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Wonder: The Actualizing Tendency

with photographer Susie Lang & artist Patty Miller

My mask of the Actualizer represents what Carl Rogers, father of Humanistic Psychology, coined, The Actualizing Tendency. This is the impulse to grow towards self-actualization regardless of external (and internal!) circumstances. It’s the part that strives towards the light, even when little light can be found. For me, it’s the part that keeps me moving forward to ever deeper insights, revelations, and understandings. It compels me to keep exploring, trying new projects, experimenting with the next idea.

I’ve wanted to experiment with body painting for many years, so bringing this mask to life for a photo shoot was a perfect opportunity. I solicited the help of artist Patty Miller to expand the art work of the mask onto my body. (My two decades+ as a massage practitioner made the getting touched and painted all over a non-issue.) And my dear friend, photographer Susie Lang, used her skills to help capture the essence of this character.

The weather was ideal, partly cloudy with a slight breeze. The body paint felt like a second perfect-fitting skin. Allowing the character to surface offered a deep sense of freedom as I explored moving in, around, and over the rocks, roots, and trees. At first Patty tried to reapply the body paint because it easily rubbed off when I moved against anything. But soon, following the impulse of the Actualizer’s character by rolling in the dirt and mud became a more simple and effective way of “touching up.”

One interesting moment was when I found myself entering a large cave created by the roots of a sycamore tree. The Actualizer’s inclination was to crawl right in to find an evening home there. However, having encountered black widow webs at the entrance, an Overseer part of myself kicked in to direct otherwise.

I’ve studied Rogers’ work for many years and have been part of, and facilitated, many groups that practiced his Person Centered Approach—which is committed to the tenants of being genuine, and having empathy and positive regard to self and others. So, it was very exciting to try to bring the energy, the inner push, of the Actualizer to life. I’m grateful to Patty and Susie for helping make this long-time dream come true!

Photos by Susie Lang