The Spanish philosopher, Xavier Zubiri, wrote a major work titled Sentient Intelligence wherein he analyzes the human act of intellective knowing. In this work he delineates the importance of a system of reference (SoR) which serves two important functions: providing a direction for intellectual inquiry and providing an experience. The Iranian born psychiatrist, Nossrat Peseschkian, creator of Positive Psychotherapy, which originated in Germany in 1968, also mentions the importance of systems of reference (SsoR) for psychological knowing and personality structure. In this article, I expound upon and develop this construct, showing how humans have many SsoR which we use in interpreting psychological experience which form our unique personalities, based upon what we learn in our environments-of-origin. These SsoR become foundations for individual personality characteristics and provide insights into personality structure. I apply Zubiri’s construct to Peseschkian’s psychological system of reference, drawing out elements of Peseschkian’s contribution to personality theory. SsoR which we learn as infants can be modified and differentiated to create healthier ones and knowing them are important for psychological understanding. Furthermore, all approaches to psychotherapy and theories of personality can benefit from knowing of these SsoR.
Keywords: positive psychotherapy, structure, systems of reference, psychological experience