The Self-Actualising Tendency of a Trainee Counsellor

Counselling Studies Level 3

Learning Journal for Week 5: Wednesday 7th November, 2012


According to Roger’s (1961) theory of personality, “the core of man’s nature is essentially positive” (p. 73) and we all have a self-actualizing tendency that motivates us towards enhancing our life. At first, I found it difficult to identify this self-actualizing process within myself, but through further self-analysis I have found some of my perceived weaknesses turning into strengths that might be explained by the self-actualizing process. For example, blocking out difficult memories or adopting maladaptive behaviours to cope is not necessarily intentionally self-destructive. Indeed, by considering Roger’s belief that all human behaviour is “exquisitely rational” (p. 194), I found myself looking for the rational within behaviours I berate myself for. This helped me see that some of my behaviours or ways of coping were adopted at a young age, when I had a limited skills set and had to do what I could to survive certain situations. When reflected upon in this light, I start to see a child self-actualizing and trying to make her situation better, as opposed to an adult who can’t cope. Suddenly, such coping mechanisms make sense to me and it helps to see them as a past strength rather than a present weakness 


I am hoping that this new way of thinking will eventually change my self-concept, “the organized set of characteristics that the individual perceives as peculiar to himself/herself” (Ryckman, 1993, p.106). My self-concept is largely controlled by the past, to the extent that my opinion of myself is shaped more by my past than my present. I find it difficult to break free from childhood messages, whether that is that I am “thick” or have “legs like tree trunks.” While I have the need for positive regard from others, as well as for positive self-regard, engaging with positive regard is limited by ‘voices’ from the past. My self-concept is old and not based on my life now, with there being an incongruence between my self-concept and reality. According to Rogers (1959), this incongruence is due to my self-concept being based on standards from the past as opposed to an innate ‘organismic valuing process’ where experiences are accurately evaluated. 


The aspect of Roger’s (1959) theory that I can relate to the most is the notion of ‘conditions of worth.’ However, my conditions of worth are not based on parental influences, like Roger’s might suggest. Instead, they are conditions I created myself. This is a new realisation to me and I feel it will help me in my journey of self-development. At present, I need to always being ‘doing’ in order to feel any worth. I work from morning until night, take work on holiday with me, and feel guilty if I take time out to meet a friend. I am not as bad as I used to be, but this condition of worth is still there, which makes me wonder why I would impose such conditions on myself? I agree with Rogers that these conditions likely developed in childhood. For me, I feel that I created them so that I always had something to strive for. If I keep trying to make mum happy, she will eventually be happy. If I can show how strong I am by not showing my feelings, I will be more loveable. As I got older this turned to: If I achieve academically I will eventually feel better about myself. I need to keep doing more of whatever it is I am doing at a given time – 1) to prove to others and myself that I have worth; and, 2) to keep myself busy because I am not yet completely comfortable with my ‘self.’ Maybe it is when I can be comfortable with myself that I will reach Roger’s concept of the ‘fully functioning person,’ where I can start to trust myself and embrace the ‘process of life’ as opposed to the state of being (Pescitelli, 1996).


Pescitelli, D. (1996). An Analysis of Carl Rogers’ Theory of Personality. Available from: [Lasts accessed 7th November 2012].

Rogers, C. (1959). A Theory of Therapy, Personality and Interpersonal Relationships as Developed in the Client-centered Framework. In (ed.) S. Koch, Psychology: A Study of a Science. Vol. 3: Formulations of the Person and the Social Context. New York: McGraw Hill.

Rogers, C. (1961). On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy. London: Constable. 

Ryckmann, R.M. (1993).Theories of Personality (5th Ed.) California: Brooks/Cole Publishing Co.




Categories: Counselling, Personal/Professional Development, Psychology

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 replies

  1. It can be hard to break a way of thinking Nicola, but gaining confidence from things we achieve along the way are helpful. It’s alright to have a lazy day sometimes as well, not that I have many of those, but we should sometimes.xx

  2. Susan, if you promise to have a lazy day some time soon, I will too 🙂

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