Theory of Personality

Personality has been a subject of great interest in psychology over th e years and there have been many explanations offered as to what personality is and why we are the way we are. Freud looked at how individuals progress through the psychosexual stages and that this determines how we behave as people. The trait theorists, such as Eysenck and Allport, considered studying the characteristics of people and believed that an individual’s personality consisted of different variations of certain traits. However, Rogers approached personality in a different way.mind_190.jpg

Rogers saw people as people; not as objects to be studied. He believed that people are fundamentally positive in nature. He believed that when we act irrationally or in a negative way people are not functioning properly. Rogers supported the phenomenological approach to personality. This approach stated that an “individual perceives the world in a unique way… these perceptions make up an individual’s phenomenal field” (Pervin, Cervone & John, 2005). This phenomenal field is a component in the phenomenological approach. It takes in all experiences both conscious and unconsciousness. As some experiences are not as important as others we are left with those that are important which becomes what is known as the self. This is a key concept in Rogers’ theory. The self, or self concept, is what people identify as “I” or “Me”. This awareness and identification of the self comes through the perceptions and experiences encountered by an individual throughout their lives.

Probably the most important aspect of the theory is the actualizing tendency. This is a person's innate motivation towards developing to the fullest potential. Rogers believed that all organisms, not just people, have this tendency from the moment of birth. As people grow we need positive regard and positive self-regard to fulfill our potentials. Positive regard comes from the love and attention we get from our parents for example. Positive self-regard comes from the positive regard we are shown over the years which leads us with good self-esteem and a positive self-image. However, because we are often shown positive regard only when it is seen as worthy, not because it is needed, conditions of worth are created. Receiving positive regard in certain conditions is known as conditional positive regard. As with positive regard, over time we develop conditional positive self-regard as a result of conditions.
Rogers believed that through positive regard and positive self-regard a person could become their "real self", a person functioning at their true and full potential. However due to conditions of worth and the standards other people place on an individual, a person could instead become their "ideal self". This ideal self is a self that is at a standard an individual cannot meet: not really attainable. The space between the real and ideal self is known as incongruity. The bigger this space is, the less likely an individual will attain their potential. Due to this incongruity, people often feel anxious or are put into situations where they may feel uncomfortable. In these situations people uses defense mechanisms. As with Freud, Rogers also came up with the idea of defense mechanisms, though he only has two. Denial, when one denies the situation altogether and perceptual distortion, when one changes the meaning of the situation for themselves.

Rogers theory is quite an interesting one. Not only were his ideas unique, they were some that laid the foundations for humanistic psychology.