I’m reading Person-Centred Counselling in Action (4th Edition) by Mearns and Thorne as part of my counselling course.  Mearns and Thorne are recoginsed as the two leading gurus of the humanistic person-centred approach in the UK.   One chapter has got me really intrigued – Recent Developments in Person-Centred Theory.  In it Mearns and Thorne look at their own research and that of others that has built on the original theory developed in the 50s and 60s by Carl Rogers.

Here’s the bit that really struck me.  They have a set of propositions around what they call “configurations”.  These configurations are different views of “self” held by the client.  Now – part of the tenant of person-centred counselling is all about helping the client find their true self which seems to be a singular concept – called exactly that “self-concept”.   What is proposed here is an acceptance of various views of self either created by an introjection (someone else’s view on the ideal you) or around dissonant self-experiences.  They further then propose that these configurations can assimilate other consistent elements – i.e. they aren’t Jeckyll and Hyde.  And they can inter-relate with each other and reconfigure.

I hope you’ve followed that really really brief summary.  Why does this strike me?  Well they even talk about people being actors within a particular configuration.  Boy is this me or what!  When I drank it was really all a sham as I had no idea who was close to the real Graham at all and therefore I battled with these roles and my position as actor in them etc.  Since sobering up I’ve had this continual desire “to thy own self be true” – a quote often associated with recovery and on things like the sobriety medallions often awarded at meetings on people’s anniversaries.  But I’m still different people –

  • Husband
  • Father
  • Friend
  • The IT professional at work
  • The colleague
  • Friend
  • Recovering Alcoholic
  • AA member
  • AA service doer
  • Student
  • Counsellor in training
  • etc. etc.

Now many of these have no clash or only minimally over time commitments etc.  But some have clashes – “AA member” and “Counsellor in training” – what are my boundaries around that?  Professional conduct will dictate some, agency rules others but what about myself?  How much of AA member is in there… how much Recovering Alcoholic – what is the difference between those two configurations of my self?

Reading this chapter has opened up a good line of thought for me – largely because it is giving a construct to consider my different, potentially competing, configurations and build a self-concept that is a complete view of all of them.

About furtheron

Music and guitar obsessive who is a recovering alcoholic to boot
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7 Responses to Configurations

  1. C says:

    Very interesting, I’ve never seen it spelled out like that but it’s something I’ve thought about.
    I’m very aware of the way the different roles I find myself in can either bring out or suppress (or require me to suppress) certain parts of my personality and sometimes think, am I being true to myself if I’m not like this all the time? But we do change for various scenarios and roles, we have to, don’t we, it’s part of being in society, although it may make us seem slightly different according to different people. As long as we know who we are inside, and that these configurations are all part of the consistent whole, that we are not acting in conflict with our core morals or beliefs. I actually don’t like it when someone uses the phrase, “Oh but I’m just being myself!” or “But it’s just the way I am!” when really all they are doing is wanting to justify rude, selfish or ‘inappropriate’ behaviour… I’m sure we’ve all met a few like that!

  2. “People being actors within a configuration” is a fascinating perspective. I’d never thought about it that way, yet as you explain, I can clearly see it everywhere – in myself and others.
    I’m sorry that I’ve been away for so long, Graham. I always learn something when I hop over to visit.

  3. Sherry says:

    furtherton…once again you have blown my mind. I’m going to need some time to think about this one.


  4. Untipsyteacher says:

    I’m with Sherry!
    You are already over my head!
    Maybe you need to make a venn diagram!

  5. Suburbia says:

    So interesting to read this, thanks! I’m really missing not studying. Love person centred counselling ideas – it all seems to make so much sense to me.

  6. Interesting stuff. It reminds me of how when I first got sober, I was astounded to realize I had no idea what I truly liked and disliked and wondered if I just had preferences based on what I thought I should like and dislike. It was very disorienting and scary, and I was glad I had a therapist to talk me through it all.

  7. abbiegrrl says:

    I’m with Judith. Recovery is an educational adventure in & of itself, isn’t it? It sounds like you’re on your way to being a very good counsellor.

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