Communication between Wayland and  Carl Rogers about the thesis 1978-1979

 Correspondence with Carl Rogers

First Letter by Wayland

November 21, 1978

 Dear Dr. Rogers,

 My name is Wayland Myers. I am writing to you and sending you a copy of "Empathy: A Spectrum of Sharing" for two reasons; 1) Because of your past interest and work in the field of empathic experience, and your current interests in transpersonal psychology I thought that you might find the kind of empathic experience I studied, and the model for empathic experience I created, personally interesting: and 2) Because you are one who has shown a deep interest and indepth understanding of the phenomena of empathy, and may therefore be able to answer some questions I have concerning what I have done and what I would like to do now. Of necessity I have relied on what I have read in journals, books and conference brochures to come to the conclusions I have concerning your current interests. If I have interpreted incorrectly, please feel free to redirect me to anyone you know who shares my interests and has a deep experience and understanding of empathy.

 What you will find in my dissertation is a first attempt to do two things. First, I have tried to create a conceptual model that describes the totality of the empathic experience, as we are aware of it today. I believe that I have found a way of modeling the experience, which integrates and unifies all of the presently posited definitions and theories of what empathy is and how it works.

 Secondly, I have attempted to investigate, experience and describe a particular aspect of empathic experiencing which as far as I know, and this is one place you may be helpful, has not been studied, or maybe even consciously known of before. I studied this aspect of empathic experience, as it existed for me and three other people who are part of a spiritual training and service group here in San Diego. I have tentatively called it the predominantly cobiotic (co - with, and biotic - living) empathic experience. I could very briefly describe it as the experience of being part of a living, intelligent energy field, which encompasses and transfuses both empathizer and empathizee. When the empathizer focuses attention predominantly on the activity of this field he/she experiences a unity of living in which distinctions between self and other are arbitrary. This field of life is registered as being a moving energy matrix whose nature is somewhat more basic, fundamental or essential than the energies of thought, feeling and body, and yet there is an intimate influencing relationship between field and thought-feeling-body.

I am left with many questions such as, "Do others, outside this group, have similar experiences?" For the people studied, there is a predominant visual component to their experience. Would others share this visual preference or predominance, or would their experience be characterized by the predominance of another sensory mode? Are there more elements to the empathic experience than the three I identified?

 The key things I am hoping either you or some one you know may be able to help me with are:

1)    Does anyone else experience more in the way of empathic experience than what I have termed the imaginative and osmotic aspects?

2)    Do others experience anything like the kind of empathic experience I call the predominantly cobiotic experience?

3)    Is there some one who is well qualified and interested who would like to study the more unusual or less obvious aspects (such as the cobiotic) of empathic experience with me?

4)    Is my model as comprehensive as I believe it to be? Is it potentially useful? If so, how?

5)    What are some possible next steps to take in the way of research and/or publication?

6)    Who, specifically, would be interested in publishing work such as this?

 As you can see, I am basically asking you for your personal/ professional critique and reaction, some "what next" suggestions and confirmation (if your experience or other's supports it) of the existence of empathic experiences which are in any way similar to what I call the cobiotic experience.

 Now, for an example of what I call the "predominantly static imaginative empathic experience" : If you are in any way like me, you function best when you have a deadline. Therefore, let me suggest that before Christmas you send me a simple note (or phone call) telling me you are interested and willing, and are in the process of studying what I have sent, or, send it back using the provided stamps, and address sticker.

 

In any case, thank you for the time you have taken reading this letter and responding,

Truly yours,

 Wayland Myers, PhD.

Center for Studies of the Person

 

 Response ny Carl Rogers

 February 26, 1979

 Dear Wayland Myers:

 In my present circumstances I've just not had time to really go over your thesis completely, but I have become interested in what you call cobiotic empathy. The closest I have come to experiencing that is that there have been times when a client and I have seemed absolutely in tune and that this experience somehow transcends each of us. I have termed it, somewhere in my writings, a sense of being in touch with something more universal than either of us. I also think of it at times as being in touch with some universal law that we have aligned ourselves with.

 I found myself rather more interested in your journal than in your thesis. It seems to me that in the attempt to make a doctoral thesis out of this, you have taken a very intellectual look at empathy, with relatively little emphasis placed on the experiential aspect on which it certainly is based. You seem to me to be very articulate, but also at times repetitive.

 There are some things that I might call attention to. It seems to me that your search of recent literature has not been very complete. I'm going to enclose a copy of an article of mine on "Empathic: An Unappreciated Way of Being. I think that both the article and some of the references might be of some interest to you. There is also an article by Dittes, published in the Journal*of Abnormal and Social Psychology, quite a few years ago, in which he found, using the psychogalvanic reflex, that the physiological reactions of the client and therapist mirrored each other to some degree. That is, when the client was angry and showed it physiologically, the therapist showed similar physiological signs. It seems to me this quite fits in with your theoretical thinking.

 I learned recently that you were in touch with Maria Bowen. I think that she, as much as anyone I know, would understand and be acceptant of the kind of phenomenon you have been investigating.

I am returning your thesis. I'm glad I had a chance to look it over.

 

Sincerely

Carl R. Rogers, Ph Resident Fellow

 

P.S. I was a bit distressed to notice that on Page 59, in the quotation from me, you completely changed the meaning. It should read: "...to sense the client's anger, fear or confusion without getting bound up in it." I'm sure the meaning is plain to you, but with this omission it would not be plain to the reader.

(Written notes of a response to Carl Rogers by Wayland made March 6th, 1979)

 March 6th, 1979

 Dear Dr. Rogers     

I am pleased to hear that what I called the cobiotic aspect of empathy was the aspect which interested you most. I thought it might be. If, sometime we should have the opportunity, I would be very interested in hearing the details of your experiences, which to you seem similar to mine and those of the people interviewed. I find these moments of empathic experience very fascinating (I guess that’s obvious).

Thank you for all of your critiques and suggestions. They are stimulating and helpful. In particular thank you for the articles you sent and the one by Dittes you referred me to. They are and will be most helpful. You are right that my survey of recent literature was meager. At the time I reviewed literature I was puzzled by the fact that I wasn’t able to find much that was recent. Somehow in all my searching I found very little. I am still at a loss for what I did or didn’t do that led me to find so little. But at any rate, the bibliography in your article and the ones in the other articles in that edition of the “Counseling Psychologist” will greatly help in correcting this problem.

Part of my response to what you have sent and said is that I am enthused about reading over the more recent work and thinking concerning empathy and then rethinking all that I have experienced and learned so that I can proceed and make some contributions to the field – which are stronger and more matured than what I did via my thesis, I am now seeing empathy as an even broader, more nuanced field of experience than I did before. I also see that there is a great need for people (both professional and lay) to be very specifically and intelligently trained in the empathic way of transacting with others. There seems to be a few good tools available for such training but it appears that there is much creative work to be done in the area of empathic training technology as well. These are both areas I am interested in.

I apologize for the misquote of you on page 59 (leaving the word “without” out). Yes it does markedly change the meaning of your statement and I would not have done so intentionally. I believe the omission is a typographical error, which neither my proofreaders nor I caught. I am checking with the school to see if it is possible to correct that error and another significant one I have found on their copies and have them re-zeroxed with University microfilms.

My wife and I, as well as my grandmother Lucile, are coming to the March 17th gathering and if the opportunity is there I will introduce my wife and myself. See you there.

Thanks again for your time and thoughtfulness you put into reading and commenting on my paper.

 

Yours truly

 

 

Wayland Myers