The Rational Person
By Peter Bloch
A common definition of rational thought is “the mind’s power of drawing conclusions and determining right and truth”, this being accomplished through “the process of forming conclusions, judgments, or inferences from facts or premises”. In the case of the sciences at least, it has been suggested that the process of rational thought “must be independent of emotions, personal feelings or any kind of instincts” (A.C. Grayling). However, whilst this last definition may work well for certain types of scientific enquiry (although some of the greatest scientists and philosophers of science have disputed this), it is clear that for much of human experience, and certainly for human relating, such a perspective is far too limiting, even if it were possible to achieve.
In this era of remarkable scientific achievement, there has naturally been a tendency for the ways of thinking that have been so successful in science to be extrapolated into other areas of life, in which they are less effective. People who are able to think well in this narrow definition of ‘rational’ are well respected and rewarded. However, the search for objectivity in science, part of its fundamental methodology, may make people lose sight of other aspects of rational thought that are vital for human functioning.
This is because invisible and intangible things, essential to all that it is to be a full human being, but not easily quantified and measured, may be diminished or excluded by a narrow definition of the word ‘rational’. These include ideas, values and meanings. To deny the importance of these to being human is to make of ourselves and others as lifeless machines, useful for certain functions, but little more. This ‘impersonal’ thinking all but nullifies (“to make futile or of no consequence”) what it is to be a full person.
One consequence of the modern tendency towards materialistic, quantitative, mechanistic and deterministic thinking, so successful in understanding much of the universe but so inadequate for the complete understanding of the person, may be a weakening of our sense of ourselves as living persons to be Met. Instead we may come to perceive ourselves and others as objects to be used, and to be repaired when broken. When considering the health of a person, this can lead to an emphasis on studying a person by ‘objective’ means, as one might an inanimate but complex machine, rather than as a person best understood through a process of relating, requiring the full personal involvement of another human being. This may cause us to become less well, because we are not experiencing and using ourselves, nor being experienced and used by others, as we really are, as full persons. It may deny to us the most important sources of good Health, in both the narrow and in the broader senses.
To live a healthy life, we are dependent upon many types of rational thought. When deciding what to eat or who to take as a friend, and even in order to solve a mathematical puzzle, we may benefit from a range of ways of thinking including logic, instinct, imagination and intuition. In addition to purely cognitive skills, these require of us other human skills, including the ability to know what it is that we think and want, free from the interference of others, and the ability to relate deeply and genuinely with other people. This is why so many of the greatest philosophers throughout history have concluded that self-knowledge, the ability to be true to oneself, and an openness to meeting other people as they are; that these are the foundations of the “rational life”. In order to function at our very best as persons, our complete rational intelligence is needed for all that we think and do.
All of the values and meanings that a person holds are founded upon their conception of themselves, and of how they stand in relation to everyone and everything else. Therefore, in order to be Rational in this broader sense, it is necessary (in addition to the common meaning of the word) to have both a clear sense of one’s own values and meanings, distinct from the values and meanings of others, and a perception of the underlying connection that exists between all people and things. It is only then that we are free to enter into a full relationship with ourselves and between ourselves and others, upon which Health in the fullest sense depends.
Most of us have moments of clarity when we find that, if only briefly, we are able to perceive ourselves and others as we really are, so that we know what is of importance to us and what is not; and we may become aware that most of our lives are not lived in accord with these priorities. Yet, it is in these moments that we are truly free to move in the direction of living our lives as a ‘Rational Person’ in this ideal, fullest and broadest sense: able to experience a relationship with ourselves and with others founded upon honesty, intimacy and real meaning, and to pursue our work in life with interest, enthusiasm and joy.
Although it is more than possible for a person to suffer for a lack of ability to think rationally in the common meaning, it is a central goal of our educational system, and a requirement for most of the modern professions, that we are able to function adequately in this way. On the other hand, many of us suffer greatly for our difficulties in experiencing ourselves as full human beings, alive to ourselves, and open to deep and fulfilling relationships with others, a vital aspect of our intelligence. It is for this reason that it is the primary task of the modern Healer to reassure another through an experience of being Met as a full person (the definition of the Healing relationship) that the practical philosophy of Healing can, and will, Heal a person.
The principles and practice of Bloch Healing are rational in the common meaning: the fundamental principles underpinning BH have been expounded by some of the greatest philosophical minds throughout human history, and in modern times most especially in the work of the major humanistic philosophers and psychologists. The practice of these principles, both in terms of process and outcomes, has been subjected to considerable modern scientific research through the work of some of the most noted academic psychologists of the last seventy years, and more recently in other fields, including Education, Medicine and the Social Sciences.
In Bloch Healing these principles are applied through ‘hands-on’ contact in a manner drawn directly from experience in the teaching of the Alexander Technique. This method allows for a sensitive and subtle therapeutic contact with another person, without the need to do something to them physically, for the purpose of communicating thoughts and intentions with effectiveness and efficiency through the medium of touch.
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