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Humanistic Theories

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  • Awareness and acceptance of themselves
  • Openness and spontaneity
  • The ability to enjoy work and see work as a mission to fulfill
  • The ability to develop close friendships without being overly dependent on other people
  • A good sense of humor
  • The tendency to have peak experiences that are spiritually or emotionally satisfying

Carl Rogers’s Person-Centered Theory

Carl Rogers, another humanistic psychologist, proposed a theory called the person-centered theory. Like Freud, Rogers drew on clinical case studies to come up with his theory. He also drew from the ideas of Maslow and others. In Rogers’s view, the self-concept is the most important feature of personality, and it includes all the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs people have about themselves. Rogers believed that people are aware of their self-concepts.

Congruence and Incongruence

Rogers said that people’s self-concepts often do not exactly match reality. For example, a person may consider himself to be very honest but often lies to his boss about why he is late to work. Rogers used the term incongruence to refer to the discrepancy between the self-concept and reality. Congruence, on the other hand, is a fairly accurate match between the self-concept and reality.

According to Rogers, parents promote incongruence if they give their children conditional love. If a parent accepts a child only when the child behaves a particular way, the child is likely to block out experiences that are considered unacceptable. On the other hand, if the parent shows unconditional love, the child can develop congruence. Adults whose parents provided conditional love would continue in adulthood to distort their experiences in order to feel accepted.

Results of Incongruence

Rogers thought that people experience anxiety when their self-concepts are threatened. To protect themselves from anxiety, people distort their experiences so that they can hold on to their self-concept. People who have a high degree of incongruence are likely to feel very anxious because reality continually threatens their self-concepts.

Example: Erin believes she is a very generous person, although she is often stingy with her money and usually leaves small tips or no tips at restaurants. When a dining companion comments on her tipping behavior, she insists that the tips she leaves are proportional to the service she gets. By attributing her tipping behavior to bad service, she can avoid anxiety and maintain her self-concept of being generous.

Criticisms of Humanistic Theories

Humanistic theories have had a significant influence on psychology as well as pop culture. Many psychologists now accept the idea that when it comes to personality, people’s subjective experiences have more weight than objective reality. Humanistic psychologists’ focus on healthy people, rather than troubled people, has also been a particularly useful contribution.