Carl Rogers

75

Carl Rogers : biography

8 January 1902 – 4 February 1987

Additionally, Rogers is known for practicing "unconditional positive regard," which is defined as accepting a person "without negative judgment of …. [a person’s] basic worth."Barry, P. (2002). Mental Health and Mental Illness. (7th ed.) New York: Lippincott.

Development of the personality

With regard to development, Rogers described principles rather than stages. The main issue is the development of a self-concept and the progress from an undifferentiated self to being fully differentiated.

In the development of the self-concept, he saw conditional and unconditional positive regard as key. Those raised in an environment of unconditional positive regard have the opportunity to fully actualize themselves. Those raised in an environment of conditional positive regard feel worthy only if they match conditions (what Rogers describes as conditions of worth) that have been laid down for them by others.

The fully functioning person

Optimal development, as referred to in proposition 14, results in a certain process rather than static state. He describes this as the good life, where the organism continually aims to fulfill its full potential. He listed the characteristics of a fully functioning person (Rogers 1961):

  1. A growing openness to experience – they move away from defensiveness and have no need for subception (a perceptual defense that involves unconsciously applying strategies to prevent a troubling stimulus from entering consciousness).
  2. An increasingly existential lifestyle – living each moment fully – not distorting the moment to fit personality or self-concept but allowing personality and self-concept to emanate from the experience. This results in excitement, daring, adaptability, tolerance, spontaneity, and a lack of rigidity and suggests a foundation of trust. "To open one’s spirit to what is going on now, and discover in that present process whatever structure it appears to have" (Rogers 1961)
  3. Increasing organismic trust – they trust their own judgment and their ability to choose behavior that is appropriate for each moment. They do not rely on existing codes and social norms but trust that as they are open to experiences they will be able to trust their own sense of right and wrong.
  4. Freedom of choice – not being shackled by the restrictions that influence an incongruent individual, they are able to make a wider range of choices more fluently. They believe that they play a role in determining their own behavior and so feel responsible for their own behavior.
  5. Creativity – it follows that they will feel more free to be creative. They will also be more creative in the way they adapt to their own circumstances without feeling a need to conform.
  6. Reliability and constructiveness – they can be trusted to act constructively. An individual who is open to all their needs will be able to maintain a balance between them. Even aggressive needs will be matched and balanced by intrinsic goodness in congruent individuals.
  7. A rich full life – he describes the life of the fully functioning individual as rich, full and exciting and suggests that they experience joy and pain, love and heartbreak, fear and courage more intensely. Rogers’ description of the good life:

Incongruence

Rogers identified the "real self" as the aspect of one’s being that is founded in the actualizing tendency, follows organismic valuing, needs and receives positive regard and self-regard. It is the "you" that, if all goes well, you will become. On the other hand, to the extent that our society is out of sync with the actualizing tendency, and we are forced to live with conditions of worth that are out of step with organismic valuing, and receive only conditional positive regard and self-regard, we develop instead an "ideal self". By ideal, Rogers is suggesting something not real, something that is always out of our reach, the standard we cannot meet. This gap between the real self and the ideal self, the "I am" and the "I should" is called incongruity.