly we share his value-conclusion about a medical career. Conversely, if he has referred to many of his personal feelings concerning his life and family, if he has in many instances found these feelings becoming more differentiated and yielding up meanings he previously did not differentiate, and if this process has led with experiential clarity to this choice, we feel the therapy was successful even if we ourselves do not fully share all the value-conclusions of the patient's choice. Another example is the following: If a student in therapy decides to quit school, again our own values about higher education do not determine the probable rightness or wrongness. Rather, it will depend upon whether the decision arises directly from an increased ability to make free choices, from differentiations of feelings and meanings, or whether he is fleeing from unexamined difficulties and giving in to a sense of failure which he has not worked out.

These examples attempt to show that what counts is the manner of the process leading to value-conclusions, not the abstract conclusions alone. What we usually term "values" are only conclusions. In the above examples I held the conclusion constant. I tried to show that a positive or negative manner of process can lead to a given conclusion. I will argue that the whole value question is clarified if we consider this differing manner of process.

I am indebted to Dr. Phillips Mathieu for her extremely instructive seminar on Values in Psychotherapy, held at the Wisconsin Psychiatric Institute, 1963.

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The differences in process are not merely private: we can observe the process differences in how an individual speaks. Major observable differences in later behavior are predictable from different manners of this process. For example, many industries select people for positions according to the kind of process they have gone through in deciding to apply. This is called a consideration of the applicant's "motivation," but more specifically, we mean the experiential process whereby he has become so "motivated." The value-conclusion (his decision to apply) does not tell us enough. For, from differences in the motivational process, the process by which applicants came to the decision to apply, we predict different kinds of behavior.

Two individuals may arrive at the "same" verbal value-conclusion and may hold it with equal firmness, yet the experiential meaning each has for this value-conclusion may be very different. One young man leaves school and applies for the position; his leaving school, however, remains an unresolved failure that haunts him through life. For the other young man, it is a move of freedom and ownership of his life; for the first time he acts on his own from genuine interests.

In our considerations of value problems, we must look not only at the value-conclusion, but also at the experiential process through which the conclusion is arrived at. Otherwise, utterly different concrete conditions will be incorrectly classified as the "same" value-conclusions.

2. Here is a second aspect of this question of values in psychotherapy: The client's movement toward this or that value-conclusion is temporary. (Of course he may commit himself to permanence through external ties, and this is a danger.) A student may decide to leave school and, through this freeing process, he may discover his ownership of life, and his own felt interest in things. Thereby he may, a little later, decide in a new way to go to school. This new decision may come even before he has had a chance to drop out of school, or it may come some time later. The experiential process often seems at a given moment to be leading to one value-conclusion. A little later it may head toward quite a different or opposite value-conclusion. Quite often several such shifts of seeming direction can occur within a few minutes, as the therapeutic process moves from one differentiation of feeling to another.

The therapist ceases to be helpful if he balks at moving along with his client just because, for the moment, the experiential process seems to be moving toward a value-conclusion he finds difficult to bear. In the experiential process (the process of differentiating one's felt meanings) the seeming value-direction shifts very often. Actually, what we term its seeming value-direction is not the direction of the process itself.

3. The process clearly has its own direction, given by the present, immediately confronted, felt meaning. Attention to and differentiation of this felt meaning is forward for the experiential process. Anything else is backward or sideways. The value-conclusion we interpolate only seems implied in a given moment of the process. We interpolate a straight line forward from just this [Page 183] one felt meaning. We fear that a student will quit school if he differentiates and confronts this strong feeling of inability, failure, hatred, lack of motivation and of being forced to study. We fear that a man who comes more and more to see the meanings in his desire to get a divorce will actually do so. If we let a client confront and differentiate his felt desire to die, to give up, to avoid coping with anything more, we fear that he will actually commit suicide.

Nor am I saying that we should not fear, or that we can help fearing. What I do assert is that if a given felt meaning offers itself as "next" to be differentiated, then for the present experiential process the differentiation of this felt meaning is "forward." This felt meaning, however, tells us nothing about the value-conclusion at which the individual will eventually arrive. When a given felt meaning is differentiated and felt through, the process will move on. The patient will inwardly confront another different felt meaning. That one will then be "next." Differentiating that felt meaning will then be forward for the experiential process. What value-direction will then seem to be implied by that next felt meaning is not foreseeable. It may seem to be in the same direction, or in the opposite direction, or it may shift the scene to altogether different issues.

When we travel in a car on a road that leads west we may frequently travel north or south for a stretch, for the road takes all sorts of curves, and its direction is by no means always west. Especially in mountainous country serpentine curves seemingly lead backwards and forwards; yet it is always clear where the road is. On the map it may be marked as a straight line going west, but on the actual ground we must follow the road, not going off into the bush just because for the moment the road has turned.

The third characteristic of the experiential process I am discussing is that it has its own determinants of what is forward for itself. The next felt direct referent which the client inwardly finds arising is forward. Or, if he confronts no such felt meaning, then his own inward scanning is next. Soon, there will be a felt meaning to be differentiated. The client can talk about anything else, can examine other things, can argue with himself in various directions, can explain or rationalize anything he wishes, yet nothing changes until he does confront this "next" felt meaning which has remained unchanged by all the previous talk. As he attends to it, this one felt meaning unfolds into very many different aspects and meanings. As it "unfolds," he can feel it "give" or change (in a bodily, physical way, like a feeling of hunger or pain). There is a physically felt relief when one grasps inwardly what a felt meaning really is. Sometimes the exactly right words have this effect. At other times the client may say, "Oh . . . !" and he knows (in a feeling way) what "it" is, quite some seconds before he finds words that fit.

Elsewhere (Gendlin, 1964), I have termed the phases of this process "direct reference," "unfolding," and "referent movement." After such referent movement, the inward scene has changed. Different felt meanings now wait to be differentiated. The interpolated value-direction may now seem quite differ- [Page 184]ent. What is important for our discussion is that the process is not determined by any value-conclusions that are aimed at, but by its own experiential, felt data to which the individual inwardly refers.

4. It is true that often the client does hold certain value-conclusions and strongly wishes to remain loyal to them. As value-conclusions, these are quite helpless to affect the experiential process. They do not determine where the process leads. On the other hand, the client usually has many feelings concerning these value-conclusions. Such concrete feelings become differentiated, and they are a part of the experiential process. Most often he holds to such value-conclusions for reasons relevant to his sense of self and his way of being alive.

In an experiential process, such value-conclusions become related to very specific experiential meanings, in comparison to which the old value-conclusions now seem much too general. Yet he can often keep them in this changed, experientially connected form. A client who has, for example, developed an ability and love for study may find in psychotherapy that this has been an avoidance of coping with the world—but he need not thereby lose his ability to study nor his love of it. Likewise, a biting, bitter sense of humor may lose its hurting manner but none of its sharpness. A client may have a conflicted mixture of authority problems in his religion together with a deep personal sense of some sort of spirituality; the latter is maximized when the former dissolves. If the client is outwardly a well-functioning, go-getting doer, he does not lose this ability or the joy of it, when he temporarily shelves his active adult self for a psychotherapy hour in which he lives the feelings of a small helpless child, wanting not to cope with anything, only to be cared for.

Notice that the above examples could be taken to imply value-conclusions and value-choices. I say "could be" because as I have phrased them, they concern concrete aspects of experiencing. I think the descriptive language I am employing gives a faithful account. It is not a choice between value-conclusions, or between value systems, value concepts, or values of any sort. We differentiate and symbolize the felt meanings which emerge. We do not apply concepts of values (value-conclusions) to choose what fits our values. The order of events is quite the reverse. First we differentiate the concretely felt meanings of experiencing. The feel of these new meanings determines much more specific value choices. Thus, I may first find that a certain way I feel about my religion puzzles and dismays me, and turns out to be, at a first differentiation, my hatred of what the religious people around me did to me. This feeling seems quite opposed to the broad value-conclusions I hold. Later, it may turn out to have more specific aspects, for instance, the inward cry that I can be good and valuable, despite the worthlessness and guilt that those people made me feel. Still later it may become further differentiated. There may, for example, arise a felt sense of being at peace and deeply whole.

This series of examples is meant to illustrate that the concrete differentiation of highly specific aspects of experiencing comes first. We do not use concepts or value-conclusions to evaluate various aspects of our religion, calling [Page 185] some "authority aspects" and others "genuinely spiritual." Such a sorting would be a conceptual one, and would lead to the old question: What value system decides which is which? But we do not even have concepts for these specific experiential differentiations. Indeed, the reverse is the case. During psychotherapy the client must invent concepts and define them for his personal momentary use precisely by making them refer to the highly specific, new aspects of felt meaning which he must first concretely differentiate.

The choices are made on the basis of these concrete experiential differentiations. Such choices have an experientially felt specificity, clarity, and sureness. What is the source of such experiential "sureness"? It lies in the concrete feel of the specific experienced meanings themselves, once differentiated.

In another example, an individual feels a desire to be free of artificial expectations, and the very feel of this desire to be free is positive. It is not a matter of "valuing freedom." The individual may conceptually deplore this feeling. He may view it as going against every positive value he conceptually holds for himself. But, there it is, and it feels good. He wants to be free of artificial expectations.

He is stuck now, however, because he also feels that he wants to achieve this and that kind of success. The question, "Why does he feel that?" can be answered with all kinds of conceptual and dynamic explanations that are useless for him. Such a question can obtain an effective answer only as he again focuses on the felt meaning of his desire to achieve. He is afraid, he now finds, afraid of getting utterly lost in the world if he doesn't achieve. In fact, among other aspects, he now finds that he is afraid in many ways, very afraid. The idea that he will not achieve, but rather just merely live, makes him afraid. It seems awful, too frightening, to "merely live"—to be "just another person among people." Here is his fear of life, his motivation to avoid life and the world! He need not phrase it that way. He need not evaluate it as bad. It feels bad!

The order in which experiential valuing occurs is the reverse of how it is often portrayed. We do not first adopt value-conclusions from some system and then apply them to choose between different possibilities. First we must confront and differentiate experienced meanings (felt meanings). Then we find that these now differentiated felt meanings have a significant feel of good or bad, resolved or conflicted. If the latter, we resolve them by differentiating still further and further. For any meaningful problem many steps are required, many instances of "direct reference," "unfolding," and "referent movement." The seeming interpolated value-direction may shift many times. The process has its own direction, its own concrete referent which is "next" for it, and the felt meanings have their own inward feel of resolution or conflict, constriction or relief, resentment or freeing, fresh realness or stuffy, isolated autism, and just plain good or bad.

Not only in regard to values, but in regard to any symbolization of felt meanings, there is a two-sided problem: When is the correct and releasing [Page 186] process complete? Symbolizations may, in the very change they bring through being accurate, lead to the emergence of further felt meanings which are unresolved and require further symbolization. Or they may not. A given step may fully resolve it. One checks the symbolization against many explicit concerns and many directly felt concerns, and one finds that the matter is "resolved." One feels "whole" or "clear" or whatever poetic words one wishes to use for this condition. However, there is an additional side to this question. Any new events or situations, questions or circumstances can, again, require further steps of process. Such further steps do not mean that the earlier steps were "wrong" in the sense that one must backtrack. But changing circumstances and new questions can require further steps which can lead to verbally opposite conclusions (thus making the earlier verbal conclusions now seem "wrong"). This two-sidedness, this fact that an aspect of the process can be "complete," and yet is also open to further interaction involving further needs for resolution, is an aspect of the basic relationship between experiencing and symbols (Gendlin, 1962).

Value-conclusions do not determine the directions or outcomes of the process of differentiating experiencing. Nor does felt rightness indicate value rightness. With the felt relief of some differentiation the individual knows directly in a felt way what "this feeling" is. The differentiation may involve great felt relief even when what emerges is an even worse situation and more troublesome conflict than he had supposed. Although the direction may seem deplorable to him, he feels unquestionable relief as he differentiates. (It is as if he is so glad to know, at last, what the feeling is. However it isn't really a gladness at knowing, since, if he had been told this piece of knowledge without the concrete differentiation's having occurred, he would not have felt at all glad.) "Now I really have no idea what to do about that," he may say, referring to the newly revealed state of affairs. "That's really much worse than I thought, and I really am baffled now." Yet he feels physically good, having taken the resolving, differentiating step.

Value-conclusions are always general and broad. On the other hand, the experiential aspects of felt meaning which one differentiates are extremely specific (they may be hard to state in words, but they are "this, here"—quite a specific concrete aspect I feel now and refer to). The value-conclusion question is, "Will he stay in school, and are scholarly aspirations good?" The experientially concrete aspects of felt meaning are "this sense of being trapped," and "that feeling of doing something freshly because its fascinates me." The value-conclusions are assumptions, premises, themselves needing the support of an even broader value system, which in turn leads us to questions of just what supports a value system. The experientially differentiated aspects of felt meaning need no conceptual value system at all for their felt sense of life-enhancing, experiencing-maximizing, interpersonal-vivifying quality, or their constricting, fear- and conflict-producing, isolating, and life-minimizing quality.

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For all these reasons, we should not cease to participate in the process even when we do not like the value judgments implied in any one moment's experiential process. Much less could we possibly direct the process by first choosing conclusion-values.

In summary, we have: (1) distinguished between value-conclusions and the experiential process which can lead to them; (2) we have said that the seeming value-conclusion implied in a moment's differentiating is temporary and may shift with each step of differentiation; (3) that the experiential process has its own direction, given by the sequence of concrete felt meanings which arise as one focuses on, differentiates, and unfolds a felt meaning, resulting in a referent movement or felt change through which new and different felt meanings now arise; (4) therefore, value-conclusions cannot possibly determine the experiential process. On the contrary, the newly differentiated aspects of felt meaning themselves indicate the need for further differentiation as they feel constricted, conflicted, and bad; or, they mean resolution as they feel whole, sound, and deeply resolved. Value-conclusions are always much too general and therefore cannot be employed to differentiate and sort out specific aspects of experiencing. On the contrary, these aspects must be concretely differentiated first.


So far, we have concentrated on characterizing this experiential process. If it can be adequately described, then it can be recognized and its results can be empirically studied and compared with behavior resulting from other modes of arriving at value conclusions. A number of studies (Gendlin, 1960; 1961; 1962; 1966; Holloway, 1961; Kirtner and Cartwright, 1958; Mathieu, 1961; Rogers, 1951; 1959; 1960; Tomlinson and Hart, 1962; and Walker, Rablen, and Rogers, 1960) indicate that one can reliably recognize verbal behaviors indicative of this process, and that one can predict differential behavioral consequences from high and low levels of it. If it is possible to study what the outcomes of this kind of process really are, then we need not arbitrarily assert its "goodness." We can formulate its outcomes empirically. We can also empirically investigate whether, as I think, men always choose (i.e., engage in) this process when they can.

But characteristic behavior outcomes are not the only regular feature of this process. It also seems that only certain kinds of value-conclusions can result from it! As yet we have no genuine research confirmation of this assertion, but it is an empirical question: Is it the case that a great many kinds of value-conclusions are never the result of this experiential process? Is it the case that only certain kinds of value-conclusions can result from it? Just what common characteristics do these "universal" kinds of value-conclusions which do result from this experiential process share?

In the main discussion so far we asserted only that there is a recognizable [Page 188] process of differentiating one's experiencing. We did not say anything about the kind of conclusions that result. We spoke as if we cared only that the process be genuine, as if any and all varieties of conclusions could result (and would have to be "respected," as we phrased it). Indeed, we have presented no other criterion by which anything could be right or wrong! However, this view does not imply that anything whatsoever may be good or right.

If it is the case that only certain value-conclusions can arise from the experiential process I am describing, then there is a value system implicit in the human organism. This would be neither a system of concepts applied to man nor a system based on conceptual premises. Rather, the "system" would be the organismic nature of human experiencing.

Experiencing as we feel it inwardly and symbolize it in words is a bodily sentience, an aspect of body life. Body life is an interaction process with the environment. When we find "meaning" in what we bodily "feel" (for example, when I say that this feeling I have now is "hunger"), we symbolize meanings that are physically given in the body's life process. Of course, we give shape and form to meanings with language and symbols; in the body, however, meanings are not given as conceptual or linguistic entities. Yet we can feel and differentiate experiential meanings about others and about things around us, because body life is an interaction process with the people and things around us. Personality is a "being-in-the-world" or a "living-toward" people and things. Hence it is not mysterious why we always find meanings when we focus our attention on the bodily feel we have. Bodily felt experiencing has meanings, that is to say, we can put symbols into connection with it. Whereas, at a given moment, most words and phrases do not affect our feeling at all, the "right" phrase is experienced with an unmistakable, physically felt relief (which we express as "Yes, that's it, that's just what I mean!"). This "connection" between our felt meaning and just these words tells us that the words are referring to, acting upon, and carrying forward our felt meaning.

It will therefore not be surprising if there are definable general values at which any human body and person will arrive when an experiential process of differentiation as outlined above occurs. It would mean that all human bodies and persons are organized in certain ways. Certainly, there are also respects in which we vary greatly from each other, but it may well be a variety within a certain invariant organization. This organization makes possible the manner of experiential process we have been discussing, the way in which it can be differentiated, how its felt meanings evolve and move and, hence, perhaps also some respects in which all possible value-conclusions will be found to be similar if they have been arrived at by such a process.

Most of what has been said and written against "systems" has been directed against systems of concepts. One would not want to deny that the human organism is a "system." In fact, it is the most complex and highly organized system we know of. A good many invariant parameters must obtain for such a [Page 189] system to keep itself alive (and it does tend to keep itself alive—a system which tends to disintegrate or die would soon be disintegrated or dead).

I am therefore sure that only certain kinds of value-conclusions can occur as outcomes of this experiential process. However, this is an empirical question. What kind of outcomes does this process produce and what kind does it not produce?

The manner of this process of differentiating and carrying forward experiencing is, of course, itself a "value," since I am in favor of making this process happen. I can say broadly how one should respond to make it, rather than something else, happen. I would like eventually to base my preference for this process on the empirical findings of just what kind of conclusions emerge. I would like to think that any of us would choose these conclusions, and hence this process. We need no moral or value system that says, "You should choose this process," if we empirically find that we all do choose this process and its conclusions when we are able to choose it (when it is made to happen).


Does the value theory we presented mean that the other person (the therapist or the person we are close to and interact with) affects us not at all? Is the experiential process we discussed only a "differentiating" of felt meanings that are already there? Not at all. The therapist or any other person close to us vitally affects how we feel, who we are, and the manner in which at that moment we find ourselves being alive with him (Binswanger, 1947; Buber, 1948; Gendlin, 1964; Heidegger, 1960; Kirtner and Cartwright, 1958; Mead, 1938; Merleau-Ponty, 1962; Sullivan, 1953).

When we differentiate and symbolize a felt meaning by using words (just those words which, at the moment, feel exactly right), a physically felt change or "referent movement" occurs, indicating that one alters the felt meaning by accurately symbolizing it. Similarly, when another person responds accurately to my felt meanings, just by his so doing I feel an increased aliveness and bodily sensed release which, of course, constitutes a change. Language symbols are similar to interpersonal responses in human interaction: both are modes in which felt meanings become "symbolized" and thereby carried forward.

We generally talk as if meanings must be either represented accurately just as they are, or changed. Indeed, in the case of logically defined meanings that is so: when a concept is logically defined, it must either be rendered just as defined, or we change it. However, the bodily concretely felt meanings of experiencing are not "meanings" in this sense of logically defined concepts. Felt meanings share the special characteristics of body organization: The body is organized as interaction. When it exhales CO2 it is ready to inhale oxygen. When it is hungry, it is ready to ingest food materials. When it reaches a certain condition, it is ready for sexual interaction with another organism. The [Page 190] most accurate response to these body organizations is oxygen or food, or another sexual organism. The point I wish to emphasize is that precisely these most "accurate responses" also change the organismic and concretely felt condition to which they respond.

Life process is always interaction with the environment. When the proper environmental objects occur (and note, not just any object is a fitting one for respiration, digestion, or reproduction—only certain objects fit the body interaction), then interaction is carried forward, and the momentary condition (which we called the "felt meaning") is thereby changed.

Words have meaning for us only through their felt meanings. Without that meaning, a word would only be a noise (like a word in a foreign language we do not know). Language is learned in infancy only in the context of interpersonally meaningful interaction. Thereby, words come to have organismic meaning and are small steps which carry the organismic interaction process forward. Between bodily hunger and food, for example, human society has interposed many steps, such as going home, washing one's hands, saying, "I am hungry" to someone, etc. Therefore, words have the power of accurately symbolizing a felt meaning and thereby changing it (carrying it forward).

Hunger does not say exactly what we will eat, but it does broadly prefigure the carrying forward of the digestive process. Only certain objects will "fit" as food for the organism; only a particular kind of change is meant by "eating and digesting." This kind of change is what I call "carrying forward." For a thousand other changes are possible, e.g., poisoning or destruction of the stomach. "Carrying forward" is clearly a special kind of change, namely the further ongoing of the body's life process. A response is called "accurate" just because it fits the interactive pattern of the body and therefore makes the further interaction process happen.

When another person responds to me, both his words and his personal reactions to me can be "accurate" in the sense that they not only correctly represent the felt meaning I now have, but also thereby carry it forward. For example, after some struggle to find words, I may tell you that I am afraid of people, that I don't trust you, that I am worthless, that I am sick and disgusted with putting up with myself, that I do not want to cope with anything more, and that I want to commit suicide. These verbal symbols may somewhat "move" the felt meaning I have, and may give me the physically sensed relief of their "rightness." I may feel as if, at last, I were more directly facing and knowing my situation. But equally, these correct words will carry forward and change my feeling.

An experiencing organism—a human body—is an interactive system. Concretely, it lives as an interaction with oxygen, food, and other humans. To be "afraid of people" is not just a fact, a datum to be correctly described. As a felt meaning it is the present condition of an interactive organism. Hence, when I tell another person (who responds deeply) of this felt fear of people, the nature of that very meaning is changed as I relate it. For to be "afraid of [Page 191] people" is a stopped version of personal interaction (just as hunger is a stopped version of digesting food). Thus the words and the personal response not only say what the individual feels, but they carry forward what he feels. They not only state the implicit meaning of the experiencing: they make the further experiencing process happen.

Carrying forward can occur through various verbal symbols and personal responses. However, this variety is still quite small compared to the great variety of words and responses which will not "fit" and will not "carry forward." To "make the further experiencing process happen" is thus a quite specific change, despite the variety of ways in which it can occur. In our example, above, the feeling of "not wanting to cope with anything more" may soon become differentiated further. The therapist's responses make happen this further concrete interaction process, some of which can be differentiated as wanting to be held and cared for, rather than coping with anything more.

When responses or words are exactly accurate they thereby carry forward the experiencing process, and this is the change we "respect" and "value," not because it accords with already accepted value-conclusions, but because of the kind of process it is. Hence the experiential process I have been describing is not a matter only of differentiating the felt meanings that are already there, but rather of carrying forward and "making happen" the further experiencing process which then has even further felt meanings leading still further.


1. The psychotherapy process determines values. The present theory does not base the psychotherapy process on values, but rather bases values on the nature of the psychotherapy process. The nature and direction of experiencing (its verbal or personal symbolizing and responding) is not based on, or directed by, values, but the reverse. If there is a universally human value system, then it is the human organism's life process which we feel concretely, and whose being carried forward we feel when symbols and responses fit.

Let me now briefly discuss our reversal of the order in which these things are usually thought to determine each other. On what values is our choice of our kind of psychotherapy process based? On none at all! Psychotherapy is a certain kind of process (though much which is called by that name effects no useful results at all, or is a different kind of process—for example, a resignation process, or an inquiry process, or a practical teaching process). The value theory here presented rests on the fact that there is an experiential process of a certain kind. This experiential process has its own nature and cannot be conducted in different directions or as determined by prechosen conclusions.

2. The psychotherapy process determines therapeutic outcomes. Therapeutic outcomes currently are discussed as if they were arbitrary choices. Do you aim at adjusting the client to his society, or do you aim at creativity and [Page 192] nonconformance? Does a therapeutic outcome involve a more open awareness of anxiety or a decrease in anxiety? From our theory it follows, however, that the "therapeutic" outcomes are those which arise from this process. As therapist I do not prechoose them, nor can the client. If by differentiating and resolving, a client arrives at a certain surprising choice, my reaction is not, "It can't have been successful therapy, since that was the outcome." Of course, if I have not lived a fully resolving process with the client, then I might say that. But if I have participated in the experiential clarity with which the surprising outcome emerged, then I have just learned and now know that a human being can resolve such a matter in this surprising way. I say, "How interesting—I never would have thought that such a way existed, but now I see that there is such a way."

Thus we do not (and cannot) with value-conclusions choose the outcomes we call therapeutic. Rather, the order is reversed: What outcomes are "therapeutic" we learn empirically from the process.

3. The psychotherapy process determines therapeutic responses. Another version of the reversal is this: What should the therapist do to bring about therapeutic change? Is it not a "value-question" to decide how, as a therapist, I ought to respond? Does it not hinge on "value-choices" or implicitly held values, of, say, freedom, self-determination, openness to experience, and others? From the value theory here presented the opposite follows: Such "value choices" really hinge on the nature of the process. I prefer the client to arrive at his own felt meanings and their resolution, not because I value democracy and self-determination, but because the nature of the process is such that intellectual insight and pressure rarely help much. Without the client's own direct reference to his concrete felt meanings, psychotherapy does not occur. I am willing to argue with the client—if only we soon return from this arguing to again referring directly to his felt meanings. I am willing to impose upon him in many ways, if only we soon again return to his necessarily free inward sensing of his own meanings. I am willing to urge him strongly to do what I think best, but I do not want to stop him from discovering the reverse, if it happens to be the next step of his experiential process. In short, it is not my values that determine what therapy process we get. Rather, the nature of a therapy process (if it is to occur at all) determines certain basic aspects of what it is to be a therapist.

The great variety of current therapeutic approaches, all with approximately equal percentages of success, shows that the differences in orientation which we have so long argued about are not essential aspects of therapeutic responding. It may be that my formulation of what is essential will also miss. Yet I think that reference to the individual's felt meanings, and "making the further process happen" are essentials, and, in one form or another, characterize what all effective psychotherapists attempt. These characteristics of the therapist's function are determined by the kind of process psychotherapy is and by how a therapist can maximize that process and make it happen.

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Many people have spoken as if the psychotherapy process as such had no character of its own, and needed its character determined by the therapist's values. But the experiential process I have described has its own nature and direction, and this determines (it is not determined by) the therapist's choices.

4. The psychotherapy process determines what health is. One wants to "get the patient well," but who decides what "well" means? If something can be called health, for the human person, then it is not a matter of someone's choice, but resides in the nature of the human being. Personality is an aspect of the living organism, that is to say, of an interactive process. This process can occur fully in a great variety of forms, but many more varieties of narrowing and stoppage also exist. In general, we can say that any mode in which the organism can fully live—can fully go on—is health, while its stoppage or narrowing is not health. To enable the experiential interaction process to move on is "getting well," "psychotherapy," "experiencing more fully," etc.

For example, is voyeurism as healthy as intercourse? Is an orgasm through voyeurism the same as an orgasm in intercourse? Is our negative evaluation of voyeurism just a cultural or personal "value"? In voyeurism, the individual's sexual process is stopped at the mere seeing of the sexual object—he cannot proceed to personal interaction and body to body contact. His orgasm is physically and personally different from that of intercourse, and no matter how frequently he has such orgasms he can get prostate troubles that do not occur with satisfying intercourse. On the other hand, if the last statement and similar empirical differences should not be confirmed by research, then I should be mistaken in this instance. I would then know that my negative evaluation of voyeurism was, after all, a mere bias.

My assertion, however, concerns not this specific example, but the general difference between ongoing and stopped processes. If continuance of the process is health, and if that is what we maximize and make happen in psychotherapy, then it becomes clear why every step of differentiation feels so good and physically releasing, even when what is found at a given step seems worse than expected.

The concrete process of personality and body life is universal; however, its specific forms and varieties are not. To live as a human person, a great many details of civilization and individuation are necessary, yet all these vary. Concepts—cultural and individual forms—are always just one way of selecting, completing, and shaping aspects of the concrete process. All felt meanings can be shaped and finished conceptually in many different ways which "fit" and "carry forward" the experiencing process. (Yet this is not an arbitrary matter: only some forms will fit and carry forward. All others will not.) Despite this partial relativity, we need conceptualization; we must shape this way or that, else we cannot carry experiencing forward at all.

Personality requires some cultural and individual form and shape, yet these forms vary greatly. Therefore, if there are universal human values, if there is such a thing as "health" for the human person, then it will not be [Page 194] statable as any one of the variety of finished and conceptualized concepts of health which we find or formulate. Rather, what is universal is the concrete process (not my particular conceptual formation of it), which I have called experiencing and which you feel and at which all my words in this paper point. We cannot always distinguish conceptually between forms which enable the concrete process to go on, and forms which stop it. What tells us most about this division is the moving forward of the experiential process itself. If, when permitted and responded to so as to be able, the individual always (empirical question) differentiates and strives to change and resolve a certain condition, that condition is a stoppage. Only because there is such a process of experiencing can we speak of "therapeutic," "health," and "psychotherapy." For this reason most of what we know about personality, health, and illness came from observations of psychotherapy (Fine, 1962; Freud, 1920; Freud, 1940; Rogers, 1951; 1958; 1959; 1960; 1961a; 1961b; 1961c; 1962; Sullivan, 1953). The concrete experiential process determines what personality health is.


We have now sufficiently discussed how definitions of psychotherapy, health, and therapeutic response are determined by the nature of the process, rather than the process being determined by value choices. We must deal with one more question, that of influence. The therapist influences his patient. Should he or not? Does he or not? Can he help influencing? Is not all therapy a kind of "conditioning," and if so, isn't it better that we choose the values we implant (Skinner, 1948)? Why let them be accidents of our unreflected bias?

We have already answered this in saying that the very nature of the psychotherapy process precludes a kind of "influence" based on values we choose to implant. One cannot know in advance the specific turns of differentiation which a genuine experiencing process must take. Without these turns, one will not really get the result one wants, though one may get verbal assent to the conclusion he wishes. The direction of the concrete process is given in the progression of felt meanings, though neither client nor therapist may like a particular step of differentiation which, nevertheless, is clearly "next." Thus, the nature of the process is such that implanting our own values is not a type of influence possible in genuine psychotherapy.

We do not mean that the therapist does not influence. However, we must discuss the kind of influence it is. "Making the therapy process happen" as it has been described is itself, of course, a powerful influence. Nor is "conditioning" or implanting values ineffective. It is a kind of influence which can have many consequences, but psychotherapy is not one of them. Let us examine more closely different kinds of influence and their results.

First of all, it is a facile and incorrect assumption that if I influence you it must be in a direction that makes you more similar to me. The therapist's [Page 195] values do not simply transfer to the client, or the parent's values to the child. In fact, the influence is quite often the reverse.

The therapist (or anyone else) has no means by which to reach into another person and transfer values to him. Let us look instead at what we actually do. We respond more positively at some times than others. We reward and punish. Does this always bring on the values we reinforce with the reward? Not at all. We may effect resentment and reactiveness, get emotional blockage, difficulty, fear, anxiety, confusion, attempts to please or to hide confusion, and others. In short, we can get all kinds of results other than the simple transfer of values from one person to the other. How many sons of strong fathers are engaged in changing the world in the opposite direction from their parental values? Such a reaction is a result of influence, but not the one discussed or aimed at.

More importantly, the discussion always looks to the verbal or formal conclusion rather than the concrete process. In reaction to a parent one does not have a value in the same sense as when the value stems from one's own experiential process. We recognize this when we do not take seriously, for example, the reformist values of a young person who is "really rebelling against his father," rather than having genuine experiential values. But, similarly, if the individual happens, by some pressure, fear, or confusion, to assert that he now holds just those values which some authority figure imposed on him, then, too, we do not consider such values genuine in him. We predict different and much less effective behaviors from such a man than when his values are genuinely differentiated in relevant experiencing.

Brainwashing was for a time thought to be that magic (which we do not possess) of reaching into another person and making him over according to our wishes. Closer study (Hoh, 1964) of Chinese methods reveals that the brainwashing of Americans was only a consistent process of personality disintegration. It most certainly had effects. Fear, self-hatred, groveling, and inaction are concrete and definable results, but they are not the transmission of values. Similarly, if the therapist chooses to "strengthen the patient's defenses," he certainly behaves in ways that can have effects, but these will be confusion, emotional blockage, fear, and avoidance, which will be clearly different from anything we would want to call psychotherapy. Emotional blockage and stoppage of experiencing is usually recognizable and different from experiencing being carried forward, whatever may be the verbal similarities of stated conclusions. And many predictable behaviors arising later are also empirically differentiable.

But, this kind of "conditioning" can also be viewed in another way. We may "reward" the individual with our closeness and personal interaction, and this may be called the "reinforcement." We may be said to "condition" people to express their feelings, and to differentiate their experiencing and then say that the process of experiencing is "self-reinforcing." Even when the verbal [Page 196] content at the moment may be such as none would value, the forward movement of the process and its felt relief is "reinforcing," as is the accompanying personally close and welcoming interaction.

However, for the process to occur, the interaction must happen regardless of just what happens to be the content at a given moment. When a therapist's "negative reinforcement" is some form of withdrawing or pushing the client away, the process then stops. (Therapists are not always equally glad to move with the process. Negative reinforcement happens. But it does not guide therapy, it stops it, and much effort from both the client and therapist may be required to let the process resume and move its "next" step.)

Such a translation of our value theory into the language of reinforcement must not blind us to two important differences: (1) The process, not the content, is "reinforced" by the therapist; (2) Differential reinforcement is basically different from "reinforcement of process." Differentially reinforcing either does not (thankfully) succeed at all, or the consequences are stoppage, blockage, fear, avoidance, and trouble.

We must emphasize the concepts necessary to make these distinctions, for without terms that refer to the experiencing process, we cannot talk meaningfully about "reinforcing" this process. To clarify this problem we need to differentiate between several kinds of influence, all of which can occur and have predictably different behavioral consequences. To test and measure these behavioral consequences we must be able to define these different kinds of influence. For this we must have terms and distinctions referring to the manner of experiential process. The two basic kinds of "influence" are: (1) value-conclusions adopted without an experiential process from which they could arise; and (2) value-conclusions adopted from an experiential process leading to them.

Under the first type above, a further distinction must be made: (1a) Value-conclusions without an experiential process leading to them can be adopted in a sense which inclines one to readiness to experience what the conclusions imply. In this trouble-free form of 1, the individual expects to experience some day what the value-conclusions involve. This expectation makes him more able to perceive the relevant, rather than other, equally valid, meanings in such experiencing, should it arise. The expectation also makes him more willing to give time, patience, and repeated trials to opportunities for such relevant experiences. In all these ways, influence type 1a succeeds in making it more likely that the individual will, at some time, arrive at the experiential concreteness of the values he has verbally adopted.

Predictable behaviors for 1a will be those showing inability to do what an individual who has the experiential process could do (adapt, creatively employ, explain, show in detail, respond well to certain situations requiring these values, etc.) On the other hand, influence type 1a does not lead to those further behavior differences to be cited in 1b.

(1b) Value-conclusions can be adopted without the experiential process [Page 197] leading to them, but accompanied by experiences of confusion, denial, conflict, and surrender of certain areas of enterprise. Such an adoption usually makes it less likely that the individual will ever obtain the experiential process leading to these values, than that he will arrive experientially at other values. It has a thousand side effects, including the predictable behavior differences involved in attempting to act as though he really had the given values, along with failure consequences, conflicts or inferiority, abasement, and resentment. Brainwashing is an example of influence type 1b, but nearly everyone has experienced less drastic instances.

The confusion which besets value theory is that types 1a, 1b, and 2 can all occur. When one speaks only of getting a certain kind of value-conclusion in the subject or patient, one ignores the differences. Also, if one puts the emphasis on one statement by the subject (what he says he now holds as a value) or on one specific behavior choice, then the differences are temporarily obscured. We can get the individual to apply for medical school in modes 1a, 1b, or 2. A man may be religious or an atheist in modes 1a, 1b, or 2. Most value-conclusions can be induced by influence types 1a, 1b, or 2. But we need terms to define and observe these process differences. Then the predictable behavior differences could be tested. Study of this kind exists under the term "motivation," though it does not yet get at the experiential process differences involved.

It is also important for our theory to note that living must involve influence types 1a and 2. Not all values and meanings are discovered through our own independent creativity—most of what we know and experience we were helped to have. As interactive organisms, we developed into persons because parents and others "made happen" and "carried forward" our experiencing processes. We must take conclusions and principles from those we trust, long before we find them in our own experience; we cannot always wait to behave honestly or sensibly, until we have experientially traced out each conclusion.

My assertions in no way oppose loyalty to principles or conclusions obtained on trust, in the form of la. In fact, often when one acts on la, the experiential process then appears: situational opportunities for it then arise. But the differences between la, lb, and 2 are crucial, both for an empirical predictive science of man, and for psychotherapy and living. These differences are equally crucial for value theory, since we can now define as type 2 the kind of "influence" involved in psychotherapy.

Once we make these differences, other clarifications follow. For example, it is possible to merge 1a and 2 in the same operation. A teaching machine which drops candy for the right answers does 1a and 2. The candy gives the 1a type of "reinforcement" for right answers. It promises, "This direction is right." It says, without explaining why, "You have taken the right step, given a right answer." You may have guessed the answer, or figured it out. On the other hand, the teaching machine does not really determine the direction or rights and wrongs of the case through dropping candy. The field of study, be [Page 198] it mathematics or aesthetics, determines the steps of learning. No amount of candy will produce anything except type 1b confusion if the machine attempts to teach steps that don't make sense, i.e. that cannot be experienced as meaningfully following from each other. As I have said throughout this paper, in some respects great variety is humanly possible, but that does not mean that any and all steps are possible. One can teach old-fashioned art or abstract art, but one could not go very far teaching bad art. What is "bad art," considering the wide disagreements in aesthetics? "Bad art" is the sort in which one cannot take very many steps of differentiating enjoyable aspects. Some steps will be possible if the "bad art" is art at all, but not many. Similarly, one could not teach very much false mathematics with mere "reinforcement."

Psychotherapy involves influence type 2. It also involves some of 1a, but the steps of the process we described are not such as a therapist can usually outline beforehand, as a mathematics teacher can do. There are a few such steps—there are times in psychotherapy when the therapist sees the next step first. But that happens only moments, or at most, weeks, in advance. It does not happen at the start of therapy, and what is most important, such fore-knowledge does not involve a choice by the therapist, any more than the mathematics teacher fashions the teaching machine according to his own personal values. The process of making sense (in psychotherapy the process of making sense of one's personal felt meanings) determines what steps can be differentiated and taken, as against mere jumps that carry no personality change with them and involve no carrying forward of the felt experiencing process. Specific conclusions may be verbally similar, but the patient's concrete condition and the resulting behaviors are totally different.


Our value theory arrives at "process values" and this word can be used in six related senses, each of which can be taken as the values this paper presents:

1. The experiential process, not the value-conclusions alone, tells us what a value really is in an individual. The same verbal value-conclusion can mean very different concrete process conditions and very different resulting behaviors. By process values we may mean that we value the experiential process (a certain manner of it), not the value-conclusions alone.

2. The experiential process we have described seems regularly to arrive at certain values. While these are phrased and represented in many different ways, they are universal process values founded in the basically common biological and interpersonal organization of human organisms. They can be called process values because we can study empirically whether it is true that the experiential process regularly arrives at them.

3. Universal values in any concrete instances have the form and involve the distinctions and objective embodiments of specific individuals trained in [Page 199] specific cultures. Hence process values do not rest on any purely individualistic or merely instinctual base as though the individual could omit his culture, his training, his intellectual insights, and perceptual differentiations. Rather, process values are largely those aspects in which his culture has trained and predisposed him, as well as those which he may creatively discover. Process values in this sense are those which a human individual can differentiate in his felt meanings, and can experientially resolve as we have described, in contrast with aspects that are also culturally taught but which no human being can experientially resolve or differentiate in his directly felt meanings. Every culture includes values and trainings of both sorts.

The felt meanings of experiencing implicitly include what we have learned, our cultural training, a great many perceptual and intellectual distinctions, and much more which we do not verbalize, but by which we are implicitly guided. We behave and respond in situations on the basis of felt meanings. In anyone second we guide ourselves by thousands of considerations simultaneously. That is possible only because we respond on the basis of our felt meanings, and these implicitly contain thousands of preconceptual meanings. Therefore, culture and intellect are not omitted when we say that felt meanings are the criterion of the process we are discussing.

The role of culture and intellect has long been a theoretical problem in the theories of those (for example, Rogers) who point to the crucial role of the organism in personality growth and the realization of values. The values and meanings at which the client arrives are not all original creations. Only relatively few really new meanings and creative modifications occur, compared to the mass of culturally handed down and learned meanings which have become part of our organismic and conditioned organizations, and which we therefore can again differentiate in our felt meanings. If this point is not fully made clear, it may seem as though the experiential process we are discussing either glorifies a brutish instinct over intellect, or imputes to each single individual the original creation of all the meanings and values of the race. Experiencing (feeling, felt meanings) implicitly contains very many preconceptual meanings, organismically patterned and conditioned. It is in a felt preconceptual way that we have the thousands of common meanings we employ when we act and when we elaborate our ideas, and make intellectual and perceptual distinctions.

In this third sense, then, process values are the individual's discovery and interpretation of his culture and training as he can find these in his felt meanings. In this sense process values can be opposed to introjection or conformity. Training and culturally inherited meanings (when they can be genuine) can be found implicitly in our felt meanings. When so found, they are always aspects of a somewhat creative and individualized mode of felt resolution, and their validity rests not on the culture which predisposes one to the discovery, but on the fact that these values and meanings can be experienced and resolved. Only some values of any culture have this kind of universality. Other culturally [Page 200] taught values are always rejected when felt meanings are differentiated and carried forward.

4. But if these "universal" human values are always shaped and formed through cultural and individualized specifics, can we say anything at all about just what the universal process values are? So far, we have said that they are the experiential process (not the verbal value-conclusions), that they can be called "universal" because the described experiential process always arrives at them, and that they include that portion of one's specific cultural, intellectual, and individual training which can be experientially felt, differentiated, and resolved. We can now add, as another sense of process values, what "universal" values are: instances of the process of experiencing being fully ongoing rather than stopped or narrowed. Of course, many different phrasings and cultural and individual forms of such universal preferences are possible.

Whatever its specific form, the universal aspect of a value is its implicit preference for the process of experiencing to be fully ongoing, rather than forced, constricted, or stopped. When free to differentiate felt meanings, the human individual (this is a testable hypothesis) prefers ongoingness, depth, inward resolvedness, and interactive fullness to fear, confusion, blockage, and resignation from certain vital dimensions of being human. Even when he has formally avowed such resignation and holds value-conclusions supporting the resignation, he will later, when it becomes possible, opt for the differentiated aspects of experiencing which he thought were closed to him earlier. Thus, while conceptual, cultural, and individual formulations will differ, universal process values are the sense in which a given value or preference is an instance of more fully ongoing experiencing itself (e.g. Gendlin, 1962, ch. 5).

While we cannot verbally separate the universal from the different ways of phrasing and objectifying it, we can say that the fully ongoing experiencing process is valued and constitutes health for the individual. As Aristotle asserted, the process of human living (when it goes on fully) is the basis of human values. Thus, the universal parameters of value-conclusions are those which move the experiencing process forward, as compared with those that imply stoppage.

Examples of such values were stated beautifully by Rogers (1961): (Here we have a version of the ancient values of sincerity, independence, worth, realism, consideration for others, and love.)

Clients in psychotherapy tend to move away from facades. Pretense, defensiveness, putting up a front, tend to be negatively valued.

They tend to move away from meeting the expectations of others. Pleasing others, as a goal in itself, is negatively valued.

Being real is positively valued. The client tends to move toward being himself, being his real feelings, being what he is. This seems to be a very deep preference.

Self-direction is positively valued. The client discovers an increasing pride and confidence in making his own choices, guiding his own life.

One's self, one's own feelings come to be positively valued. From a point where [Page 201] he looks upon himself with contempt and despair, the client comes to value himself and his reactions as being of worth.

...To be open to and sensitive to his own inner reactions and feelings, the reactions and feelings of others, and the realities of the objective world—this is a direction which he clearly prefers. The openness becomes the client's most valued resource.

Sensitivity to others and acceptance of others is positively valued.

Finally, deep relationships are positively valued. To achieve a close, intimate, real, fully communicative relationship with another person seems to meet a deep need in every individual, and is very highly valued.

These values are another phrasing of what has traditionally been called the virtues. But which aspects of the variety of the virtues do we find here? Only those which are conceptualizations of the very ongoing of the process of human experiencing and interaction. Hence, we may call these process values, instances of preferring the process itself.

5. Another sense of holding process values is our choice of this experiential process for ourselves and those we care for. We take a value stand in so choosing. The other assertions in the theory here presented involve no such choice. They are empirically testable hypotheses concerning the conclusions and resulting behavior differences which the described experiential process is said to produce.

6. Finally, if we do choose that process, what kinds of operational moment to moment value choices do we make when attempting to engender this experiential process and carry it forward in ourselves or another person? In this last sense, process values are operational and specific. They must be formulated in terms of the momentary circumstances of different situations and contexts. Only a random list of examples such as that found at the end of this chapter could be given, and every psychotherapist could write his own such list. Such operational process values are determined by the nature of the experiential process they aim to engender: they are behaviors and choices which are preferred because they engender the experiential process we have been discussing.

Here is a random list of examples of operational values of the therapist. These values come from the process described earlier.

  • 1. Ulcers are not, in themselves, a good thing.
  • 2. Everyone deserves positive responses and closeness from some other human.
  • 3. We never deserve anything; we are really given it before we even could deserve it.
  • 4. I am a separate person. I am not the client nor is he me.
  • 5. Now that we know each other deeply, we are connected in that we can never un-know each other, nor undo having lived closely with each other.
  • 6. It is all right to be angry at me, though I may react angrily or defensively, too.
  • 7. Every kind of feeling you actually have is all right to feel, though the action which seems to you to be indicated by the feeling may not be all right at all.
  • [Page 202] 8. Looking toward your feeling will get us further than looking away from it.
  • 9. The best explanation isn't as good as a moment's attention to your felt meaning.
  • 10. What I think is very important, but it doesn't replace your looking at your felt meanings, and the steps you then see.
  • 11. You can cry.
  • 12. I will walk and do things while you cry, to be sure that I don't fade out just because you feel something strongly. I want to make sure you know I'm here.
  • 13. When we're stuck, it's because of something involving both of us.
  • 14. When I've done a stupid thing it's best to say so, plus the feelings I now have about it.
  • 15. Society has a great many policemen and social protection functionaries, but few whose role is to stick to someone while he sees how he feels. Therefore, I need not be a policeman if there is a chance that as a therapist I might be of help.
  • 16. It is a good thing to give the inward self, the felt meanings which you are, room to breathe and speak.
  • 17. Even the worst thing you might find in yourself can change if we allow it to be felt.
  • 18. If everything seems meaningless because you have ground it all up by endless hurting inner slosh, then it is all right to put it on a shelf for a while, if that feels right to you.
  • 19. We can be together intensely even without words or analyses or content.
  • 20. We need not fill the time with words.
  • 21. I may look at you into your eyes, or touch you with my hand, if I feel that we need contact and that words or silence divide us.
  • 22. Feelings differ from action. Our relationship is totally trusting and open to the flow of every kind of feeling because I know I won't let them become action. I know I will not make love to you in action, whatever sexual feelings we may have. I know it so fully that I can let either of us have whatever feelings and urges may come up. I will not betray this safety.
  • 23. Needs are all right to feel and have. Trouble results when we fight the fact that we have a need (when we fight any fact before we let it be a fact).
  • 24. You may need me; you may feel endless and unfair demands with regard to me. It is all right to feel like a small child (it is easy to love a small child). Small children are nice things. We are precious inside ourselves.
  • 25. When something I think could conceivably have a chance of helping you, I say what I think plus my awareness that it might be bunk, or that it might be true but not fit you.
  • 26. You can feel two logically opposite ways about the same thing. It is quite human to do so.
  • 27. You can hate your mother or father and still not condemn them.
  • 28. You can feel wild fury and still that doesn't make you a dangerous person—nor are you more dangerous than if you avoid letting that anger be felt in you.
  • 29. The side of you is always wrong which, for whatever reason, impatiently condemns you before you get a moment to even look and see how you feel.
  • 30. You may be right in your worst self-criticism, but never right in making your inner self a shut-off or cowering, silent, hardly alive, dull ache. You may be that bad, but it is right to like yourself enough to listen to yourself kindly.
  • [Page 203] 31. When it seems to me that you are not telling me the truth of your experience, I tell you what I think you experience, though I know that it can't be exactly as I guess. But I ask: What do you have there, which is something like what I am thinking of?
  • 32. It makes no difference to me what we call something you directly refer to and feel. Whatever words get it right for you, are right. (The difference between your words and mine does tell me something more than I knew before, about exactly how it is in you.)
  • 33. External situations can be perceived in very contrary ways from one minute to the next. That is all right. You need not be consistent about that.
  • 34. When I strongly feel that you ought to behave differently, or that something you do is morally wrong, or will have bad results, I tell you so flatly and strongly. After I feel you perceive what I think, then your experiential meanings, not mine, are the basic criteria.
  • 35. I will not let you (or me) make me dishonest, insincere, emotionally tied up or constricted, or artificially nice or social, if I can help it at all.
  • 36. It is all right to behave toward me in ways that are objectively bad (that I would ordinarily resent) if we can get to the experiential meanings you are behaving from. Usually, these really need a positive and desirable response you never get, except from me, because of the trouble your behavior usually arouses in others. But you can't change till after you get the positive carrying-forward for this positive drive that is trapped in this undesirable mode of behaving.
  • 37. I will never try to prevent you from getting something clearly explicit, even when I am afraid of, or disgusted with, what it is.
  • 38. If you get cut off or feel you must no longer relate to me, then I still have the right to relate to you, and I'll go after you.
  • 39. It is never good to be psychotic.
  • 40. It is never the best alternative for anyone to remain sick or resigned, although to feel this may be necessary for the next step to occur.
  • 41. Dependency is best resolved through a still fuller relationship in which the part of you that now can live only with me, lives often and deeply enough with me so that it can later live without me.
  • 42. It is better that I look like a fool (that my having been stupid is revealed), than that we get stuck.
  • 43. If you feel it, then it makes some kind of sense. Only by letting it be, and finding its sense, can you really use the better judgment which you also have.
  • 44. A therapeutic feeling-change is different from merely "controlling" a feeling.
  • 45. When you let go (which doesn't happen till you can) of your artificial and stiff controls, you will not be out of control. A more natural control is inherent in experiencing, and it takes over.
  • 46. A feeling is not altered merely by seeing that it is logically or objectively nonsense.
  • 47. Your good adult self will not get lost if you let go of it for a moment.
  • 48. Something may be perfectly true, yet it may not fit. The next step of felt process may be different from this perfectly true thing.
  • 49. When you reach out to me in that way which pushes most people off, I can let your reaching for me succeed, and it will not confirm you in your bad behavior. [Page 204] On the contrary, it will relieve whatever has been making you do your reaching for others in this negative way.
  • 50. When I feel something strongly, I can find some words you'll understand that will let me express it.


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