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Gendlin, E.T. & F. Zimring (1955). The qualities or dimensions of experiencing and their change. Counseling Center Discussion Paper, 1(3). Chicago: University of Chicago Library (27 pp.). From

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Gene Gendlin
Fred Zimring


This paper consists of three main sections. In the first section we talk about certain personal aspects or dimensions that change over any significant growth experience including therapy. In the second section we talk about the characteristics of the therapy situation and in the third section of the paper we explore a theory which helps us to explain why change takes place as a result of the situation discussed.

It seems to us that we have chosen an entirely different type of variable to focus on, when looking at the changes that take place as a result of a growth experience. We look at the dimensions of experiencing. By dimensions we mean such things as the intensity, fullness, and immediacy of the experiencing which is going on at the moment. By experiencing we mean in general all that goes on within the organism that is capable of being felt. There are several important differences between this type of variable and those which occupy the center of the stage in the current client-centered theory.


One of the differences might be described as the difference between the content of the feeling and its dimensions. It seems to us that most theory is concerned mainly with the content of the feeling whereas we are concentrating upon certain dimensions or attributes of the feeling. [Page 2] By "content" (which might be a bad word to use) we mean both the emotion of anger in the statement "I am angry" and the meaning to the self that having the emotion and making the statement has for the person making it. By dimensions, as we have said, we mean such things as the immediacy, fluidity, etc., of the feeling. The importance of the difference between the types of variables will depend upon the theory, but that a real difference exists can be shown in the following categorization of feeling statements. "I am angry" and "I am loved" would be seen as quite different with concentration on emotion+meaning variable; whereas even though the emotions and meanings of the two statements are quite different, they might both be felt by the person at the same immediacy and so be categorized together on that basis.

Previous formulations involve both theoretical constructs and experimental data selected by them. The theoretical constructs are basic to the meaning that the experimental data have. For example: self concept, and postulated need for regard are essential constructs underlying the experiential data Rogers' theory would examine.

Our variables are aspects of experience itself and therefore our data have meaning without theoretical constructs and we use none, either underlying the data or selecting it. Our theory consists of generalizations which need not be accepted to make our variables (or their choice) meaningful.

We consider the first difference talked about above as being the most important of the differences between the variables. These differences have led to results both interesting and, we hope, exciting. Of course one of these results has been an entirely different type of theory as will be seen when the omission is noted, of terms such as threat, congruency, [Page 3] anxiety, and any term having to do with the accuracy of anything in awareness. (The terms are mentioned occasionally when our theory seems to us at several points to refer to exactly what these terms explained.) Another thing is that the causes of change which are talked about in the latter part of this paper are different from those focused upon in the Rogerian theory and yet the change that is being looked at is the same even though different facets of it may be focused upon in the two theories.

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  • I Dimensions of experience
    • A Experiencing in general
      • 1. full-bodied detail vs. bare outline
      • 2. immediacy vs. postponement
      • 3. intensity vs. diminution
      • 4. fluidity vs. stuck
      • 5. capable of differentiation vs. frozen
      • 6. freedom to integrate vs. lack of freedom to integrate
    • B Dimensions of experiencing with reference to experiencing of self
      • 1. self feeling vs. self concept
      • 2. within the self feeling; self as wholistic vs. identification of self with part
      • 3. lack of implication vs. implication
      • 4. self as medial vs. self as object
    • C Experiencing of others
      • 1. fluid variation vs. rigidly repetitive expectancies
      • 2. variety vs. small number of possible expectancies
  • Summary of theory that unites I.
  • II Characteristics of a dual-person situation
    • A Formal characteristics of the situation
      • 1. unstructured, fluid situation vs. definite and explicitly structured situation
      • 2. permissiveness toward ambiguity vs. insisting on definiteness
      • 3. activity vs. passivity
      • 4. meaning first created by the client vs. meaning first created by therapist
    • B Feelings about situation or therapist
      • 1. client feels that structure is not definite vs. feeling that it is definite
      • 2. client's feeling toward ambiguity
      • 3. client feels like the active one vs. the passive one
      • 4. self presented as from present behaviour to present behaviour vs. self presented as definite organization and description
      • 5. feelings about situation which define it as unique; self-in-relationship feelings unique vs. self-in-relationship feelings not unique
      • 6. behaviour in situation (and with therapist) duplicating problem; exceed problem definition vs. not exceed problem definition
      • 7. feelings about therapist's role; process participator vs. any definite role
      • 8. difference the presence of therapist makes to client
  • Summary of theory that unites II.
  • III Theory
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I Dimensions of experiencing

In the following section, certain phenomenological aspects of experiencing are described. It should be emphasized that these seem to occur together at different levels of optimalism. An example using the first three attributes described below, would be that the experience which is felt in its full-bodied detail would, more likely than not, also be more immediate and intense. The description is of the two ends of a continuum. These aspects can be thought of as descriptive of phenomenological change over significant growth experiences. They fall into three subgroups: IA) experiencing in general, IB) experiencing of self, IC) experience and expectancy of self in relation to another.

IA) Experiencing in general

IA-1 Full-bodied detail vs. bare outline

One significant aspect seems to be newness or difference in each experience. Is the experience part of a repetitive outline or scheme always the same and bare with only a few general attributes, or is it a full-bodied mesh of present detail, always changing anew? (Examples: dominant, submissive, dependent, older;—the outlines not detail are felt.)

IA-2 Immediacy vs. postponement

The feelings about an experience may be in it, or just after it and outside it. The experience and feeling may be one, or the person may feel like an observer slightly removed from it.

IA-3 Intensity vs. diminution

Experience can be described with reference to whether the full intensity of the feelings in the situation is had or whether the feelings are toned down. Example: A client described diminution in the past (after a long story full of incidents): "If even one of these things happened now. . . geez! But then it all came at me and I just sort of let it drop all around me and never felt it [Page 6] much."

In therapy a client often later identifies a session as important to him because he felt something intensely, even though he noted no change in content. Change may be noted during the week and the client may then say, "It had to do with our last session." Such examples lend significance to intensity vs. diminution as a change continuum.

IA-4 Fluidity vs. stuck

Under this heading we are focusing on whether the feelings of the person change with changing situation or whether they carry over unchanged from previous situations and block the experiencing of the present. For example, a person who remains angry for several hours after a threatening experience may be unable to participate meaningfully in other situations during that time.

IA-5 Capable of differentiation vs. frozen

The manner of experience we call capable of differentiation can serve us optimally as past experience. In such optimal use the past provides a fluid background for present interpretation. For example, think of your own past experience functioning in your understanding of a present client. You do not think of or react to your own old experience. It helps you understand but you do not have to feel it. You are able to employ aspects of it to understand the present client. Opposed to this fluid utilization is the case we call "frozen": an old experience inserts itself into a present situation. It arises as a whole unit . . . forcing you to think of or feel the whole old experience. By calling it "frozen" we express that it is incapable of internal differentiation.

A little more explanation is necessary: the question is not that of accuracy. The old experience may indeed be very like the present. The difference lies in whether one has to use the old experience as a rigid whole or whether the old is capable of differential use for experiencing . . . the new.

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IA-6 Freedom to integrate vs. lack of freedom to integrate

Particular experiences may or may not be capable of many relationships within the whole mass of experience.

IB) Dimensions of experiencing with reference to experiencing of self

IB-1 Self feeling vs. self concept

We introduce a new term: "self-feeling." Very simply, this refers to dominant feelings of self. Although no one feeling could describe self-feeling, and although a person's feeling changes from one activity and situation to another, nevertheless a person does have, fairly permanently, some dominant feelings of himself, such as: wholesome, vulnerable, small, scared, wormy, weak, lost, etc. We place as a continuum here (for 1B-1) the degree to which the self is predominantly experienced either as concepts, system, description . . . OR as feeling. The difference between the notions of self concept and self feeling is an important one. Self concept is primarily an information notion; the self feeling is phenomenological self-experience.

There seem to be two notions useful in describing self-feeling. One of these is coping (the individual coping with the outside world and how the outside world will handle him). Contained in this are such qualities as direction and strength. "Small" as a feeling has in it the idea of a powerful (strength) world which might attack (direction = toward) the participant.

The change in self concept over therapy has been studied rather extensively. We feel that the relationship between changes in self feeling and the changes in self concept would be an interesting and fruitful area of investigation. For reasons which appear later, we would expect, for example, that in the later stages of therapy the self concept as important to the client diminishes. (Although, of course, it still may be deduced by the outside observer and may remain important as a theoretical construct.) Self-feeling of a different [Page 8] type becomes most important. This is the type of self feeling which is a feeling of activeness, and living, rather than a feeling about self. This is to be distinguished from the self feeling which has the feeling about the self as an object. This will be further discussed under Self as object and Self as medial.

IB-2 Within the self feeling: self as wholistic vs. identification of self with part

Very often we hear a client's excited surprise: "There is so much more to me." Or we might characterize the wholistic feeling by the following experience: "I don't feel I am worthless—it is only one feeling that comes to me, but nowadays, even when it does, I feel that that's only part of all the me that goes on." This notion of "wholistic" means a sense of oneself as a varied and broad visceral process. Identification of self with a part would be a self experienced as only a few feelings.

IB-3 Implication vs. lack of implication for self-concept

Experiencing may or may not say something to the person about himself. Failure at such and such an activity may mean "I am worthless" or "I am weak" etc. Or it may have no such direct implication. Many or few aspects of experience may carry such an implication.

IB-4 Self as object and Self as medial

This distinction is an important one for the theory which comes later in the paper. It is the distinction between a dominant self-feeling such that the self is an object and a dominant self-feeling which is an objectless feeling of activity or coping or functioning. We have borrowed the word "medial" from Federn's "Ego Psychology." It was derived from grammar and refers to that mode of verbs in which they have no object. Examples are "I run" or "I sing."

We would predict an increase over therapy in proportion of the medial to the self-as-object feeling.

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C Experiencing of others

IC-1 Rigidly repetitive expectancies vs. fluid variation

By "expectancy" we mean a person's anticipation (to which he reacts inside) of the behaviour of significant others. We are interested in these in themselves and want to note how they change. We predict an increased variety and differentiation in expectancies after therapy. Broadly, similar expectancies would be different each time, instead of always being identical. Of interest here is Butler's extinguishment of expectancies idea.

IC-2 Variety vs. small number of possible expectancies

This difference is closely related to the above (IC-1); here we are looking at the number of broad kinds of expectancies a person can have.

Before we move on to the second (situational) group of characteristics, a short preview of the construct that unites all the items in the first (experiencing) group is in order:

All of the above listed continua contain in some sense the opposition of structure and process. We are attempting to show that in therapy a client moves from structure-bound experiencing to a different sort of experiencing we name "process." This is the same distinction Rogers draws between introjected value systems and valuing process. ". . . he is replacing his present value system . . . with a continuing organismic valuing process." (522)

We are not concerned with the origin of the structure, but with the nature of such experiencing as different from that we call process. Further definition and explication of this concept follows after the description of the second group of characteristics—those of the therapy situation. We predict (hopefully) that these second groups will covary with the first, and can be considered as attributes of the therapy situation operating on the person to bring about the changes of the first list.

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II Characteristics of a dual-person situation

These characteristics fall into two sub groups: A) formal characteristics of the therapy situation (observable by an observer) and B) verbalized feelings about situation and therapist.

A Formal characteristics of the situation

II-A1 Definite and explicit structure of the situation vs. indefinite

We would ordinarily refer to this difference by asking: how structured is the situation? How definite does the therapist make his expectations of the client, what the client may and may not do, or will or won't do.

II-A2 Permissiveness toward ambiguity vs. striving for definition

Is the situation allowed to remain ambiguous or does the therapist, through his reflections or admissions of puzzlement indicate that the situation between them must be definite? Some therapists say "I don't understand" and sound like they mean "explain! define!" and some sound like they mean merely, "I don't understand" or "I'm trying to follow" or "I'm aware of how that is to you, including the fact that it is not clear." Does the therapist accept the ambiguous, mull it, call it "it" and include it, or does he only accept and talk about what is definite?

II-A3 Activity vs. passivity

What proportion of the time may the client be active and what proportion of the time is the Therapist keeping the ball? Here would be defined as active such behaviors as asking, initiating, starting on a subject not raised by oneself or not chosen to continue, agreeing, accepting, and letting go of something said by the other.

II-A4 Meaning first created by the client vs. meaning first created by the therapist

This is a sub-class of A3. The question is: who first isolated the "it" that is being discussed? Who first gave it character? (If our criteria become sufficiently sharp, intra-group predictions such as the following can be made: if permissiveness toward ambiguity is not exceptionally high, then a high proportion of T-creating should correlate negatively with Group I [the dimensions [Page 11] of structure or process nature of experiencing]. This at least exemplifies the finer predictions that may be envisioned.)

The above four continua (IIA1-4) are characteristics of the therapy situation and may or may not change during the course of therapy. They may be independent of the client and depend on the therapist. It is therefore the (perhaps constant) level on these continua (not change) which is predicted to covary with the change in levels in group I. On the other hand, the next subgroup (II-b) involves feelings and behavior of client. Therefore it is change on these continua which is expected to covary with change in group I.

II-B Client's feelings about situation or therapist

II-B1 Client feels structure is definite vs. feelings that it is not definite

This is the same as A-1, only taken from the client's frame of reference.

II-B2 Client's feeling toward ambiguity

Client considers ambiguity as either a breakdown in communication or as a necessary part of it. The client may shy away from the vague and ambiguous. He may feel that he cannot say what is not clear. On the other hand, the vague may have for him a legitimate role, indicating that he is free to tolerate—even to be—his present momentary, albeit ambiguous, feelings.

II-B3 Client feels like "the active one" vs. "the passive one"

Specific characterizations (statements) about the therapy can be devised, which would fall into two such groups. Does the client feel that the counselor has good ideas, knows a lot more about him than he does, often gets there before he does, puts things much better than he can, usually sees through him, often takes the right direction, puts his finger on what is searched for, or are other kinds of descriptions more outstanding for the client? (In the Q-sort to be used, statements are subject to any overlapping factors, not only one.)

II-B4 Self presented as definite organization and description vs. self presented as from present behavior to present behavior, i.e., now

In therapy the conceptual structure about the self meets inconsistent data and [Page 12] falls apart. The client, in order to be able to bear this, maintains still a self consisting of I-speaking-to-you. (I am appalled at how inconsistent I am.) In general, there are distinguishable the presentations of self either as a system to be investigated, or as the speaking I.

Or as one client once put it: "At first (in therapy) I marched into myself from without, and now I seem to be marching out from within." Another client puts the same idea in terms of "I used the situation with you to get a picture of myself and fix it" which was abandoned in favor of a scary, but at the same time good "just being here with you and nothing to characterize what I am or should do."

II-B5 Feelings about the situation which define it as unique

a) Clients are often heard describing just what there is about the therapy situation which, for them, no other situation provides, and which is of some chief importance to them. Examples: "Only here can I speak freely." "Only here is there no pressure to keep up conversation."

b) Perhaps the same thing, and perhaps different, is the client's feeling that he can, with T, be or do what he can't with anyone else. Examples: "Only to you can I speak freely." "Only you care for me."

c) In addition to noting this (or these) items and change in them, we think that this item pinpoints the activity which characterizes the process in this relationship situation. Considered as a continuum, unique aspects either do or do not represent active self-freeing and growing activities.

II-B6 Behavior in situation duplicates problem

a) Often the client behaves in the therapy situation in a fashion which exemplifies what he is speaking about. (For example, he may describe himself as passive, and then ask what he can do about it.)

b) Again, it may be the same or not, to duplicate the content in one's way of relating to, or feeling about, the therapist.

c) In addition to noting this (or these) items and their change, a continuum can [Page 13] be made between two cases of duplicating: 1) where the client duplicates, only; and 2) where the client at first duplicates, but then goes on to be or do precisely what he said he could not be or do (or vice versa, to not do what he said he always does.) For example he may, in the situation described above, ask what to do about being so passive, and then have an idea or make a decision, or ignore or renounce the therapist's response and give his own. (It may be, perhaps, hard to decide sharply when—and in whose opinion—duplicating takes place, but it would not be difficult to determine whether the client has gone beyond what he stated, or not. Thus, if all doubtful cases were considered duplicating, the division of going beyond or not could still be sharply made.)

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IIB-7 Feelings about the role of the therapist. Process participator vs. any definite role

Here we are referring to a continuum which varies between the client's seeing the therapist in one or several definite roles which are somewhat persistent over time and the therapist seen in terms of the moment to moment activity between them.

IIB-8 Differences the presence of therapist makes to client

At this point we mention that the instrumentation we tentatively plan for all of II-B is a Q-sort made up of therapy experiences. Such a Q-sort may be made up of relatively few (50) cards and indicate by relative high and low clustering all of the items of II-B, including IIB-7, which follows below. The sort could be taken after each hour (or periodically).

The differences which the presence of the therapist makes to the client bring us to a discussion of the whole realm of relationship.

We do not limit our theoretical definition of relationship either to perception by the two people of each other, nor even to that much of their present being which they can clearly assign as made possible by each other. Relationship, as will be discussed later, includes all the difference one makes to the other, i.e., all that one is which he would not be without the other . . . much like Roz's "self-in-relationship."

However, between a mere perception of each other, and a deep difference to what self is with the other, there is a process in which one person makes many determinable differences to the other. Especially (and perhaps first in time) there arise differences made in the feelings due to communication. But deeper ones are also felt equally as clearly assignable to the other person's felt presence.

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In a Q-sort some proportion (perhaps 50%) of cards would indicate such differences. Since the divisions of cards would overlap, a high concentration of "difference" cards would not necessarily imply anything about any other dimension. The difference continuum, i.e., whether much or little difference seen as important, would be shown by the sorting of the cards.

The following then are samples that indicate "difference" made to C by the presence of T. (Of course, they also indicate other dimensions, as already explained):

Just as I was about to tell T (therapist) something, it already felt different.

The frightening things seemed even more frightening, when I approached them in the hour.

I did something with T, which I never could do before.

I felt a new freedom to be a certain way.

Something T said made me feel even more intensely what I had begun to feel.

I felt something much more intensely, but nothing changed.

To hear T express my feeling came as a jolt, even though it was what I had said myself.

I had a new experience that someone actually saw me.

It felt like T is holding up one end of the load I always carry with me.

After telling it to T, the thing I told didn't seem at all as bad as it had before.

As I walked in and sat down, I immediately felt different than I had been feeling.

Here is a short summary of the idea that unites II (the just listed situation [dual-person] characteristics.)

We are seeking, in II, to describe some characteristics of a situation which according to our theory would engender process experiencing and process self. By engender we mean either "cause" or "make possible" or at least "indicate." In sub-group II-A we measure the therapist or the situation apart from client [Page 16] perception. This may stay constant, and a constant high level of II-A characteristics should correlate with much movement in I.

In II-B, on the other hand, we measure client perception of the relationship and his own behavior in it, and we would therefore predict movement in II-B to covary with movement in I. II-B may be looked at as indices of the impact that the therapy situation has on him. If the therapy process is the cause of change, some indices of the impact causing change ought to appear. These are "process terms," measuring the change as it occurs. Prediction would be that these indices covary with I. Theoretically they might be considered points of (or near) the crucial change points. For example there is one or several points at which the client discovers that the situation is not as structured as he had thought (BI), or that ambiguous material can be tolerated and does produce depth and clarity (BII) or that he finds himself more active than he knew he was (B-3), or a point at which he has a new relationship-experience and transcends the self-picture he is still seeing and drawing (B-5). But certainly the continuum of I and of II-B should covary. If the causal hypothesis is correct, movement in II ought to precede movement in I. This may be expressed in Roz Dymond's terms: that self-in-relation to therapist ought to change prior to self, and in the same directions.

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In General

In therapy the client moves from one kind of experience to another: from "structure-bound" experiencing to "process" experiencing. These terms are explained in the next few pages. This movement is related to certain objective and certain experienced characteristics of the therapy situation.

Meaning of Structure and Process

The term process can be used in the sense in which it includes all experience including both sides of our distinction between structure and process. Then it means, 1) phenomenologically the presence of an interweaving mesh of feelings, perceptions, thoughts etc. and 2) some correlated physiological measured physical-chemical process. The sense of the term process in which it is opposed to "structure-bound" experience will be developed below. It can so far be made only phenomenologically, but this difference would show up in physical measurements, if it is once clear what two phenomenological data are to be physiologically correlated.

Differences Between Them

The difference between 1) "structure-bound" experiencing and 2) "process" experiencing, is as follows:

1) By structure-bound is meant reacting to the situation of now, by finding it to be like a past experience, and then reacting to that past, feeling it.

On the other hand, 2) by process experiencing is meant interpreting the situation anew and feeling the new (as indeed at some time in the past, that past was new and fresh.)

Differences: Past

Past experience figures in both cases. In the structure-bound case, however, one ends by experiencing the past all over again. But this past is only a repetitive pattern or structure, framework, screen. In the process case, the [Page 18] past is influential in how one experiences the present, and it is the present one feels and not the past. Past experience has been a seamless mass that has helped make the present, although the present is new. The difference between the two seems to lie essentially in the question of what is reacted to at the present moment. If one falls back into the past and reacts to it, then the experience is structure bound . . .Process experience is acting in the present.

Differences: Bareness

Another difference lies in the bareness of the structures as compared to full-bodied process experience. Take for example repetitive structures such as being dominated, submitting, dominating, depending, exposing, being exposed, hurting or being hurt. These are not full-bodied situations. Whether they fit or not, they are mere structures. They repeat, they are always the same, always feel the same, and are thin patterns. They can be phantasied as situations but they are not full-bodied detail situations.

Differences: Accuracy-Perception Seen as not Basic

Accuracy or appropriateness is not the basis of the distinction. For example a person may really be dominated and that may also be how he is prone to feel. Even in such a case the actual "now" may burst in on him as a torrent of present detail which would feel altogether different and wash away the old skeletal structure he previously read into the situation and reacted to.

We see, then, that accuracy of perception is not the basis of this distinction, although of course the repetitive structures are likely to lead to inaccuracy. Neither is mere breadth of perception basic. Basically, the distinction is between on the one hand, experiencing passively, tied up by a bare pattern, and, on the other hand, experiencing actively and directly a new present. Accuracy and breadth and other qualities of perception can be seen as likely to accompany "Process"-experiencing. The term "perception" itself focuses on what is perceived. Our term "experiencing" focuses on the nature of the felt act. Change in it seems to us to be basic to what is perceived.

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Differences: Nature of Experiencing Seen as Basic

These differences (in the way of carrying over of the past and in the richness or bareness of an experience) indicate a difference in the very nature or manner of experiencing. This will be referred to as the nature of experiencing, whose meaning will gradually develop. With regard to richness of present detail, structure-bound experiencing is of a structure which "fits." Process is the experiencing of the live detail.

For example, in some of the sexual perversions the person seeks to have sexual feelings by looking for a very narrowly defined situation. The details not only are unimportant, but he may explicitly have to ignore some of them in order to be able to react to the essential structure of the situation he seeks to set up. It is as if he wanted people to play a certain drama over and over. Only to that can he react sexually. He is perfectly familiar with the roles and acts of the drama and further details or uniquenesses are only disturbing.

This illustrates that the structure-bound is not really the experiencing of a present situation but of a structure, bare and repetitive.

Differences: Frozen

Moving on to another aspect of the same basic difference we may say that repetitive experiences are "frozen." On certain cues from a situation there arises from past experience a whole construct, as a unit. The person has not taken that experience apart, and differentiated it internally. Presumably he can not. Optimally past experience is like the present, in some aspects, and unlike in others. Without specifically symbolizing or being aware of the past, all possible aspects and relationships are available to us for the experiencing of the present. Optimally, the new is not reduced to the old, but a "seamless" mass of olds selectively used to make the new. When a whole construct of the past asserts itself and is projected onto the present and reacted to, it's inaccurate and bare: the frozen old, not the fluid new [Page 20] nor the fluid old.

An illustration of this is the following example from therapy: In doing therapy a new situation (namely the client) is presented to you and you try to understand him. When you do, you are not aware of the particular experiences from your past, which make understanding possible. But, in contrast to feeling what he experiences (from out of some fluid apperceptive mass of yours) it is quite a different matter when some experience of your own comes to you instead. If that experience of yours is not frozen, then the fact that it is yours will be a fleeting thought and you will return well equipped to understand your client. You will freely be able to (if you have time) distinguish how his and your experience are similar and how they differ. But if your own experience is frozen, his will feel to you like yours (even if you know better), and you will be dogged by your feeling. Moreover, your feeling won't open up and produce the further understandings of what the client opens up and explores further in his feeling.

The Problem of the Repetitive Structure: Change

It would seem that the repetitious, bare and frozen must somehow be opened up, since the past in its original fullness can not be had now. Only the bare structure can be had now. The richness of experience lies in the multi-various process continually going on in the present. The structure-bound person has that rich process of now screened through the bare structure of then. It follows that only in the now can he take a hold on process and richness. The old structure can't open up to the richness of then. There is only a richness of now.

Change therefore must be an increasing ability to experience the richness of now.

The Repetitive Structure and Inhibitions

What obstructs the experiencing of the rich now from another important aspect of the structure-process problem. There are inhibitions or restrictions [Page 21] which extend to the whole person. These restrictions are both past and present. That means they can be seen both as inherent in the old structures and as still operative on the person now. The structure itself is one of, say, giving without regard to self and the person now, as a whole, is also unable to consider himself. We will now turn to these inhibitions as seen within the old structures, but first we repeat that it is not these old restrictions ossified within the old structures, but the same restrictions as now operative on the whole person in the present, which therapeutic change seems to us to overcome. This emphasis changes the focus from re-working the past to a focus on broadening present experiencing. This will be clearer after the following discussion of the restrictions seen within structures.

Inhibition and the Visceral Aim: Duplicating and Transference

The structures which people repeat are notable for being in themselves inhibitive of the visceral aim which is implied. The structure seems to be some stage or variety of a visceral drive that would ordinarily have gone to completion. Freud analyzed the sexual perversions this way. The same can be seen in other structures where the need, say, for food and for personal closeness results in structures where one doesn't eat, and obtains approval which only promises the personal closeness. Fame and power too, aim only at signs or means to fulfillments. These restrictions should be seen with a view to the person's experience of himself as a whole. The very nature of being dominant or submissive or voyeur or masochist obviates direct involvement of the person. You don't need to cope with a whole situation and another whole person. You dominate—your power makes it unnecessary to face the other person. Broad, changing, unpredictable self-involvement is unnecessary. You merely view as voyeur, you are nothing more in the situation. Not only is it a bare frozen role, but it holds back the person. The role may be active, but the person as a whole is inactive. In order to get away from the structure-bound, then, no mere change in content of structure will do. A whole self in action replaces a bound self seeing picture of itself.

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The change in the nature of experiencing extends to the nature of self that experiences. Duplicating or transference arises since what was restricted then, will still be restricted now, in the therapy situation. This is fortunate since it enables a situation that is objectively the same for any client to become subjectively an opportunity for that which has been restricted.

There is therefore no need to especially create a situation that repeats the client's past or encourages transference. The restriction is general for this person and will operate here also. The fuller, realer and more rounded a situation of two people is, the more certain it is that it will be relevant to the restrictions.

The Process of Change:

Of course therapeutic change implies not only repetition, but the overcoming of the restrictions implied in them. But if the client overcomes these at all it will be now and with this present person, not in a remembered or projected past. We assert then, that change depends on going beyond the pattern with this person, not within the old pattern. If we could show that in therapy there is a new nature of experiencing—of the now—this would be the cause or condition for the growth beyond the structures. Also it would follow that reality, genuineness and fullness of relationship, not the transference, is the cause of the growth beyond the "transference" or repetition that clients bring with them.

Perhaps restriction stems from some specific emotion such as guilt, fear or shame. Whatever the client says is unique in the therapy situation for him ("only with you can I.......x") is probably a good indicator of what the restriction is for him. As long as that remains unique, he could be considered overcoming the restriction, although not finished with it.

Since we are saying that the process of the present relationship situation supersedes the old structure and that this change occurs in the [Page 23] real now, not in projected past . . . an interesting question is: Are these old structures "broken through" or do they merely become less important as new process experiencing becomes possible. The latter seems to follow.

We can now assert: only experience that is actually "had," finished or gone to its results, can serve as seamless past experience for a new present. The inhibited aim—the prevented conclusion of the visceral experience—makes for the "frozen" aspect of these structures. Something about it can not be experienced and is denied. More basically put, something restricts the person from experiencing in an active wholistic manner. When we note that a person dare not experience something, we must look not only at what that is, but also at the restriction or constriction implied for his experiencing and being active generally. Inability to have the fullness of now is not a mere lack of percepts, but a tied-down nature of experiencing (both self and in general). Inhibition means not being able to have the fullness of now as well as not having had the fullness of the past. It is a lag in which one gets stuck with what one was but couldn't fully be. Full process implies that in the next moment again one will fully have that next moment and thus one will have let go of the last one. We can leave easily only through fully having.

Reversing the implication of the last paragraph: if we can fully (or more fully) have present process experiencing this having would be the cause of growth, i.e., the condition for the ability to cease reliance on the past structures with their passive tied down nature of experiencings.

We find in therapy just such sweeping in on the client by the now, just such "more than I can take" which goes beyond the structure. It is possible then to see therapeutic change as brought about by a present which (gradually or dramatically) comes home to the client as new process experience of now, despite the fact that it exceeds what his structures permit. From this point of view [Page 24] it becomes a secondary matter to adjust his view of self and expectancies to fit what first must be experiencing. But the crux lies in the notion that in exploring WITH someone, a new situation is had in which a now-process takes place in that very exploration. Thus duplicating in the present situation is the model with which one could explain how I can have process-feelings, going-to-completion, even though I seem to be talking the past. Because the past is BOTH past and now. In the present situation I can go beyond, I can process. Qua then I can not. But this now-process, especially as relevant to restrictions, goes on whether the content happens to duplicate these restrictions or not, i.e., whether the client is just now talking about them or not.

More Results of Change

Therefore not only will there be experiences (with someone) that client could not have perceived, but there is the change we have been describing in the whole nature of experiencing generally, and in the nature of the self as experiencing agent.

Again, there is, of course, a verifiable change from one set of self-concepts to another. But underlying that there is a change from a self seen in structure to a self felt in process. The self is either a system of pictures, rules, concepts, patterns, in short: something known and familiar. Or, the self is nothing known or perceived as much as it is an ongoing "just was." It is a self-in-motion, at first dizzying.

In therapy, a person comes to perceive data that is inconsistent with his self-concept set. The strucure of himself by which he goes and which he feels as himself, breaks apart. We have seen his surprise, fear, and joy at finding that he wasn't after all that structure. Nor is he any structure since he now, for this moment, has none. What we assert here is that he doesn't replace this self-in-motion with another structure. Yes, he does form another set of self-descriptions. These will be different, as he is [Page 25] different. But no longer does he experience himself as such a structure. At least to some extent he identifies himself with the ongoing process, something of an entirely different nature.

Some Points of Contact Between Other Theories and What We Have Said

This process-structure theory is not in itself new. Rogers, page 522, says: The client . . . "is replacing his present value SYSTEM . . . with a continuing organismic valuing PROCESS."

We have omitted the part of that distinction which relates to the source of valuation (introjected or one's own) and extended the process-system dichotomy to all aspects of experience.

We see the movement from structure to process as basic. This is a movement which can explain and be seen as underlying changes from one kind of self-concept to another, one self-structure to another, one attitude toward self to another, etc. All these changes, which do occur, can be considered as results of a change from structure-bound to process experiencing. To put the basic difference most broadly, represent it in a kind of formula: The change from X to X' is a result of an underlying change from X to Y. For example when a client changes his value system from one system, X, to another system, X', this is the result of a change from value system (X) to valuing process (Y) something different in nature, not another variety of the same kind . . . as one value system and another value system differ in variety but are the same in kind. Of course, the client will still respond to a constant set of cards with something like a value system or a set of self-concepts. But the underlying change was a change in the nature of valuing altogether. We extend this formula to experiencing in general, and to self (which changes from object to "medial" subject of acting and functioning, becoming a self felt predominantly in action rather than a self perceived predominantly as an object.).

[Page 26]

The theory therefore does not contradict either Rogers or Standal directly. We would predict that indices of the change from structure to process would co-vary with changes in self-concept, in breadth and accuracy of self-perception. If the indices of the movement toward process could be found within therapy events, it might be determinable whether the movement to process precedes the changes in self-concept and perception. Perhaps this can be instrumented that finely, perhaps not yet. The co-variance, however, could be established.

Acceptance (not liking, but personal closeness and empathy, undifferentiated and genuine) seems necessary. However the restriction on self-perception caused by negative judgement of others, and the lack of accurate self-perception, inconsistency of structure and viscera—these are really negative aspects which therapeutic change removes. Afterwards, as Stan explains, acceptance by others is no longer essential to being oneself. Inability to perceive inconsistency between self-structure and experience, likewise, is removed. But what is the positive process which removes it, what is the agent or activity which carries on through perceived inconsistencies and comes to tolerate them from then on? A broader self-structure will surely also result, but no self-structure will ever be fully consistent (as Stan also points out). Therefore our terms can be considered as referring to the experiential data summarized by the "growth principle." Standal makes acceptance the factor that intervenes to allow perception of inconsistencies. But acceptance, after all, is only a necessary condition and even as that it ceases to be necessary later. What then does the acting, the resolving, the tolerating? Or, another way to put it, what is the self when the structure falls to pieces? A "medial" (i.e. active, not object of perception) self in process is implied.


It is due to this view of the optimal self as acting that we do not think that therapeutic change can be represented fully in terms of awareness or [Page 27] perception. The mere presence or absence in awareness of some experience says nothing about the quality, directness or reality feeling about the experiencing of it. Mere presence or absence in awareness says nothing about the ability of the person to be a whole and active self. Where denial to awareness is overcome it appears to be a result of a necessary development of that self and the nature of experiencing full present perception. Much was already in awareness, but in passive pieces, the client's seem to drive for reality connection, for a feeling of himself as an active being, for the sense of himself as broader and as a source of experiencing and a basis of his own activity. It is with this intuitive view, as well as with our theoretical generalizations that we expect to show that the characteristics of the situation in IIA engender the impact of process experience (IIB) as it occurs in therapy, periodically from hour to hour. This impact is often more than restrictions and self-perception allow him. IIB are terms showing change as a new nature of experiencing going on within the therapy situation. Group I denote that same new nature of experiencing generalized in the person's experience.

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