Carl Rogers's Theory of Personality

Carl Rogers was a humanist and psychotherapist. He believed if an individual attained self-actualisation they would be a fully functioning person living "the good life". By this, he means that the individual would have a positive healthy psychological outlook, trust their own feelings and have congruence in their lives between self and experience (Rogers 2004).

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Carl Roger's theory is phenomenological and idiographic. He believed that human nature is "exquisitely rational" (Rogers, 2004 p 194). His theory came from his work as a psychotherapist. The aim of the therapy is to facilitate a reintegration of the self-concept. Rogers believed that people know what is causing the psychological imbalance in their lives and that deep down they know what they need to do to regain their balance or self-actualisation to become "Fully Functioning" persons (Rogers 2004). Psychotherapy is the change agent that assists individuals in making personal changes to regain balance and achieve their potential or self-actualisation.

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A Theory of Personality

Self-Actualisation: Rogers believed humans are born with a desire to be the best they can. Self-actualisation is the motivating force to achieving their full potential. As infants the main goal towards self-actualisation is to have needs met e.g. to be fed.

Real Self: Defined as the underlying organismic self: What a person is capable of becoming if they lived in an ideal world. An individual would have lived in an environment of unconditional positive regard. Their parents would have accepted and loved them just as they are. Such individuals would be psychologically healthy with a positive unconditional self-regard and the potential to attain self-actualisation. Unfortunately, such environments are rare and as result people develop
conditions of worth.

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Self-Concept: A person's perception of themselves is shaped by how others see them. The self is the central construct in this theory. It is based largely on life experiences, social evaluation and the attitude of the individual's significant other. If the individual experiences conditional positive regard from their parents, the individual develops their parent's values and conditions of worth. If self-concept is based on the values of the significant other this can give rise to incongruence between self and experience.

Self-concept and conditions of worth are linked together and are important. They are guidelines as to how people behave towards others because people value their opinion of themselves above their own. This affects their decision making and can result in them doing things to please others rather than satisfying their own needs. Conditions of worth reduce people's self-confidence, trust in their own feelings and can affect their potential towards self-actualisation (Rogers 1986).

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The Development of Incongruence between Self and Experience

The need for self-regard or approval is enormous. Children are influenced by their parents and strive for their approval by doing things to please them which make them feel more loved. However, if their behaviour does not meet with their approval they feel less loved. They may then experience incongruence between self and experience and this may lead to psychological maladjustment hindering personal growth towards self-actualisation (Rogers as cited in Patterson 1977).


Positive Regard: "To feel that one is understood is to feel that one has made some kind of a positive difference in the experience of another" (Rogers, 2004 p 343). If the individual experiences unconditional love and does not develop conditions of worth there is congruence between self and experience.

The process of reintegration: In order for this to be successful, the individual must experience the feelings of empathy, understanding and unconditional positive regard from a significant other. These feelings reduce conditions of worth and encourage unconditional positive regard for others. They increase self-regard and re-establishe congruence between self and experience (Maltby, Day and Macaskill, 2010).

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self-esteem.jpgAs a result of his work as a psychotherapist, Carl Rogers developed his theory of personality and that is for individuals to become "Fully Functioning" persons. The "Fully Functioning" person according to Rogers is psychologically healthy, open to new experiences and aware of their own feelings and those of others. They live in the now, fully immersed in their experience and not restricted by conditions of worth or self-concepts. They are not afraid to make decisions based on their own experiences, and they trust their own feelings of doing what is right and will accept the consequences. They accept that life changes and they welcome the opportunity to use their creativity in adapting to the new changes.

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