“On Becoming a Person” offers its readers an optimistic perspective on human nature and our capability to live a fulfilling life. Dr Carl Rogers, a psychotherapist best known for his work on client-centered therapy, sums up the experience and knowledge he has gathered over decades of field work. An individual’s goal is to become a fully-realized, congruent person; fully aware and accepting of one’s experience, and free in his actions. Such a mature person is more likely to live a constructive and satisfying life.
I have heard about “On Becoming a Person” when browsing one of the reading recommendations lists for 2017. The topic, as outlined in the first paragraph, seemed interesting. It promised to be about improving one’s own life and also presented an outlook from psychotherapist point of view; a point of view I haven’t really read about. Which might be an ignorant thing to say about oneself, since who would be better suited to answer questions on human condition and happiness than a person who’s doing it as his profession? I found the book quite interesting and stimulating. In the following post, I’d like outline the book’s major theses in order to solidify its major key points.
In client-centered therapy, the role of the psychotherapist is to create an environment that stimulates personal growth and introspection. The psychotherapist goal is to create a relationship based on understanding, acceptance, warmth, and sincerity. The idea is that the client would over time assume this attitude with relation to one’s own self by reciprocity. Since, the most common root cause of psychotherapy problems is that our psychological defensive mechanisms make us blind to the causes of our stresses, such positive relationship allows the individual to open up to his own problems and defenses, and start working on solving them. The patient has increases awareness of ones own needs and makes his behavior more congruent with his goals.
Dr Rogers believes that the true self is a positive and constructive being. He deplores the view that a man is a beast shackled by social order. It is instead the fact that we act in discord with oneself that is oft the source of our problems. Therefore a question the psychotherapy should facilitate answering is “Who am I”? In the process of this personality change, which is, more or less, about maturing, the locus of control is moved from the external (“What is expected of me”) to internal (“What do I want”). The person grows more aware and accepting of himself, tends to view his own emotions as something truly his and not as an external phenomena.
The book makes many more elaborate point on this and various other topics, like implications and applications of his theories in ordinary life, how the approach would facilitate a more effective and constructive communication between individual (on that subject many points are common with Nonviolent communication), how does it relate to behaviorism, and author’s unusual opinions on teaching.
It is a classic with many favorable reviews on Amazon. To many it offers a respite from more world-weariness and gives useful ideas for the process of self-improvement.