My name is Roumen Bezergianov, and I am the author of Character Education with Chess, published as an e-book on Amazon, and translated in Bulgarian, Farsi, Slovak, and Turkish. I am a licensed professional counselor at Arizona State University Counseling Services.
I was born in Bulgaria in 1976 and immigrated to the United States in 1993. I earned my Master’s in Counseling at Arizona State University and have worked in various settings: with seriously mentally ill patients in the Phoenix area, with juveniles in detention in Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections and Maricopa County Juvenile Probation, and with patients suffering from various addictive behaviors at the Meadows in Wickenburg, Arizona.
When I first read Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, I knew that was the theoretical orientation that spoke most eloquently to me. During my work at Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, under the supervision and support of Dr. Glenn Tanita, I was able to develop a Logotherapy method using the age-old game of chess. I played chess with my patients and slowly started to talk about life, and how people approach difficult situations in life differently. Showing my young clients that they always have a degree of freedom to choose their responses using the game of chess was a very rewarding experience because they responded very positively to this intervention.
In my chess symbolism, the King stands for what is priceless in life, what cannot be bought and sold. The King you try to capture is the meaning of your life, but to capture the “big meaning” you need to determine and fulfill the particular meaning of each situation and every day of your life. The Castle in chess is the home of the mythological warrior—hard work, endurance, persistence, and consistence. The Knight is a symbol for courage and creativity because it is the only piece that can leap over other pieces in chess. The Bishop stands for the expert—the importance of picking something you are interested in and becoming an expert in it. You have one Bishop that stands on lighter squares, and one that stands on darker squares. One of them is your expertise in your external world, while the other is your expertise in your internal world. The Queen is your greatest passion and talent. The Pawn stands for patience, thankfulness, growth, development, and transformation. The empty spaces on the board symbolize the importance of emptiness in life, leaving some space during which to process and integrate experiences, grow, and just be. Viktor Frankl refers to this kind of emptiness as “centripetal leisure.” Also, emptiness in the sense of leaving the mundane, daily hassles to clarify one’s perspective. Emptiness in time, like in holidays, or in space, like in nature, serves its renewing function. There is also this yin-yang symbolism with the opponent’s pieces: for every courage there is fear, for every talent and passion there is doubt, for every hard work and persistence, there is its opposite, for every expertise there is rigidity and imposter syndrome, for every patience there is impatience, and for every creativity there is conformity. I try to convey the idea that all of that is part of being human and help my clients accept the yin-yang nature of everything human through the symbolism of the chess pieces.
It was a great inspiration for me to meet Dr. Paul Wong during the INPM conference in Vancouver in August 2018 and be able to present my work there. As a person of faith myself, I felt encouraged by Dr. Wong to make more connection between spirituality and therapy, as there is so much that therapy can borrow from spirituality, from the reverence for life idea of Albert Schweitzer when dealing with suicidal clients, to better understanding client’s internal world and helping them map it through their own cultural resources.