Faculty Publications

Personal Power: A Taoist Perspective

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Journal of Humanistic Psychology





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This article draws from the teachings of Taoism to provide a possible framework from within which we may consider personal relationships and especially personal power. Personal power is viewed as a mode of being, something existential, something to be lived rather than to be acquired. As Carl Rogers (1977) notes, when perceived in this manner personal power becomes the basis for a quiet revolution which has“gone to the root of many of the concepts and values of our culture.”To understand the contributions of Taoism to humanistic psychology we must first understand the concept of ch'i (ki in Japanese). Ch'i is the vital force that permeates and flows throughout the universe. The enhancement of ch'i is central to creative expression and personal power as expressed through Chinese poetry, art, medicine, and martial arts. By gaining a better understanding of ch'i, we can gain a better understanding of interpersonal relationships and personal growth. In my work with both acute and chronic psychotics I continually noticed that an increased ability to be empathic and an increased feeling of personal power were intimately related. Those people who were willing and able to enhance their abilities to be empathic were also able to improve their level of functioning so they could be discharged. Those people who were unable to become more empathic or who were unwilling to do so (which was more often the case) usually continued at the same general level of functioning. Through my practice of meditation and Chungdokwan Taekwon-do I became aware of how ch'i directly affects daily life. There are moments in the practice of a martial art when: You and your opponent will no longer be two bodies separated physically from each other but a single entity, physically, mentally, and spiritually inseparable. Therefore the motion of your opponent may be considered to be your motion [Murphy & White, 1978, p. 34]. There are moments in a counseling relationship as well as in any interpersonal relationship when this happens also. Perhaps as the Taoists suggest, the underlying principle behind this is ch'i. If this is so, present conceptions of personal power can benefit from a greater understanding of the Taoist concept of ch'i. © 1979, Sage Publications. All rights reserved.


Department of Educational Psychology and Foundations

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