Notes on a psychotherapy of the vital event
Dr. Claudio Rud

Dr. Claudio Rud.
Buenos Aires. Argentina.

I start by clarifying the meaning of the title of these notes about the “what for” of the rain, it refers to the purpose, usefulness and / or the results of some phenomenon or event.

The answer to that question may be formulated from two possible points of view. But both refer to the purpose of the phenomenon, both of them are answers to the question “what for?”.

One of the possible answers, from man’s perspective, may be: to irrigate the fields, to nourish the crops, to increase river flows, to maintain ecological balance, to cause floods, etc. This means there is a purpose that extends beyond the phenomenon of raining itself, that transcends it. From this point of view, the power of the rain is in the achievement of that purpose and it will be evaluated as good or bad according to the consequences it causes.

The other possible answer to which I refer, considers that rains exists just for raining, meaning that the phenomenon occurs as a pure affirmation of its occurrence, which is immanent. In this case the power of the rain lies in that "it may rain", it lies in its full expression, in the act of raining itself.

From the man-centered perspective, we think the rain with a criterion of utility; however, from the perspective of the whole nature, rain occurs without any other purpose but raining.

Spinoza is who warns us, in the appendix to the first part of his Ethics, about human prejudice, of this anthropocentric look by which we understand the events from the logic of utility. "All prejudices that I attempt to indicate here depend on one, namely: the fact that men suppose, commonly, that all things in nature act like themselves in respect of a purpose and they even consider as true that God himself directs all things toward a certain aim, saying that God has made all things directed to man and created man so that he may worship Him. "

We can also try to understand the interhuman encounter considering that we can do it from one perspective or the other; we would refer to the first one as intentional purpose and to the other, as desiring purpose.

Just as with the rain, we can ask about the power of the encounter. Either what the encounter can be is in its result meaning, it is beyond the event which we name as intentional purpose, or power, referring the potentiality of the encounter is in the encounter itself; the latter defined as desiring purpose.

I understand by intentional purpose the one looking for results, the one formulated in terms of utility, the one more interested in reaching port than in sailing itself. The one that cares the seed for the tree that will be. The sense of that encounter is outside of it, on a temporary beyond.

I understand by desiring purpose the one interested in sailing in its fullness, the one that cares the seed as seed itself and not as the tree that will be. The purpose of this encounter occurs in the encounter itself, it reaches its fullness there, where it is happening. And my proposal from the PCA is to consider the therapeutic issue in this way of understanding the purpose.

For those of us who practice the Person-Centered Approach psychotherapy, the absence of judgments of value about what is good or bad is an important condition, in regard to our consultant’s (client’s) experience. And while the practice of suspension of judgment is possible to some extent, there is a very subtle judgment that seeps into the intentional purpose: that the encounter turns out to be good if we can meet some intended purpose or bad if it is deviated or lacks such purpose.

To not have more goals
that open hands
and the inevitable deviations of the compass,
not to correct them
but just to pounce ourselves on for them.
There, the shadows that we are
will find the courses required
to delve into the time
traces of this implausible dream
Only the hopeless paths
and the reverse travels
combine impossible dreams
and lead to port

Roberto Juarroz

I hasten to clarify that as humans we cannot do without the look that lends us utility but it is possible for us to include that second look when understanding ourselves as one of the ways in which the universe is expressed as part and not apart.

In one example: if we achieve that a client stops drinking alcohol it is good, abstinence as purpose to be supposedly achieved; however, if that purpose is not fulfilled, that is bad. Then, all the "resources", even listening or the three basic conditions (acceptance, empathy and congruence) are at the service of this dominant and, sometimes, exclusive purpose to the extent that - according to its "healing" purpose-, it ignores the foundations of our Person-Centered practice. The latter is aware of the value of a directive process to detoxification.

However, the loss of the habit requires a contact form that includes an ability to listen more focused on the person than on the symptom, more attentive to the basal suffering than to its implications and consequences. The remarkable thing about self-help groups of alcoholics is that, unlike the above, the power is in the encounter itself, in the possibility of having the supportive presence of peers with the desire to witness their commitment to abstinence, sobriety and hope, nothing more and nothing less than "just" that.

"Consider now the issue of the purpose. Spontaneity in the emergence of systems denies any dimension of intent or purpose in its constitution or in its operation, and it makes purpose and intentionality belong only to the observer’s reflective realm as comments he or she makes when comparing and explaining his/her distinctions and experiences in different times of his/her noticing"1

From the years of my experience as a therapist, I increasingly notice that the desiring purpose is what makes the encounters to be powerful and transforming and what puts us in the natural movement of life and relationships among people.

"The philosophers who have speculated on the meaning of life and the destiny of man have not noticed enough that nature has taken the trouble to tell us about herself. She warns us through a precise sign that our destiny is reached. That sign is joy."2


Assuming that reality, in its multiple character, operates with the logic of rules, I would briefly refer to the game we're playing as civilization or as culture: the game of dualisms, zapping, oppositions, diagnostics, discriminations, exclusions; a world in which both therapists and patients live unable to remain in what is happening to seek urgent results. This game is supported by the metaphor of the survival of the strongest, the principle of competition in which the urge is to win at any cost. (Prestige, money, success, etc.).

The questions I pose to some “resultadists” (headed to results) positions are mainly aimed to what in my opinion are their excesses, the absolute nature given to the treatment of topics and to the abuses and closures that this paradigm, at least in the present, imposed to us, the people.

I do not pretend, with these considerations, to deny our need of the culture of organizing in some way the emergence of happening, I just want to observe the arbitrary nature of such organization and, in that sense, to give it the condition of game. We can take an example of this from psychopathology, when we consider a diagnosis giving it the character of "unique reality", through which we are leaving aside the playful status of it which would allow us to lighten the "healing frenzy" of our time.

In the field of psychotherapy, there is a growing demand from the clients of greater "efficiency" in the disappearance of symptoms, offering these symptoms as disembodied from their own subjectivity, being this a subtle way of submission to the power of the other person. This has accelerated the development of psychotherapeutic technical procedures which reaffirm and emphasize the relationship of power as "regime of knowledge", leading to prescriptions and interpretations that support the hierarchical difference between the one who knows and the one who doesn’t, between the one who can and the one who can’t. Currently, this management of power as submission is also revealed in the practices instituted to support the interests of the medical and pharmaceutical corporations. Links that build a chain of submissions.

It also happens that we find a double demand in these times. On one hand, the claim by the client and some approaches to psychology to be the suppliers of the instructions for the use of the psyche when something is perceived as not being working or being malfunctioning. There is a huge rush to get out of the symptom or discomfort, to get back to the standard, to be normal, i.e. to feel that “they are in the world" and in this, there is an inalienable right of the sufferer of requesting what he/she understands as a solution to his/her "problem". He/She requires strategies, answers, relief, results. But at the same time and because of the increased and justified skepticism towards the professional as the only possessor of truth, there is an implicit and often explicit requirement by our clients which is away from results and expectations: to be respectfully and truly heard. We are asked to be able to listen without uttering saving truths. This confronts us who are in a helping relationship with this dual requirement which contains an apparent contradiction itself.

At first it seems to be in the person who consults us a clear and defined purpose: to stop suffering, to forget, to calm him/herself, to choose, to stop being afraid...as a goal to be achieved. And this exists and it is part of what binds us together. And it seems that we tend to a purpose, first purpose, to help stopping the suffering, forgetting, calming down. But what happens to us in the experience from the perspective that we propose is more powerful when in the encounter we stop chasing a target. The way of being, where the quality of presence eludes any purpose, occurs without the therapeutic encounter losing its sense. When we can be present and remain there, we are unable to subdue the experience to a general formula, to merely achieve an objective. It is what I call active contemplation.3 The spirit of our profession has several conceptual support lines; one of which is the confidence in the tendency that organizes and transforms the whole nature, the cosmos in general of which we are part, not only has apppointed Rogers to this tendency, Spinoza speaks to us of the perseverance in the being (conatus), which is defined in man as cupiditas, that is the desire as pure affirmation of existence; Bergson also describes it as the "elan vital" among others, so-called vitalistic.

This tendency exists independently of our awareness of it. The realize of this tendency not only allows us to be facing the other person with confidence in his/her personal display and his/her resources, but also it allows us to be a part, at that time of the encounter, of an event within a larger whole, an event where I am neither the creator nor the rector, nor the owner, nor the a priori expert. From this point of view, we participate in a common event in which both are involved in this transforming tendency. The tendency I refer is running in the direction of greater complexity. One of the current and brightest scientists of the theory of chaos, the biologist Dan McShea, says to us: "I learn two things immediately; first, that there is a general consensus, though vague, that complexity has increased throughout evolutionary history. Second, that complexity is a very slippery word. It can mean many things. One of the things with which it is often associated is progress, the notion that evolution proceeds by a pathway that leads to the inevitable improvement. At the moment, biologists are very uncomfortable with the idea of progress because of the connotations of an external driving force. It is acceptable to talk about complexity but not about progress." Talking about transformation allows us to review the teleological character with which we usually understand the actualizing tendency from the PCA, in the idea that this "leads" individuals to a kind of improvement, towards the "optimal functioning of the personality". This way of understanding the tendency is tied to a finalist logic. And it doesn’t allow us to understand it as a tendency to an increasing complexity, as multiplicity of events, of which we are a part in the encounter. The idea of progress implies a linear scale where the prior is less valuable than the subsequent and carries an inevitable judgment of value about what it is happening. Complexity includes us both therapist and client in mutual involvement, in the transformative multiplicity, non-linear or predictable. It is pure process where the form virtually contains its transformation.

Then, what do we need the therapist's intervention for from our point of view? What are the necessary and sufficient conditions or attitudes that Carl Rogers speaks for? If the “what for” is held in the use the therapist does of a knowledge to change something in the other person, with tools that also serve to him to keep an optimal distance in order to heal or repair, we are considering ourselves as separated from the other and, from that place, we act as helpers placing the person who consults us in the place of helped. This position may be present either in a technique, the listening, or the attitudes. This approach neglects the partnership and mutual involvement that we consider as foundation of an immanent look4 of the therapeutic.

This attitude that I propose is characterized by the acceptance of what appears, of what is present, by the mere fact of appearing and it is not intended to do anything special with it except than to inhabit it, being a participant of such happening, facilitating the expression. This implies a total, personal commitment and not necessarily instrumental with what it appears.

The particularity of this look is the affirmation of what it is as how it is being, based on amor fati5, i.e. in the love to what it happens according to what Nietzsche says to us. It is a therapeutic praxis of mutual creation, of mutual involvement that conceives desire as affirmation and shared power.

I appreciate the efforts made in pursuit of an integration of the various models of psychotherapy, but I wonder how to integrate what I define as integral, in the sense that it neither lacks nor spares anything.

Returning, then, to the relevance of the immanent purpose in the psychotherapy territory, we can explain the phenomenon of the therapeutic encounter as a territory in which the event is a unit where there are no more hierarchies than the diversity of intensities that begins to be present. Flows of forms and transforms occur, different levels of experience, different ways of manifestation and expression within the integrated and eternal of that encounter, of what it is present there.

No doubt that this requires more of an attitude than a technique, more of an experiential engagement than of an intellectual automatism, and we should admit that in order to be placed in the fullness of presence by the therapist, there is a huge way to backtrack: the trace of prejudice, labels and urgency for "results". In this sense, our method of psychotherapy is harmless because it is proposed as being as a way of doing more than doing as a way of being, meaning it doesn’t take the offensive in relation to whom it is consulting.

Psychotherapy power is shared between therapist and patient in a way that, between the two of them, the therapeutic event occurs leading to transformation. Both are active in that relationship. This is the power of psychotherapy for us. Thus, the relationship of power is different, a priori hierarchies fade into the encounter. It is also a questioning to medical power, defining ourselves more as helpers (participants of aid) or, if preferred, as partners in this venture, of course with different roles within the same event.

In this sense, the psychotherapy we propose is subversive because it subverts the hierarchy of that who knows: the therapist, and the one who doesn’t: the patient. This way we admit aid as something that is installed in the event of an encounter or an interview. All the participants of this therapeutic event are aid recipients.

An interesting way to look at it is expressed by Thomas Moore (1998) in “The Care of the Soul”: "The care of the soul is something of a very different range from the most modern notions of psychology and psychotherapy. It isn´t related with cure, fix, change, adapt or restore health, nor with any idea of perfection, not even improvement. It does not look in the future for an ideal trouble-free existance. It patiently maintains in the present, close to life as presented day by day. "

Psychotherapy is then an eccentric, playful event that occurs; creator of new senses, enabling the formation of the primary phenomenon of encounter and it involves a kind of coexistence of all elements of the "between", which find there their potentiality of being manifested. That relationship will respond to its own direction, creating its forms, styles, rhythms. Psychotherapy understood in this way is not a matter of time. Then, there would be no place to speak in terms of process but of transformation, as the change of the shape within itself. Each encounter is an event itself and it has the note of eternity, and neither lacks it nor spares anything because that encounter is the whole within that encounter.

The rules of this game I propose are the fullness of presence, the awareness that we are multiplicities, that we are what happens. Noting that, although we are differentiated, we are not separated, we are part of the universal story that gathers all other manifestations of what exists. This is why we named the therapeutic as a life event, expression of the evolution of life and the encounters in which we engage with this quality of presence.

1: Reference to Humberto Maturana Romesín Preface to the Second Edition of Book: Of machines and living beings: Autopoiesis, The Organization of the Living.
2: Matter and memory. Henri Bergson
3: Rud Claudio . Among metaphors and chaos. (From the passive intervention to the active contemplation). Ediciones Nueva Generacion. Buenos Aires
4: See: Philosophy of the Open. Claudio Rud 2006
5: "My formula to express the greatness in man is amor fati: not wanting anything to be different, neither in the past nor in the future and for all eternity. Not only bearing what is necessary, still less concealing it – all idealism is untruthfulness against the necessary- but loving it..." Nietzsche - Ecce Homo