A Way of Being
When Carl Rogers first described his person-centered approach to personality and therapy, it was a somewhat revolutionary theory. Unlike, Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic view and the behaviorists' rather impersonal ideology, Rogers suggested that human existence was essentially a life-long process of positive growth. As such, the prognosis for becoming a more complete, functional person through therapeutic intervention was not only good but likely.
Rogers and the Two Human Tendencies
Rogers indicates that there are basically two human tendencies:
- The first suggests that it is characteristic for all organic life to seek actualization, or to grow and develop toward the goal of perfection. In other words, the person strives to be all he or she can be with regard to fulfillment and self-regulation.
- The second tendency concerns formation; we are formative in that we strive to be become more complex and to be more effectively functioning organisms. Our life's journey is not one of ultimate deterioration but one of inner growth, fulfillment, and complexity. This would include humankind's spiritual and conscious development.
How is this achieved? What guides human development? "Individuals have within themselves vast resources for self-understanding and for altering their self-concepts, basic attitudes, and self-directed behavior; these resources can be tapped if a definable climate of facilitative psychological attitudes can be provided".
3 Elements of Growth
In order for the person to work toward growth, he or she must exist in an environment containing three elements. The first element Rogers suggests is that of genuineness. Thus, reality for that individual must include simultaneously what is being felt at the intimate level of emotions, what is being expressed, and what is being displayed in the experiential world surrounding that person.
The second element is that of unconditional positive regard. This suggests that the individual must be in an environment in which he or she feels the freedom to express his or her true feelings without the fear of rejection or control.
Rogers calls the third element "empathic understanding."People in the individual's world must communicate that they have truly heard what the person is trying to express with regard to feelings and thoughts. This third element is not satisfied by the simple acknowledgment that the individual has communicated with the significant others involved. Rather, those other individuals must have an intimate level of understanding about what has been expressed.
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