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Location: College Park, Maryland, United States

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Carl Rogers & Humanistic Psychology?

Carl Rogers' Person-Centered Theory is the first of the Humanistic Theories I'm learning about in 432. His general assumptions in his theory of personality are: (1) people are innately good. (2) people strive to be fully functioning, AKA the best they can be, and (3) that people have an actualizing tendency, or a drive towards self-actualization. His personality theory has the "self" as its central notion; Rogers assumes that a person is born with as personality that set and unique at birth. He believes in two "self"s - the first being the "real self" which contain's one's inner experiences, including thoughts, wishes, desires, skills, behaviors, etc. Self-actualization is defined by him as the real self being unifed and whole. He says if a person is seen and valued for who they are, they will have their real self whole. To achieve this, a person needs unconditional positive regard - in most cases coming from their caregiver/parents - or respect and prizing for the individual. His view of maladaptive beahvior, then, is incongruence, or the gap that one feels inside when there is a discrepency between one's "real self" and one's experience in the world... or if there is a gap between what a person feels they are expected to be and who the actually are. This incongruence, according to Rogers, develops when parents place conditions of worth on a child, which causes the child to lose the true sense of how she or he feels and then develop their false sense - who they need to become in the eyes of the parent. This false self is the second self Rogers identifies, and makes the child feel like she or he must project that false self to the world to receive attention love and affection. It is this incongruence that produces anxiety and other psycholocial distress which may lead a person into needing therapy.

SO if you managed to swallow all of that and still care, I now need to vent my thoughts about Rogers' theory. Thought #1: Are people innately good? To begin pondering this, one might ask how to define good. Well.. what IS innate goodness? I'm not sure I know. What is good to me is not good to others. At what age do we develop a sense of good and bad? Are we talking moral good? Good for the world? Good for myself? I might decide to pursue a career path to make lots of money because being rich is "good" for me - but then maybe the job I hold is not benefiting others and I become some tyrant CEO type that cheats other people... am I good? I'm being "good" to me but not to others. On the other hand, if I'm more selfless in life but end up poor and unable to support my family as well as I would like, am I good because I've chosen to do good for people around me? Or am I bad because I was irresponsible in considering my family's needs? So what does Rogers MEAN when he says we are innately good? And then I have to tie in my religious ideas, which tell me that people aren't really innately good... or are they? People are sinful, by definition. We aren't perfect, we can't be. But does that mean we are BAD? Rogers did not suggest people are innately perfect, or that if children received unconditional positive regard they would develop into perfect individuals. And then we must determine the meaning of perfect, which of course in my case would be sinless, but if a person managed to abstain from sin (not that anyone can) would that make them GOOD? It was interesting for me to learn that before becoming a psychologist, Rogers was training to be a minister. I wonder how his ideas of God and religion tied in to his theory of innate goodness.
I can depart from my objections with Rogers' first general assumption only by concluding that despite one's definition of good, in hunaistic person-centered therapy, the therapist is to show their patient unconditional positive regard; or rather treat the person as if they are innately good. In this way, the defintion of good is almost unimportant, because the point is to treat the person as if no matter what flaws they may have, that their root and intentions and innermost self is positive, and good, and not evil.
My next big hold-up with Rogers' theory is the central notion of a "real self." I can see in myself and in my peers how people have selves and parts of themselves which they feel they ought to disclose, but my objections to the "real self" are two-fold. One, how can we assume that a person is born with their personality fully intact?, and secondly, how does Rogers handle the idea of absolute truth if one's innate real self is not to be challenged?
First I'll discuss the assumption that personality is set by birth. At INFACNY, you say, my personality, values, beliefs, and ideals, are intrinsic and already put in place? What does this say about nuture? That nuture is maladaptive if it ever go against who I was already "born" to be? Can I really believe that every ounce of who I am and what I hold to be true and what I value was set in stone before birth? Doesn't that go contrary to free will and people being able to grow and change? Honestly, it's kind of just downright disturbing to think about, must less to believe or put into practice.
Two, if my "real self" is who I really am and I should be given unconditional positive regard for that self, does this mean that nothing about what I believe can be wrong? How then, is there any truth? Is all discipline and reprimand from caregivers then thought to be wrong? For instance, if a person's innermost self has the desires and urges to murder, should that not be stifled? Should we not oppress urges that we have seen to be unfit for healthy living? And is it then wrong for parents to teach children morals, ideals, or even religion? In a religious aspect, if the core of who a person is from birth does not seem to believe in a certain faith, should their parents then not encourage that child/person to explore a religion contrary to what is intrinsic to them? This does not only apply to religion but to any truths. If my "real self" can't make sense of laws of physics or emotions, should I count them as false to "me" and true to only who can make sense of them? I guess I'm overreacting or being vicious about this but it was just very hard to swallow!
At the same time, I completley understand parts of Rogers' theory. For instance, the idea of incongruence and the gap between how one actually feels and how one feels they are expected to be is a very real struggle in my life. In thinking about my future and a career, I have often confused what people think would be a good career with what I would be most happy doing. Or, being rather religious, I sometimes feel a push to have certain political or social views which I am not entirely sure I believe. Going to a fairly liberal college, I also get the opposite push, and get looked down upon for some of my more conservative views. In the mix of both sides I often have the incongruent feeling of trying to figure out what I believe, and have trouble distinguishing my real self from a variety of other people's views and demands.
BY THE WAY I really had like 3 hours of sleep so I am pretty much to the point of incoherent rambling. Congrats to anyone who got all the way through this post, and I am looking forward to hearing any thoughts. I'll continue at a later date when I have less work to do and more clear thoughts in my head :-)

1 Comments:

Anonymous gemma said...

hey there. just came across ur web page about carl rogers. what are you studying at college? im from Scotland and studying child care and have to do stuff on three theorists and one i chose was rogers - altho thats only cause a clever girl in my class chose him!! soooo this brings me to searching the web for some easy stuff to fill up an hour of an exam!
anyway this is probably one of the most random emails ul get but hey just to let u know that u aint the only 1 lost at the mo!!!
xgemz

11:57 AM  

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