We Start From Where We Are – Dot Clark

Our theme, ‘Going Global’, can easily arouse anxiety and helplessness when we consider the scale...

Last updated 16 July 2024

Our theme, ‘Going Global’, can easily arouse anxiety and helplessness when we consider the scale of the challenges facing the world today. However, “we start from where we are”, even when that includes despair and panic, by endeavouring to approach our experience with compassion and acceptance. The Person-Centred community has much to contribute here and now, especially if we can reach out beyond the confines of therapy into the world.

In this talk, as a contribution to our dialogue, I offered some of my own experiences and ideas from a period when I gave up practice as a person-centred counsellor, supervisor, and trainer; and became a student at a School offering education in living with the mystical awareness that ‘existence is one’. I discovered there what I already knew, expressed in new ways and in a new context, which deepened my existing understanding. The experience showed me that the Person-Centred community had allies in its counter-cultural endeavour. There were other traditions, schools, communities, and bodies of thought which valued awareness of process, relationship, difference and fluidity over content, individualism, conformity, and fixity. Not only do we start from where we are, but we are not alone.

In exploring the meaning of my experience, I have found resonance with contemporary social theory, feminism, psychoanalysis, postmodernism, deconstruction and radical epistemology. The most helpful model I have found for understanding what may be recognisable and shared across these disciplines, draws on our human capacity to be aware of the world in very different ways: a Right Hemisphere mode of awareness is comfortable with not knowing, tolerant of uncertainty, open to the movement of process, appreciates paradox and the implicit, and relates to the world with care; the Left hemisphere values fixity, clarity, certainty, the explicit and the capacity to represent and manipulate the world. I believe there is an identifiable move towards right hemisphere processing in our left hemisphere-dominated Western culture today.

This move is profound, far-reaching and full of potential for enriching being in the world. The nature of the attention we pay affects the nature of the world we perceive; we know this from the person-centred approach to relationships. Paying attention is not a neutral act. In itself, it is an intervention in the intersubjective process of being. And thus it is a responsibility. Going Global offers us an opportunity to reflect together on its meaning, the focus being not on what we are to do but on how we are to be, starting from where we are.

Course Content


Dot Clark

While on a long-term retreat 2008-9, I experienced a profound connection between mystical explorations of the unity of being and the fundamentals of the person-centred approach (PCA). Both traditions call for a particular quality of attention to be paid to whatever is happening in relationship, with Other people and with Being itself. The territory discussed in my chapter was part of the exploration I undertook into the meaning of this experience while a student at the University of Edinburgh.