An excerpt from the book "On becoming a person" by Carl R. Rogers:
The good life is a process not a state of being, it is a direction not a destination.
Let me now try to specify what appear to be the characteristic qualities of this process of movement, as they crop up in person after person in therapy.
Increasing openness to experience
In the first place, the process seems to involve an increasing openness to experience. It is the polar opposite of defensiveness. If a person could be fully open to experience, however, every stimulus - whether originating within the organism or in the environment - would be freely relayed through the nervous system without being distorted by any defensive mechanism. Thus, one aspect of this process which I am naming “the good life” appears to be a movement away from the pole of defensiveness toward the pole of openness to experience. The individual is becoming more able to listen to himself, to experience what is going on within himself. He is more open to his feelings of fear and discouragement and pain. He is also more open to his feelings of courage, and tenderness, and awe. He is free to live his feelings subjectively, as they exist in himm, and also free to be aware of these feelings. He is more able fully to live the experiences of his organism rather than shutting them out of awareness.
Increasingly existential living
A second characteristic of the process which for me is the good life, is that it involves an increasing tendency to live fully in each moment. I believe it would be evident that for the person who was fully open to his new experience, completely without defensiveness, each moment would be new. The complex configuration of inner and outer stimuli which exits in this moment has never existed before in just this fashion. Consequently such a person would realize that “What I will be in the next moment, and what I will do, grows out of that moment, and cannot be predicted in advance either by me or by others. One way of expressing the fluidity which is present in such existential living is to say that the self and personality emerge from experience, rather than experience being translated or twisted to fit preconceived self-structure. It means that one becomes a participant in and an observer of the ongoing process of organismic experience, rather than being in control of it. Such living in the moment means an absence of rigidity, of tight organization, of the imposition of structure on experience. It means instead of a maximum of adaptability, a discovery of structure in experience, a flowing, changing organization of self and personality. It involves discovering the structure of experience in the process of living the experience. Most of us, on the other hand, bring a preformed structure and evaluation to our experience and never relinquish it, but cram and twist the experience to fir out preconceptions, annoyed at the fluid qualities which make it so unruly in fitting our carefully constructed pigeonholes. To open one’s spirit to what is going on now, and to discover in that present process whatever structure it appears to have . this to me is one of the qualities of the good life, the mature life, as I see clients approach it.
An increasing trust in his organism
Still another characteristic of the person who is living the process of the good life appears to be an increasing trust in his organism as a means of arriving at the most satisfying behavior in each existential situation. Again, let me try to explain what I mean. In choosing what course of action to take in any situation, many people rely upon guiding principles, upon a code of action laid down by some group or institution, upon the judgment of others (from wife and friends to Emily Post), or upon the way they have behaved in some similiar past situation. Yet as I observe the clients whose experiences in living has taught me so much, I find that increasingly such individuals are able to trust their total organismic reaction to a new situation because they discover to an ever-increasing degree that if they are open to their experience, doing what “feels right” to be a component and trustworthy guide to behavior which is truly satisfying.
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