Western Behavioral Sciences Institute, Carl Rogers, and the Great La Jolla Love-In
My parents still live in the same house in La Jolla we moved to in 1963. When I was in high school I started working on a psychology project and, since it was a time when I knew no limitations, I decided to interview Carl Rogers about it. Rogers then was associated with the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute. It was only a few blocks away, so it was a simple matter for me to walk over to it. Then as now, Rogers was considered a seminal theorist on interpersonal dynamics. Maybe it just was an aspect of his approach, but he seemed interested in what I was doing, which involved the logic of conversation (a topic I later pursued in more depth at Berkeley with Paul Grice). So what started off as an informal exchange of ideas grew into something approaching a series of tutorials. As a result of which I became well acquainted with his philosophy and technique and, not surprisingly, became a confirmed Rogerian – which I still embrace today.
My memories of then coalesce around a gigantic love-in held either in late 1967 or early 1968 at the La Jolla Cove (I wish I could remember the exact date but it has been lost in the fog of memory). Hundreds of people showed up for it and the park was packed to capacity. It was tranquil and peaceful – plenty of weak marijuana being smoked, but no unruliness or behavioral incidents. There was a head-shop called The Plebeian on Pearl Avenue, where we would buy concert tickets and records such as the notorious Bob Dylan “Great White Wonder” album. We also frequently would cruise down Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach, where there was a counterpart establishment called The Black (which, astonishingly, still is there). Occasionally I would play guitar at open mic night at the Heritage, which was a coffee-house type of establishment in Mission Beach. We went to see Eldridge Cleaver speak at the then-much-smaller-than-it-is-now UCSD. The atmosphere of the times was profoundly affected by the human potential movement, itself an outgrowth of Esalen-esque gestalt therapy of Fritz Perls, William Schutz et al. That in turn is the direct ancestor of today’s “mindfulness” movement as advanced by David Abram, Jon Kabat- Zinn et al. It is tempting to situate Rogers in that continuum. He was resistant, however, to the pop-culturalization of what he was doing, which he envisioned as a serious, empirically-supported approach. I later lived in the late 1970s on Coast Boulevard, a few blocks south from the Cove. I would walk down there pretty much every evening, absorbing the sea breezes and awash in a sea of endless possibility.