The greatest motivating force of the personality is the impulse to achieve self (Rogers, 1961). Although this yearning for self-realization is innate, it can be encouraged or repressed by childhood experiences and learning.
Carl Rogers emphasized the importance of the mother-child relationship as it affects the child’s evolving sense of self . If the mother satisfies the baby’s need for love, which Rogers called positive attention (the mother’s unconditional love for the baby), he will likely have a healthy personality.
If the mother conditions her love for her child to appropriate behavior ( conditional positive attention ), she will internalize that attitude and develop conditions of value. In this case, the child will feel valued only under certain conditions and will try to avoid behavior that is considered objectionable. Consequently, the notion of itself will not be fully developed. The child will not be able to express all aspects of himself because he has learned that some of these behaviors produce rejection.
Thus, the main requirement for the development of psychological health is unconditional positive attention in childhood. Ideally, the mother should show love and acceptance to the child, regardless of her behavior. The child who receives unconditional positive attention does not develop valuation conditions and thus does not have to repress any emerging part of himself. Only in this way is the person eventually able to achieve self-realization .
Self-realization consists of the highest level of psychological health . Rogers’ concept is similar, in principle, to that of Abraham Maslow , although they differ in some characteristics of psychologically healthy people.
Differences between Rogers and Maslow
For Rogers, fully functional or psychologically healthy people have these characteristics:
. Open mind to accept any kind of experience and news;
. Tendency to live each moment fully;
. Ability to be guided by one’s own instincts and not by other people’s opinions or reasons;
. Sense of freedom in thought and action;
. High degree of creativity; e
. The continued need to maximize its potential.
Rogers described fully functioning people as fulfilling and unfulfilled, to indicate that the evolution of the self is in constant motion.
This emphasis on spontaneity, flexibility and continuous capacity growth is perfectly expressed in the title of the most famous book of Rogers: Becoming Person (On Becoming a person , 1961).
The psychotherapy person – centered Rogers caused great impact on psychology . His theory of personality was equally well received, especially due to the emphasis on the importance of the individual himself.
Critics stressed the lack of specificity about the innate potential for self-realization and the acceptance of subjective conscious experiences excluding unconscious influences. Theory and therapy have generated much supportive research and are widely used in clinical settings.
Rogers was influential in the movement of human potential in the 1960s and part of the general trend towards humanizing psychology. He was elected president of APA in 1946 and received the Outstanding Award for Scientific Contribution and Professional Outstanding.