Carl Rogers and His Theory of Personality

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Carl Rogers (1902-1987) was ‘the most influential psychologist in American history’ (Kirshenbaum, 1989:11). Since the study of personality began, personality theorists have offered a wide assortment of explanations about behaviour and about what constructs a person. Carl Rogers was the main originator of the ‘person centred’ approach, also referred to as the ‘nondirective’ or ‘client centred’ approach. This essay will offer a brief description about some of the main concepts in Carl Rogers’ person centred theory. Mainly covering topics such as his philosophy of theory, his theory of personality, how we acquire dysfunction and how we treat dysfunction. Carl Rogers’ approach has often been called the ‘Third Force’ in psychology (Casemore, 2011). The development of his theory stemmed from Rogers’ own experience of being a client, and his experience of working as a therapist. This gave rise to the views he developed about Behaviourism and the Psychoanalytical approach to therapy. These approaches are viewed as the other two forces in psychology; the first force to psychology being Freud and his psychoanalysis and the second being the Behaviourists such as Pavlov, Skinner and Watson. Rogers strongly challenged these two views of human nature as he believed that Behaviourists seemed to take the view that all human beings are organisms that only react to stimuli and that they develop habits learned from experience. Behavioural theorists also maintain that humans are helpless and are not responsible for their own behaviour (Casemore, 2011). Rogers also thought that Freud and his psychoanalytical approach had shortcomings due to the belief that human beings are never free from primitive passions orienting in their childhood fixations and that they are solely the product of powerful biological drives. The psychoanalysts emphasised a ‘dark side of human nature’ (Casemore, 2011:5) to which humans seemed to have no control over. Both of these theories have commonalities in that they are deterministic in nature and do not believe that humans have free will (Thorne, 2003). Rogers disagreed with these two theories and developed his own theory which is non-deterministic and views humans as has having free will. This approach is called the person centred approach. The person centred approach was developed from three philosophical beliefs, phenomenology, existentialism and humanism. Phenomenology refers to the way in which individual’s perceive and interpret their own individual events (Merry, 2002). It is not the actual event which causes people to behave in a certain ways it is the way in which people uniquely perceive themselves that determine their responses (Casemore, 2011). This concept in person centred theory is called the internal frame of reference; this is also a main theory of humanism. Rogers had said that only individuals themselves can really know what is going on it their own subjective world (Dryden and Mytton, (1999). A main existentialist concept is that every person has the right to make their own choices based on experiences, beliefs and biases, and that these choices are unique to us. Existentialists believe that there are no guidelines for most decisions and that there are no rules to which we have to live by (Casemore, 2011). The underlying concepts of existentialism are that humankind has free will, life is a series of choices creating stress, few decisions are without negative consequences and that some things are irrational with no explanation as to why (Merry, 2002). Humanistic philosophy is based on the concept that people are rational beings who possess within themselves the capacity of truth and goodness. Humanist approaches also emphasises the dignity and worth of each individual and that individual growth is based on the person striving to create, achieve or become (Casemore, 2011). The need for self- actualisation is a concept in humanist theories and is regarded as a fundamental human drive....
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