1992, Psychotherapy Series edited by Windy Dryden, Whurr Publishers London. ISBN 1-870332-18-0. Stg£15.00
Although the articles which make up this book have previously been published in various places, taken together in the one volume they form a most impressive body of work and a major contribution to the theory of humanistic psychology. At the same time, the personal imprint of Rowan’s own approach is so strong throughout that I am tempted to coin the phrase “Rowanian” to describe that contribution. And I rather suspect that this double effect is precisely what he must have intended, because he places a highly personal essay at the start of the book (A Late Developer – Why I Became a Psychotherapist). In the introduction, he comments that “one or two people have suggested to me that this section is ‘too honest’ in saying too much about my personal life, but I do not agree.”
In its own way, each one of the articles which follow bears this out. Even in Hegel and Actualization, for example, which sounds as if it would be a very academic subject, Rowan’s confident appropriation of Hegel’s ideas and lucid commentary on their relevance to specific issues in humanistic psychology ensure that the essay is never dry or specious. He constantly places Hegelian ideas into the familiar context of humanistic thought, comparing them at relevant moments to Perls’, Rogers’, Klein’s, Grofs, etc. so that the reader benefits in both directions; new light on the well-known ideas and new confidence in tackling the philosophical probity of Hegel. Or again, in Chapter 7, The Self: One or Many, Rowan confronts the over-simplification of the “real self” idea in a way which is so personally felt and vouched for that the theoretical issue underlying the question is illuminated. He clearly demonstrates that most of the writers who fall within the humanistic framework often talk in terms of multiplicity within the person - ”whether with Federn or Berne or John Watkins we talk about ego states; whether with Perls we talk about the top dog and the underdog; whether with Klein or Fairbairn or Guntrip we talk about internal objects… imagoes,… hidden observer, … emotionally divided self, … false or unreal self, … community of self …” This wide-ranging approach brings sharply into focus the underlying essentials of a humanistic stance, and does so in an experiential way through that very personal ”honesty” of which his friends were warning him.
After sections on Humanistic Psychology and Humanistic Psychotherapy, Rowan moves on to the most radical and challenging section of the book, a series of essays on Transpersonal Psychotherapy. Here again, he successfully juxtaposes the personal and the theoretical, combining explanation (for example of Ken Wilber’s ideas) with insights from his personal work and practice. There is nothing airy-fairy about his approach; Chapter 17, on Holistic Listening is a model of down-to-earth counselling skills, yet it takes him far beyond the idea of “empathy” and on into an extremely fascinating discussion of countertransference. Typically, Rowan is unafraid of this phenomenon – he can even show that, used sensitively, the countertransference itself can be a major part of holistic listening.
But I think that the chapter which moved me most was a remarkable piece of work about men’s therapy (Chapter 21). “… unless men agree to be wounded, nothing much is going to change..,” Rowan challenges, “my belief (is) that the male as such is suspect” … “the aim is to go fully into the guilt and despair but not rest there … I spit on the phoney hope which believes that all is basically OK and that all we have to do is to celebrate the excellence of men and the marvellousness of women.” The extraordinary acerbity of this essay made me sit up and blink, even though I am familiar with his book, The Horned God. At first I felt almost indignant on men’s behalf because the attack was so much more radical than the run of feminist material on the subject. I have been pondering on what this essay says ever since, with some pain. But also with respect for Rowan the man and Rowan the radical theorist – which strangely is a comfort in a world where feminists don’t often hate men, because what he is saying is still so splendidly male. This essay should be prescribed reading on every course in Women’s Studies!