Behavior: Human Potential: The Revolution in Feeling

  • Share
  • Read Later

IN an Evanston, Ill., high school, students of English Teacher Thomas Klein shrouded themselves in bed sheets and crawled blindly around the floor. At a body-movement session in Beverly Hills, Calif., participants took turns pummeling a sofa pillow with feral ferocity. From a four-story midtown Manhattan brownstone, the sound of screaming can be heard all day long. It comes from patients of Psychiatrist Daniel Casriel, who believes that such release is therapeutic. In Escondido, Calif., a group of naked men and women, utter strangers, step into what their leader, Beverly Hills Psychologist Paul Bindrim, calls a "womb pool"—a warm Jacuzzi bath. They are permitted to hug and kiss each other, but intercourse is out.

To many Americans, these activities typify a leaderless, formless and wildly eclectic movement that is variously called sensitivity training, encounter, "therapy for normals," the bod biz, or the acidless trip. Such terms merely describe the more sensational parts of a whole that is coming to be known as the human potentials movement —a quest conducted in hundreds of ways and places, to redefine and enrich the spirit of social man.

To reach man's unawakened resources, the movement focuses on the actions and interactions of individuals in a group. In this, it has borrowed freely from psychology's past, from such extenders of Freudian theory as Karen Horney and Harry Stack Sullivan, who realized that no individual can be defined, and no emotional disorder healed, without an examination of the interchange between one man and all the others in his life. Society itself is defined by the group. The movement's exponents argue that by expanding the individual's self-awareness and sense of well-being within the group, a new feeling of community develops that strengthens both the individual and the group.

Weekend Marathon. The human potentials movement has already touched the major social institutions: church, factory, school and state. In a study for the Carnegie Corporation, Donald H. Clark, associate professor of education at New York's City University, reports that the movement has permeated every level of education, from kindergarten to graduate school and beyond. Encounter sessions or T (for training) groups have been held, sometimes as parts of the curriculum, in dozens of colleges and universities, among them Harvard, Columbia, Boston University and the New School for Social Research. Big business has enlisted its employees in human potentials centers in ever increasing numbers, and many companies now operate programs of their own. In some, white employees don blackface, black employees whiteface, presumably to encourage the feeling that the difference in the races is, after all, only skin-deep.

Aided by widespread publicity, including the movie Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice and Jane Howard's bestseller, Please Touch, the movement is spreading explosively. Two years ago, when California's Esalen Institute first sought to export its own brand of the new gospel east, 90 curious New Yorkers showed up for a five-day encounter group in Manhattan. A similar event last year drew 850; last April, 6,000. Since January 1969, when Donald Clark counted 37 "growth centers"—established sites for the development of human or group potentials—the census has risen past 100.

  1. Previous Page
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. 5
  7. 6
  8. 7
  9. 8