An important part of Rogers’ personality theory is the nature of personal relationships.
Carl Rogers was very positive about human nature and believed that we are motivated by a single positive force, an inborn tendency to develop our positive and healthy abilities (actualization). He stressed the significance of parent-child interactions, particularly those that lead to the development of personal relationships.
Rogers was the first personality theorist to accentuate the self, which has proved to be an essential and widely studied construct. Rogers cautioned that any theory should be regarded as expendable in the light of new discoveries.
Rogers was a perceptive and effective psychotherapist who developed various important therapeutic principles and the trendy technique known as the encounter group. Yet he also had a consuming interest in empirical research, which he accredited to his need to make sense and order out of psychological phenomena.
Carl Rogers rejected Freud’s pessimistic view of human nature and argued that our inner potentials are completely positive. We have an inborn tendency to develop these healthy capacities (actualization), and we are born with the capability to value positively (or negatively) that which will actualize (or not actualize) these potentials.
However, we also have an influential need for our parents’ love (positive regard). Psychopathology takes place when parents make their affection and fostering conditional on the child’s personality meeting their standards, which causes the child to relinquish the healthy drive for actualization so as to keep the parents’ positive regard.
The child therefore interjects the parents’ standards, and tries to please these conditions of worth instead of actualizing his or her true potentials. The psychotherapist uses genuineness, understanding, and unconditional positive regard to ascertain a constructive personal relationship with clients, who learn to abandon their conditions of worth and reinstate them with their real needs and wishes.
Carl Rogers’s view of human nature was as well completely positive. He agreed that we seek to lessen such drives as hunger, thirst, sex, and oxygen deficiency. But we are much more stoutly motivated by the desire for agreeable growth experiences, including creativity, inquisitiveness, and mastery of the environment. In fact, the primary human motivation is to develop our constructive and healthy capacities (actualization):
Persons have a basically positive direction…. [It is the urge] to expand, extend, become autonomous, develop, mature….The first steps [of a child learning to walk] involve struggle, and usually pain. Often, the immediate reward involved in taking a few steps is in no way commensurate with the pain of falls and bumps….Yet, in the overwhelming majority of individuals, the forward direction of growth is more powerful than the satisfactions of remaining infantile. The child will actualize himself, in spite of the painful experiences in so doing. (Rogers, 1961, pp. 26, 35)
Rogers regarded personality as a course that occurs within the individual. Each of us exists at the center of our own private, ever-changing world of inner experience, one that can never be completely understood by anyone else.
Rogers concluded that we appraise our experiences by forming and testing appropriate hypotheses. If you identify a white powder in a small dish as salt, taste it, and find it to be sweet, the experience will rapidly shift to that of sugar. Also, how we interpret events is more significant than objective reality.
Rogers, C. R. (1961). On becoming a person: A therapist’s view of psychotherapy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.