Carl Rogers was among the most significant American psychologists who are remembered for having been one of the cofounders of the humanistic dimension of psychology. As one of the pioneers in the field of psychotherapy, he came up with the person-centered theory of self-actualization as a way of understanding the nature of personality and human relationships. According to the Carl Rogers theory of self-actualization, human beings are always in the process of self-development to establish their existence. This was the foundations of the self-actualization theory which will be looked into deeply in this paper.
Early approach of Carl Rogers Self-Actualization Theory
As a psychologist, Carl Rogers was fascinated by the fact that human beings as living organisms are always striving to make their livers better. This tendency was not restricted to the daily needs but in striving to maintain, as well as, enhance the personality status of the individual emotionally. The ongoing process of growth and development is referred by Rogers as the self-actualization process (Rogers, 1959).
In the process of making the best use of our time in the world, sometimes, human beings fail in their attempts. Rogers does not blame human beings for failing and he refutes lack of desire as the cause but rather lack of inner motivation to carry on the task. Consequently, the fact that human beings are able to distinguish between good and evil makes it even easier to strive towards eliminating all evil by upholding good deeds. The yearning for good thing does not end but rather makes man venture out and take risks which are aimed at increasing the number of good things within his reach (Thorne and Rogers, 1992).
This tendency is innate among all living organisms such that it cannot be destroyed. However, the actualization tendency to do well always can be suppressed depending on the environment which the individual is exposed to prior and in the course of growing up. This force of the self-actualization theory is driven by motivation, tension and the pleasure seeking drive which aims at enabling individuals to be creative in their development of the self (Rogers, 1995).
The self according to Carl Rogers is the set of characteristics or traits which are often oozed by an individual. These are specific to the individual possessing them hence they are used to categorize people depending on the most visual character in their activities. Interactions with peers or others in society enable one to identify their self as social interactions create a good avenue for personal evaluation and awareness. The conscious and unconscious experiences of an individual are crucial in identification of the self. It is for this reason that people who grew up in loving, close knit families are more likely to demonstrate loving gestures without any fear. Consequently, their esteem and confidence is held highly as they have had a positive experience living with parents who are confident in their endeavors (Goldstein, 1995).
Carl Rogers however, regards the self as an acquired element rather than one that is innate such that infants do not possess any self but over time they develop a self. As an attempt to define the self, Carl Rogers divides self into the real and ideal self. The ideal self is what every organism and especially man strives or wishes to be. However, due to inadequacies man cannot attain the ideal self but is content with the actual self that is defined as so because it is made up of what we are or what we thin we are. These elements are shaped up by experiences more than inborn traits (Farber, 1998).
Aspects of the self-actualization theory
One of the aspects of the self-actualization theory is the element which human beings or all living organisms value as part of their well being. Positive words or deeds regardless of whether they are real or fictitious are one way that man gains as value in his live. This explains the fact that we are always making others happy by loving them so that their self-confidence and morale can be boosted. Armed with these the recipient is able to work extra hard to ensure that they do good deeds to the donor. This results in a harmonious system that is void of conflicts (Rogers, 1959).
The other aspect of the self-actualization theory is the fact that living organisms tend to posses a certain degree of self-worth or self-esteem that enables them to achieve their goals. This is mainly because as babies grow up they are treated by their parents in a way that makes them feel important hence they grow up with the same feeling. However, others are not so lucky and the positive regards are not directed their way hence they have to seek for ways of establishing their self-worth and esteem by carrying out exceptional tasks (Rogers, 1980).
Consequently, when all dimensions and aspirations of the individual go well, their real self is established which is coupled with self-confidence on capabilities. This makes the individual reach out to great heights in an attempt to prove their worth to society hence their worth and the much they can deliver in terms of good deeds enables them to determine their future self. However, when the reverse happens and the individual’s dreams are shattered, their real-self disappears and in its place a shattered self that whose being is coiled and reluctant to try other options (Jurgen and Kriz, 2006).
The self-shattered self is often accompanied by anxiety which makes the individual develop a fear that destroys any chances of the individual realizing their real self. Anxiety develops into a form of denial where the individual fails to see his/her capabilities, as well as, move on after the mistake. This acts as an obstacle for recovering from the mistake such that the disturbed emotional status derails regaining of the morale exhibited earlier on (Rogers, 1995).
Carl Rogers refereed to the condition of shattered self as psychosis where the anxious individual portrays strange behavior and it becomes equally challenging to identify their real self. At this stage, even positive regards cannot be effective in the identifying the self as the overwhelmed emotions are obstacles to the inner self which is vital in realization of the real self. Individuals who have their worth shattered are mainly those striving to attain the ideal self which is exhibited by equally exceptional deeds and a personality that is void of any errs (Rogers, 1980).
Good health which is attained by who is able to hold on to their emotional and physical well being. These are people who are able to strike a balance between the actual and ideal which is termed as congruence by Carl Rogers. The self actualization theory in psychology works best for these who are in the process of identifying their actual self. An individual who is able to realize their actual self are said to be fully functioning (Jurgen, 2006).
The fully functioning person
A fully functioning individual is open to experiences as opposed to one who is full of defensiveness. This entails seeing every experience as an opportunity to create awareness to the personality of the individual. Consequently, the individual has to exhibit openness in their feelings hence creating pathways through which sharing can take place thus help is accorded in the right way. This leads to development of congruence between experience and self to generate psychological stability that enables the individual to adopt therapy as a way of using experiences to carry on progressive realization. Good life as a process in life is based on the degree of open mindedness demonstrated by the individual, as well as, their efforts to seek therapeutic assistance (Goldstein, 1995).
A fully functioning person portrays an ability to live in the present as that is more practical than living off dreams and memories. Individuals who are able to plan for the future today and learn from their experiences are more likely to attain their self-actualization process earlier than those whose memories or illusions are obstacles in their lives. The present time enables the individual to live in reality as what counts in the future is how they conduct themselves today in e same way their past affects their present day personality (Rogers, 1959).
The other quality of fully functioning persons is those who are able to trust their self into living in the present and being open to experiences. Consequently, it involves trusting ourselves to be guided by the organismic valuing process which gives us a chance to do what feels right to make it become natural. Trusting the real self of human nature is vital to the self-actualization theory as it is the only way through which individuals can get to know of their personality (Jurgen, 2006).
Experiential feeling is the other equally crucial aspect of Carl Rogers’s self-actualization theory which pays less regard to the amount of freedom that is given to a person. However, the ability of the individual to seek out this feeling or freedom as an opportunity to explore our potential is the right direction towards self-actualization. This is a chance to prove ones creativity through engaging in activities which demonstrate beneficial use of freedom. One way of engaging in creativity is through helping others in their self-actualization process thus good deeds are withheld to all in society (Rogers, 1980).
The Carl Rogers self-actualization theory is a multidimensional concept in psychology where the ability to understand the self is based on the individuals efforts. This is accomplished by making the person understand that self-actualization is not a single day affair but rather a continuous process that is shaped up by the future and past. However, emphasis is given on the present activities and the ability of the individual to carry out fruitful interactions which will enable them gets a self awareness of their personality.
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Goldstein, K. (1995), The Organism: A Holistic Approach to Biology. New York: Zone Books
Jurgen, K. and Kriz, J. (2006), Self – Actualization. Books on Demand
Rogers, C. (1959). A Theory of Therapy, Personality and Interpersonal Relationships as Developed in the Client-centered Framework. In (ed.) S. Koch, Psychology: A Study of a Science. Vol. 3: Formulations of the Person and the Social Context. New York: McGraw Hill
Rogers, C. (1980). A Way of Being. Boston: Houghton Mifflin
Rogers, C.R. (1995), On becoming a person: a therapist's view of psychotherapy.
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Thorne, B. and Rogers, C. (1992), Key Figures in Counseling and Psychotherapy series. Sage publications.