PERSPECTIVES ON HOW CSP WORKS A View Of The Perceptions, Interpretations & Applications that Influence CSP Members’ Sense Of Democratic Process.

Anthony L. Rose

This essay aims to help CSP Members better understand and appreciate “How CSP Works”. We will discuss the difficulties we sometimes face trying to maintain person-centered processes and democratic ideals when they seem to reduce our effectiveness or efficiency as an organization. An age-old dilemma faces our Center: do benevolent democratic outcomes justify the use of selfish authoritarian means to attain them? In general, we can answer “No – compassionate ends do not justify corrosive means.” At times, the contrasts are not clear.

Hopefully, this discussion will clarify the democratic rule and its rare exceptions in ways that encourage Members to increase participation in the CSP community, support egalitarian administration of The Center’s corporate duties, and actively pursue CSP’s positive person-centered missions & goals within many new CSP Projects and professional innovations.

Discord of democratic ideals and authoritarian demands are embedded in CSP’s history. The Center’s separation from WBSI in 1968 emerged from a conflict between person-centered leaders asserting the contrasting authorities of finance and fame. A third authority, charisma, enabled both organizations to thrive after their separation. Efforts to enrich leadership styles, management methods, and workforce involved in the sharing of power & authority are essential to social & organizational cohesion & effectiveness.

Of course, all these variables may be misperceived, misinterpreted, & misapplied. At CSP and throughout the person-centered movement, mistakes occur in all three domains.

Perceptions of other persons whose style & appearance, language & culture, education & ethnicity differ from one’s own can be drastically miscued. Congruence and authenticity alone don’t always translate into empathy and compassion for diverse colleagues or clients. Sometimes we must stretch our self-expression and reach for clues outside the therapy room to see, hear & help others.

In the 1972 Peabody-Award-winning documentary of an American Drug Scene Encounter Group that I co-facilitated with Carl Rogers, Carl’s mild-mannered conservative visage and speech evoked mistrust in a young revolutionary college student named George. His repeated declaration that “Encounter Groups give “false hope”; revolutionary social action is needed to overturn American authoritarianism,” stood unanswered by Carl when George left the group on day 3. Although Rogers’ statement: “I’m a quiet revolutionary” made a popular PCA book-title years later; it was interpreted as a “cop-out” by George and other members of the diverse encounter group.

These split perceptual differences now exist within CSP. Language, cultural norms, age, and educational backgrounds, gender divergences – diverge across the Center membership, some embedded in distinct politics that range from dictatorial oligarchies to egalitarian democracies. Democratic processes in the CSP board of Directors may appear open-minded to some Members, and exclusive to others. I’ve proposed a “Person-Centered Synergy Science” to identify and amalgamate convergent subjective perceptions: that could require us to build multicultural teams tasked with co-inventing person-centered communication and facilitation tools that identify and apply corrective lenses to critical areas of misperception. Interpretations of cognitive, emotional, intuitive, and social expression – being elevated integrations of subjective perceptions – are vulnerable to huge distortion. The 1st Addenda to this essay includes a selection of the official operating CSP Bylaws that are especially relevant to our democratic organizational processes. The current Board of Directors has discussed and interpreted these Bylaws extensively; we understand and apply them as positive methodologies designed to be FAIR to all members equally. When new and disengaged old members read these statements, their reactions may be quite different.

When scanning the select Bylaws (below) it appears that while all officers and directors are elected by the full Membership initially, the Directors group is then empowered to assign and remove added director duties and privileges to individuals and committees. This can spur expansion of membership involvement in Board activities (democratization) but also enables the Board majority to stack the group with like-minded collaborators, thus consolidating power.

Motivation for these rules, while seeming political, was operational. The 1968 bylaws were standard nonprofit rules adopted when CSP members were professionals living in Southern California who could attend in-person meetings. Modifications in 1988 enabled the Board to appoint new local members and remove old out-of-towners, thus keeping administration operating and new Projects represented despite sparse attendance at Membership meetings. Today an explosion of worldwide membership due to Global Zoom conference technology enables widespread representation and participation. The Board is considering the democratization of the bylaws cautiously. Opening the leadership group to diverse participation would expand CSP’s potential for complex person-centered interventions; it would also risk excessive confusion as language and cultural misinterpretations and perceptions call for constant reconciliation.

Applications of far-reaching multifactorial PCA programs & Projects that build on the global opportunities of 21st-century social media technology are both promising and risky. Swift development combined with a short-term human interface assures complex misunderstanding. The newly approved CSP Biosynergy Project is expanding its hopeful timetable to allow for information transfer, experiential learning, and team-building among diverse professionals.

It’s important to recognize that the outburst of powerful person-centered applications that emerged during the decade following CSP’s founding came in an era of innovation and opportunity. The Center was composed of over 30 professionals representing diverse fields and disciplines who had been hired and assigned to work together for years. The WBSI Reorganization Simulation Design Team matched persons of similar personal callings and professional capacities to form the “Humanists” Group, which eventually became CSP.

Also, in 1968 we negotiated to take our grants and awards with us: CSP hit the ground running, with fully funded Projects, programs, fellowships & contracts that don’t exist today in the aftershock of the Pandemic and an array of global anti-democratic uprisings. While it’s clear to CSP’s Directors Group that our Person-Centered Applications are more needed than ever in history, pathways to satisfying those needs are unclear.

What is clear is this: Center for Studies of the Person is growing for a deeply important reason. The Person-Centered Approach to individual, social, ecological, and global needs and challenges represents a ubiquitous force for the betterment and salvation of humanity and the biosphere. Within each and every living being on earth is a personal core of positive potential awaiting recognition, expression, and actualization in synergy with the myriad others who are nearby. With goodwill and generosity for all, we shall examine and improve our mission, goals, and bylaws in a collaborative community, carefully, so CSP may become the egalitarian organization of the future that we’ve seen in the Center of our dreams.

… in synergy with compassion, Tony Rose