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Profile: Laurie Cox.

Laurie Cox, recipient of the 2003 Talbot Winchell Award for furthering general semantics, is a remarkable humanitarian who began using general semantics to help resolve his own "'psychological'" problems, and later became a dedicated general semantics teacher, counselor, and author--as well as co-founder of the Australian Society for General Semantics. I first met Laurie at an IGS general semantics Seminar-Workshop in 1989, and I enjoyed his warm personality, his appetite for learning, his enthusiastic sharing of ideas, and his concern for the welfare of others. We had many wonderful discussions. On learning that Laurie had received the Winchell Award, I asked him to tell ETC readers about himself, and I was touched by his frank and open response. Here, in his own words, Laurie tells us about his life and general semantics. --PDJ


I believe that my long term study of general semantics has been a major factor in recovering from a damaging family upbringing.

I was born illegitimate and my mother's ultimate marriage to a man who was not my biological father had many unfortunate 'neurotic' results.

One of these was the failure of my first marriage. I lacked skills in handling interpersonal difficulties or responding to sensitive issues.

In 1952, shortly after my marriage breakup, I was introduced to general semantics and read Stuart Chase's The Tyranny of Words and Irving Lee's Language Habits in Human Affairs. I then enrolled in Wendell Johnson's correspondence course, based on People in Quandaries, through Iowa University, gaining an "A" grade two years later in the final exam.

The following year my ex-wife remarried. Her choice was a man whom I thoroughly disliked. I correctly predicted that this would exclude me from my two children. I experienced some depression and embarked on a long term psychotherapy with a psychiatrist. By this time I was also reading Science and Sanity.

The psychiatrist was unique at that time, in the sense that he combined group with individual therapy. Because of my background, including my skill as a shorthand typist, I acquired the role of recorder of groups, both small and large, in the psychiatrist's practice. This proved, for me, a very valuable experience over a number of years. It was followed by some years of further counseling by a psychologist who took a wide-ranging cognitive and social science approach. This relationship might partly be classified as a friendship in which we shared a great deal. It culminated by my returning to Sydney University where I gained first a bachelor's, then a master's degree in anthropology.

In 1979, I met Betty, who became my second wife. In that year we attended a theatrical production which turned out to be personally very significant. The production was a factual representation of the life of a New Zealand female novelist who was diagnosed with a terminal illness. On hearing the diagnosis the novelist said, "I hope I can finish the work I must do before I die."

On hearing these words I became ill. I had to be helped from the theater by Betty and a member of staff.

The message was clear: I had to do something with my acquired understanding of general semantics. It led directly to my running short courses in communication with adult educational bodies. These ran eight to ten weeks, one evening a week. At the end of each course I invited some participants to join me in a follow-up course which I organized.

In 1986, Betty and I went to England where I met two well-trained general semanticists, Lawrence Inkster and George Doris. I met them again on our second trip two years later, when they urged me to enroll in an Institute annual Seminar-Workshop. I attended this in 1989. I made friendships with many at this seminar, including Paul Johnston, who invited me to spend a few days as the guest of himself and his wife June in the San Francisco area.

Returning to Australia I followed the advice of Paul and others and contacted Andrew Lohrey, an Australian friend and colleague of members of the International Society. Andrew and I co-founded the Australian Society for General Semantics. Andrew's idea being to abbreviate the name to A.G.S. My small group of students who continued from their initial short courses became the foundation members of the new society.

Thus general semantics has been a very significant factor in my personal growth. In my present leading (or facilitating) a general semantics group, I am using Bruce and Susan Kodish's book Drive Yourself Sane. In my future work I plan to combine their writings with General Semantics in Psychotherapy by Isabel Caro and Charlotte Schuchardt Read.
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Publication:ETC.: A Review of General Semantics
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Jun 22, 2003
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