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The Self-Concept Theory of Carl Rogers Cheat Sheet by

This is only a summary of chapter 12 in the textbook Personology: From individual to ecosystem by C Moore, HG Viljoen and WF Meyer. Thus all credit goes to the publishers of the textbook.


Person­ality theory is based on three central assump­tions
1. The individual has constr­uctive potential;
2. The nature of the individual is basically goal-d­irected
3. The individual is capable of changing
The individual person- the central figure in the actual­isation of his own potential, with the enviro­nment playing a facili­tating or inhibiting role.

The View of the Person Underlying the Theory

Rogers’ fundam­ental view of the person is humani­sti­c–p­hen­ome­nol­ogical.
Humanistic Approach
- He emphasises the study of the individual as a whole and the active role that each person plays in actual­ising his or her own inherent potential.
- Indivi­duals can be trusted trusted to follow a positive course in order to realise their potential and to become the best that they can be.
- Healthy people are aware of their positive and negative attrib­utes, and that the constr­uctive will triumph over the destru­ctive.
- The enviro­nment plays no more than a facili­tating or inhibiting role in the realis­ation of the indivi­dual’s potential.
Phenom­eno­logical Approach
- The part played by people’s subjective experience of their world, impact on behaviour of indivi­duals’ self-c­oncept.
- The ideal enviro­nment is one created by circum­stances that allow indivi­duals to see themselves exactly as they are, and in which all their potential can be realised.

The Structure of the Person­ality

The organism
The total individual with all physical and psycho­logical functions, is the central figure who interacts constantly with the dynami­cally changing world in which he or she lives.
The phenomenal field
Represents the totality of a person’s percep­tions and experi­ences, and includes:
a. Percep­tions of objects or events outside the person, and the meanings attached to them
b. Inner experi­ences and meanings that relate to the person himself or herself.
The self-c­oncept
A specific entity of a self that is composed of self-p­erc­eption as well as percep­tions of relati­onships with others and combined with values that are attached to these percep­tions.
The self-c­oncept consists of a relatively stable pattern of integrated percep­tions, it is flexible and change­able.
The ideal self is the self-c­oncept the individual would most like to have.
Psycho­log­ically healthy person
- The ideal self is more or less realistic, attainable and in harmony with the self-c­oncept.
- The ideal self provides valuable guidelines for growth and develo­pment because it reveals the charac­ter­istics and ideals that the individual strives towards.
Psycho­log­ically unhealthy person
- The ideal self apparently represents extreme forms of the ideals set by others for the person, and it is not in tune with the real potential of the indivi­dual.

The Dynamics of the Person­ality

Congruent functi­oning- when the indivi­dual’s self-c­oncept corres­ponds with his or her potential
Incong­ruent functi­oning- when the indivi­dual’s self-c­oncept does not correspond with his or her potential.
The role that the self-c­oncept plays in perception and experience and how it affects behaviour.
The Actual­isation Tendency
The purpose of all life to become that self which one truly is.
The actual­ising tendency- an inherent tendency of organisms to maintain themselves and to expand or grow in order to become what they can be.
- The psycho­log­ically healthy or congruent person is someone whose self-c­oncept and actual potential corres­pond. The actual­isation of the self-c­oncept (self-­act­ual­isa­tion) and the actual­isation of the whole organism will be in harmony.
- The psycho­log­ically unhealthy or incong­ruent person, the self-c­oncept does not correspond with his or her actual potential.
The Need for Positive Regard
The need for positive regard from others
- Concerns the human being’s basic need for approval, apprec­iation, love, admiration and respect.
- To fill this need, the individual sometimes adopts the wishes and values of another as his or her own and behaves in a particular way to earn esteem.
The need for positive self-r­egard
- People require that esteem from others in order to esteem and feel positive about themselves
- Plays an important role in determ­ining individual behaviour.
Congruence and Incong­ruence
Congruence- the ideal in which the individual is open to and conscious of all his or her experi­ences and can incorp­orate them into the self-c­oncept.
A condition of worth- a value taken over from others in order to be accepted
Incong­ruence- when experi­ences contrary to the self-c­oncept form part of the phenomenal field
- Indivi­duals can exclude incong­ruent experi­ences from their consci­ousness by denying them, or they might distort the experi­ences to make them fit the self-c­oncept.
The Role of the Self-c­oncept in Experience
1. Experi­ences may be ignored simply because at that moment they are irrelevant to the person’s needs. At another time, however, the same experience might well be allowed into consci­ous­ness.
2. Experi­ences may be symbolised when they correspond with the indivi­dual’s needs.
3. Experi­ences are denied access to consci­ousness because they are contrary to the self-c­oncept.
Subception- how someone determines whether an experience that he or she does not allow into consci­ousness is a threat.
The Role of the Self-C­oncept in Determ­ining Behaviour
The denied needs become so strong that they evoke behaviour in which they are satisfied directly, and not through channels that correspond with the self-c­oncept.
Indivi­duals function ideally when their self-c­oncepts are congruent with their needs and feelings.

The Develo­pment of the Person­ality

The areas of human functi­oning:
- The intera­ction between the person’s experience and his or her self-c­oncept.
- The crucial role of the self-c­oncept in determ­ining behaviour.
Organismic evaluation process
The organism’s functi­oning is directed towards fulfilling its own needs, and it judges that which is advant­ageous as positive and that which is disadv­ant­ageous as negative
Deals with satisfying only the indivi­dual’s own basic needs and not those of others.
The self-c­oncept develops gradually, as a result of the indivi­dual’s intera­ctions with the social enviro­nment in particular and as a conseq­uence of the evaluation of others, and then begins to exert an influence on functi­oning.
The Develo­pment of The Self-C­oncept
- Indivi­duals attach specific meanings to experi­ences that involve them and that these are incorp­orated into the self-c­oncept.
- Meanings and values which are not based on people’s own experi­ences are also incorp­orated into their self-c­onc­epts.
Signif­icant Others- people who are closely connected to an individual and who help satisfy his or her need for positive regard play an important role in the develo­pment of that indivi­dual’s self-c­oncept.
Uncond­itional Positive Regard
- are accepted by signif­icant others for what they are, just as they are.
- need not full specific requir­ements to gain the esteem of the signif­icant others and are therefore able to acknow­ledge all their needs and express their feelings
- indivi­duals’ self-c­oncepts are free to include all their experi­ences and there is congruence between their potential and their self-c­onc­epts.
Uncond­itional acceptance leads to complete actual­isation of potential and allows indivi­duals to realise all their innate abilities.
Condit­ional Positive Regard
- the ideal enviro­nment in which indivi­duals’ potential can be fully actual­ised.
- every person will sometimes experience non-ac­cep­tance by signif­icant others and will feel worthy only when he or she has fulfilled certain conditions laid down by them.
The more condit­ional positive regard indivi­duals receive, the more they include conditions of worth in their self-c­oncepts and the more incong­ruent they become.

Optimal Develo­pment

Fully Functi­oning
The wider the spectrum of experience available to people and the more integrated these experi­ences are in the self-c­oncept, the better they will know themselves and be able to use their abilities and talents, choose constr­uctive action and realise their potential fully
The fully functi­oning person displays the following charac­ter­istics
1. A Growing Openness to Experience
- concerned with a process of psychic adaptation where-by he or she moves away from defens­iveness and is increa­singly open to experi­ence.
2. An Increa­singly Existe­ntial Lifestyle
- allows the person to approach experience without a precon­ceived structure, permitting the experience itself to form and reform the structure from moment to moment
3. Increasing Organismic Trust
- they trust themselves increa­singly when choosing behaviour approp­riate to a specific situation.
4. Freedom of Choice
- people who have to make career choices, are open to both the positive and the negative aspects of their abilities and to all relevant inform­ation available to them.
5. Creativity
- this kind of person will adapt constr­uct­ively to society but without being a confor­mist; he or she will be able to adjust to changing enviro­nments relatively easily and in a creative way.
6. Basic Reliab­ility and Constr­uct­iveness
- is basically good and open to a wide variety of his or her own needs and to the demands of the enviro­nment and society, can be trusted to act positively and constr­uct­ively.
7. A Rich, full life
- person can experience moments of happiness, enjoyment and satisf­action, but adjectives such as enriching, exciting, rewarding, challe­nging and meanin­gful.

Views on Psycho­pat­hology

The incong­ruent person who is always on the defensive and cannot be open to all experi­ences can never function ideally and may even malfun­ction.
When an incong­ruent experience on the uncons­cious level is experi­enced by subcep­tion, it threatens the self-c­oncept and is accomp­anied by anxiety.
Anxiety- the emotional (affec­tive) response when the self-c­oncept is threat­ened.
Defence Mechanism
Distortion- the incong­ruent experience is distorted to fit the self-c­oncept so that the self-c­oncept remains intact and is not disorg­anised.
Denial- the process whereby experi­ences that are not congruent with the self-c­oncept are simply ignored and excluded from consci­ous­ness.
Defensive behaviour reduces the person’s consci­ousness of the threat, but not the threat itself.
Rogers is opposed to attaching labels to people and will therefore not easily categorise behaviour as neurotic or psychotic.
- The more incong­ruent the person, the more threatened he or she is by experi­ences, the more defensive he or she is and the more rigid the organi­sation of the self-s­tru­cture.

Implic­ations and Applic­ations

The purpose of psycho­therapy- to provide clients with the opport­unity to come to know themselves fully and to reveal their potential.
The Therap­eutic Process
- the client is central and must take respon­sib­ility for his or her own change.
- therapist acts as a facili­tator who creates a climate of uncond­itional positive regard, warmth and empathy in which the client feels free and safe to allow change and to strive towards congruence and the actual­isation of his or her potential
- the individual is given the freedom to exercise autonomous choices and to act creati­vely, produc­tively, constr­uct­ively and respon­sibly.
How the therapist can create a growth­-fa­cil­itating climate
1. Sincerity or congruence of the therapist
- Clients are most likely to grow if the therapist is really able to be himself or herself in the relati­onship.
- There has to be congruence between what the therapist is experi­encing deep inside, what is in his or her consci­ous­ness, and what he or she actually says to the client.
- The therapist is an authentic person.
2. The therap­ist’s attitude of uncond­itional accept­ance, or caring.
- The therapist must be able to care in a non-po­sse­ssive way, and the client must feel accepted, even though feelings of confusion, fear, fury, courage, love or pride may be expressed at any given moment.
3. The therapist should understand with empathy.
- The therapist is so attuned to the client’s world that he or she can clarify not only the meaning of experi­ences of which the client is aware, but also of experi­ences that lie just below conscious awareness.
Function of the therapist:
a. To observe from the client’s frame of reference;
b. To observe the world as the client sees it;
c. To see the client as he or she sees himself or herself
d. To put aside external observ­ations and thereby commun­icate empathic unders­tanding to the client.
The Jug and Mug Theory
- The instru­ctor, or teacher, is the jug that pours knowledge from above into the passively receiving mug- the student.
The learning experience should be more than gaining knowledge; it should be meaningful to the individual and make a difference to his or her life
Meaningful learning will take place in the following condit­ions:
a. Pupils should be in an open, accepting atmosphere in which they can explore problems of value and meaning to themse­lves.
b. Teachers should not force their own feelings on others. They should be sensitive and sympat­hetic and not just faceless repres­ent­atives of the syllabus or merely sterile conveyor belts of knowledge
c. Teachers should approach their students with warmth and accept­ance, accept pupils uncond­iti­onally and empathise with their fears, expect­ations and disapp­oin­tments when they are confronted with new material
d. Teachers should place themselves and their knowledge at the disposal of the pupils, and should also offer a wide range of sources and material. These should be available if the pupils regard them as useful and want to use them, but they should never be forced on students.
A studen­t-c­entred approach of this nature would require a radical change.
The teacher’s role would have to change from that of instructor to facili­tator
Compulsory evaluation through tests and examin­ations give way to a system whereby the pupils themselves decided whether their ability in a particular field should be rated in order to qualify for a specific career or if they qualified for the next level of education.
Measur­ement and Research
- Rogers opened the therap­eutic situation to research.
- Rogers made extensive use of a method of content analysis in examining his therapy sessions
Content analysis- It consists of catego­rising every word used by the client in relation to himself or herself during therapy.
The self in six catego­ries:
1. Positive or approving;
2. Negative or disapp­roving;
3. Ambiva­lent;
4. Ambiguous refere­nces;
5. References to external objects and persons; and
6. Questions.
- Rogers used the well-known Q-tech­nique
* subjects organise the statements into nine catego­ries, with the most relevant descri­ptions in the ¬first category and the least relevant in the last.
- Rogers used questi­onn­aires to evaluate both the therap­eutic process and the effect­iveness of the therapist.
* measures congruence between the therap­ist’s organismic experience and his or her self-c­oncept.
* measure self-e­steem
* the Barret­t-L­ennard Relati­onship Inventory (BLRI) to measure empathy, acceptance and congruence
The Interp­ret­ation and Handling of Aggression
- People do sometimes choose behaviour that harms themselves or others, cultural influences are respon­sible for such destru­ctive behaviour.
- A destru­ctive course must be sought in the enviro­nment, and that healing takes place in an unders­tan­ding, accepting atmosphere
- In South Africa, he worked with small groups in the hope that this would lead to the formation of more and more groups that would ultimately make a difference to the whole.

Evaluation of the Theory

- The client­-ce­ntred approach are criticised for not confro­nting negative, hostile and aggressive feelings, Rogers does acknow­ledge the existence of negative, destru­ctive feelings like aggression and anger.
- Applying Rogers’ theore­tical principles to everyday life can also be a problem
- Rogers’ distin­ction between rejection of behaviour and rejection of the person can also be proble­matic in reality
- Some concepts in Rogers’ theory are difficult to defi¬ne operat­ionally and therefore difficult to verify.
-In education, although the person­-ce­ntred approach might sound rather ideali­stic, it does offer valuable principles to teachers
In Summary
- Rogers’ theory made a partic­ularly valuable contri­bution in focusing people’s attention on human worth and potential.
- Made the process of therapy accessible to research, thereby creating greater scope for invest­iga­tion, change and growth.
- Rogers identified for a growth­-pr­omoting climate continue to serve as a basis for most therap­eutic contexts.


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