The Division 32/Society for Humanistic Psychology Conference at Pacifica Graduate Institute at the end of February reminded me of a conference catch phrase from the previous conference in Pittsburgh in 2012. A talk on community concluded with the idea that humanistic psychology seems to have all the right ingredients that can lead individuals to a positive transformational Pop!
The pop is that moment when one’s professional and intellectual interests turn into an inspirational belonging. It is a moment of discovering your personal way and finding your professional community. Certainly, this doesn’t happen to everyone at the same time or even for all of those who attend a particular conference. But, one indicator that it happens and it did happen to some of those at the D32 conference held at Pacifica was to observe the buzz that emanated after the conference on our social media pages.
In my opinion, the Humanistic Psychologies have the total package—all the right ingredients to expand a person toward this pop. We have the philosophical foundations that are rooted in understanding the human being and the human condition (e.g., Heidegger and Levinas). We have literature and art that mirrors (e.g., Sartre, Camus, and Beckett) our main tenets. We have unique contributions and a style of psychotherapy that is intended to help psychological growth and personal transformation (e.g., Rogers, May, Maslow, and Horney). We have adaptable methods for rigorously studying phenomenon that are complex and irreducible (e.g., James, Husserl, and Giorgi). In addition, we have allies throughout history who echo our sentiments (e.g., Erasmus, Pascal, and Heraclitus) so that we know that this is not a passing fad. Finally, with meaning as our psychological currency (as opposed to drives or reinforcement patterns), we are sure to have our pulse on the heart of the human spirit as times change.
This pop tells us that we have found a deep and meaningful psychology that has real power and vitality. Our colleagues are the warm individuals with whom we want to engage. Here are the collaborators and the psychological-artists that we have been looking for. The pop is the knowledge that we have expanded beyond our previously known limits, and a transformation means that we cannot go back to seeing the world in the way that we use to. The change is structural—like corn when it pops—the stuff cannot go back inside the kernel. These moments are personal, but they often occur in places of true community. What are the features that allow for community to arise? Here are the four features that I surmise:
1. Invite the opportunity for community to come. To invite means to reach out to people who might not know that your place is a safe place. So much of psychology can seem like an unfriendly turf war that non-insiders assume has many unwelcoming places. We have to help those people to feel they are welcome and can even be themselves among us. Welcoming is an emotional openness, not a cognitive statement.
How do we do that? We invite people to speak at our conferences who are attempting to expand the dimensions of our line of thought. We open our group to New Voices! We invite people from different Divisions to share their similarities and differences with us. We find people who’s ideas are closely aligned but from emerging areas of psychology. Here are some of the programs that I think achieved this:
- Shelley Harrell, Ph.D. (2013). Through the Eyes of Love and Justice: Re-Visioning a Multicultural Humanistic Psychology.
- Geneva Reynaga-Abiko, Ph.D. (2013). Returning the Truth to Our Profession: The Journey of One Psychologist-of-Color.
- Frank Summers, Ph.D. [President of Division 39:Psychoanalysis] (2013). Finding the Self in the Other: A Psychoanalytic Foundation for Modern Ethics.
- David St. John, Ph.D., Drake Spaeth, Psy.D., Angela Madias, M.A., Derick Sebree, M.A., (2013). The Selves of the Earth: Diverse Lenses of Eco-psychology.
2. Appreciate community when it occurs. When beauty is there, we must know we are in the presence of something that is freeing. Conferences are often about intellectual stimulation through presentations and professional activities. But in an increasingly virtual world, we also need time to commune with others and spend time walking, chatting, and imagining. We need to be-with each other, not merely be in front of each other.
How do we do that? We can create opportunities for all kinds of different attendees to mix together and to have equal opportunities to speak their minds. We can create an atmosphere of equality that values people’s point of view from the place where they stand now. We can offer a helping hand to those who are trying to follow in our footsteps on what we know is a long and difficult path. We can share some inspiration from those who have inspired us. Here are some of the programs that I think achieved this:
- The Diversity Task Force Open Luncheon
- Thursday Night Poster Session and Opening Reception
- Graduate Student Speed Mentoring
- Opus Archive Tour and Labyrinth Campus Walks.
3. Honor community when it has to leave us. Departing from the community will immediately strike us in an emotional way. But 2000 years of mind over heart cannot stop us from feeling attached to these other beautiful human beings. We will have trouble saying goodbye. We will know that these brief encounters have had lasting impacts. We know something is significant when we don’t want it to end.
How do we do that? We have to honor our past and those thinkers, psychologists, colleagues, and friends who we have had the pleasure of knowing. We have been blessed with the opportunity to meet some beautiful souls. We wish we might have had longer with them. We appreciate their presence. We hope to meet again. Here are some of the programs that I think spoke to that:
- Jennifer Selig, Ph.D. & Nathaniel Granger Jr., Psy.D. (2013). Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Other Two Children: Materialism and Militarism.
- Shawn Rubin, Psy.D., Diane Blau, Ph.D., Donna Rockwell, Psy.D., Lee Bach, Ph.D., & Marjorie Scott, Ph.D. (2013). A Tribute to Clark Moustakas and other recently departed humanistic psychologists.
- Robert D. Romanyshyn, Ph.D. (2013). Tradition and Transformation: A Tribute to J. H. van den Berg.
4. Welcome the return of the community. Community means that I am not alone, and I have others who feel the same way I do. I may be physically separated, but I am not isolated. When I speak, I don’t speak only for myself—I am a voice of a particular tradition. We speak a common language—no matter how unconventional. We are important because we are a small school of fish swimming against the mainstream.
How do we do that? We recognize that we are doing important work that has an impact on the entire field. We understand that something very powerful is happening right now, and we are growing again. We recognize that we have tremendously talented students who represent our future, and they need our support to find work in this field. Right now, we have a lot of projects that need our attention. Our workload is not light, nor will it be in the near future. Here are some of the programs that I thought captured that spirit.
- Brent Dean Robbins, Ph.D., Donna Rockwell, Ph.D.& Sarah Kamens, M.A. (2013). Preparing for the SHP-Initiated 1st International Summit on Diagnostic Alternatives.
- Kirk Schneider, Ph.D., Robert Stolorow, Ph.D. , Orah Krug, Ph.D., (2013). The Renewal of Humanism in Psychotherapy: Strategies for Transforming Our Field.
- Danielle Fetty, M.A, Aaron Miller, M.A & Trisha Nash M.S. (2013). Mulitcultural Applications to Humanistic Research, Theory and Practice.
- D32:SHP Conference Community & Richard Bargdill, Ph.D. (2013). Honorable Closing—what shall we do between now and when we meet again?
In closing, we need every single one of us. We are spread out—spread thin—but if we can be a community, we can provide the care that allows us to grow together.
— Richard Bargdill