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Carl Roger's Personality Theory

Updated on September 2, 2014


What is a fully functional person? Carl Rogers, a humanistic psychologist, set out to find out what makes a fully functional person? What he had found was a series of points that helped develop this ideal person. These include being a actualization tendency(trying to reach autonomy), organism values, and Incongruity/self.

Carl Rogers
Carl Rogers | Source

Actualization Tendency

What is Actualization Tendency? Well, according to Pescitelli, the tendency involves self-actualization that can be defined as a state of psychological fulfillment (Pescitelli 1996). What does that really mean? Actualization, according to, stands for the achievement of one's full potential through creativity, independence, spontaneity, and a grasp of the real world ( 2010). Whereas tendency means: natural or prevailing disposition to move, proceed, or act in some direction or toward some point, end, or result ( 2010). So Actualization Tendency is recognizing a person’s own potential and using this potential to reach goals in mental stability.

A person must be able to realize what they are capable and doing and make short and long term goals to nurture their capability and find what they can do with it. An example would be a guitarist. At first their skills are basic but by practicing and challenging themselves by choosing challenging songs to practice or writing their own sheet music, their skills will grow into something that is truly amazing. But that is only part of the challenge because then the person has to figure out what they want to do with the skill and make short term goals to reach the main goal.

Organism Values

Organism Values, or in simpler terms: instinct-driven values, is when a person makes goals based on the individual’s inner nature. There are some values that are instinct-driven and include regard and worth.

There are four types of regard: positive, positive-self, conditioned, conditioned positive-self regard. Positive regard is when people gain value from how they interact with other people. If you put it to terms with a behaviorism setting when talking about rewards, the reward is based on how other people react to them, or in other terms an external reward system. It is described as the warmth, affection, attention that other people give a person to make them gain a good or bad idea about themselves (Boeree 2006). Connected to positive regard is positive-self regard. Positive self-regard is internal driven. It is how a person feels about himself and not how other people view them. However to gain a good positive-self regard, it takes years of external influences. In other words, it takes years of positive regard to develop an appropriate positive-self regard. If the external world views a person as worthwhile and treats a person right than that person should have a higher self-regard than a person who grew up in an environment where they were neglected. However this positive self-regard is highly important. C. George Boeree in the article Carl Rogers, described that without this self-regard, a person will feel helpless and not able to see their own potential (2006).

Positive and positive-self regard are important in the shaping of an individual; but what about conditioned positive regard and self-conditioned positive regard? Conditioned positive regard is when a person develops a positive image by being conditioned by the environment around them. Many times this may include media and other outlets that may inadvertently harm the individual with influences of expected beauty and entitlement. This conditioning from external stimulus also affects the conditioned self-positive image as well. If the trend for a woman is to be an unattainable size zero, would this not affect a person’s self-esteem? This can lead to serious trouble to maintain an ideal persona when this persona is not practical (Boeree 2006).


Self/Incongruity and Defenses

Incongruity and defenses are the aftermath of the choices that a person makes. If a person stays away from the conditional stimuli and develops a strong positive and self-positive regard, than a person real self is realized. The real self is the goal, and will affect whether or not a person can be a fully functional or not. A person whom pursues the conditioned path where self-esteem is based off of external stimuli, than a person will find themselves with an ideal self. The ideal self could be described as a dream, something that is not real, but people can pretend like it is (Boree 2006). In other words, your ideal self and the realistic self should be as close as possible. The people who based their ideal self off of external stimuli will not achieve realistic self. Such a difference between the ideal and real self can lead to incongruity.

Incongruity can lead to defenses being set up to help the individual deal with rationale as to why they stay with the conditioned values which leads a person to not become a fully functional person. This includes denial and anxiety. Anxiety will happen because people see the fake persona so the person who is faking has to try even harder to keep the lie going which means that the person will be further away from being self-actualized.

Fully Functional Person

What is a fully functional person? It is hard to say what people would consider today as fully functional, however Carl Rogers had seven characteristics of what he believed to be fully functional. The first characteristic is a growing openness for experiences (Fredricks 2010). These people seek new experiences and do not shy away because of anxieties. The second characteristic is a person who lives each moment richly and fully (Fredricks 2010). These experiences should be endured and not merely observable. The next characteristic is trust in themselves (Fredricks 2010). These are the people who do not follow the herd but is truthful to themselves. The next characteristic is having freedom of choice (Fredricks 2010). These people feel like they have choices in everything they do. The next characteristic is creativeness (Fredricks 2010). These people do not require security, predictability, or freedom from tension, instead they embrace it. The next characteristic is the ability to adapt to environmental changes (Fredricks 2010). A fully functional person should be able to adapt to any changes in their lives. Finally the last characteristic is that they embrace difficulties (Fredricks 2010).

So if those characteristics describe a fully functional person what would be the characteristics of a maladaptive person? According to Maddi, this is a person who is defensive, maintains current or familiar lifestyles and environments, lives to a preconceived plan, feels manipulative, and is common instead of creative (1996). The problem with both the fully and maladaptive functional person is that there is no black and white and many times people fells somewhere in between maladaptive and fully functional.

In Conclusion

To be a fully-functional individual, a person must be true to themselves and who they are. They also have to work with the skills and talents that they have, regardless of how much work it seems it will take, and use it to further explore who a person really is and use it to also make life better.This lead to a popular type of therapy called self-therapy. Self-Therapy is all about self-acceptance and bettering your life by finding steps to take that you want to take. It is a pretty cool therapy and a link of a video of what aspects of a person's life the therapy helps will be below. It is short, less than three minutes, so please watch.


Actualization. (n.d.). Unabridged. Retrieved January 20, 2011, from website:

Boeree, Carl (2006), Carl Rogers, 1902-1987, personality Theories,

Fredricks, Randi (2010), Client-Centered Therapy, Randi Fredricks MFT: Empowering Extraordinary Lives,

Maddi, S.R. (1996). Personality theories: A comparative analysis (6th ed.). Toronto: Brooks/Cole Publishing Co.

Pescitelli, Dagmar (1996), An Analysis of Carl Rogers' Theory of Personality, Personality and Consciousness,

Tendency. (n.d.). Unabridged. Retrieved January 20, 2011, from website:


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