On Becoming a Person by Carl Rogers Summary

A therapist's view of psychotherapy.

On Becoming a Person by Carl Rogers Summary
Source: @a.rle.t

Key Takeaways

  1. The degree to which you can help others grow is limited by how much you have grown.
  2. If you love someone unconditionally, they will become more successful, kinder, and generally better.
  3. ‘Becoming a person’ means being able to see the nuance of things and understand multiple sides of an argument.
  4. ['Becoming a person' Requirement 1]: They do not judge their problems. If you’re always tired in the afternoon, instead of complaining about how you shouldn’t be tired, why not simply understand that your body is tired? And if you have a health problem, be wise enough to know that health problems will periodically occur in all people.
  5. ['Becoming a person' Requirement 2]: The locus of approval comes from within. The person’s esteem comes from within. They are not looking for the approval of others.
  6. ['Becoming a person' Requirement 3]: They understand that nobody can give you anything. Nobody can give you an education (your teachers cannot read for you).
  7. ['Becoming a person' Requirement 4]: They realize that they do not reach a state of completion, they are in a life-long process of becoming.
  8. A therapist has to have gone through the process of self-acceptance and mastered it to truly help patients.
  9. People who have done this process accept their emotions, don’t have shame, understand human nature, and have a growth mindset. They take responsibility. They have close relationships and live openly and freely. They can accurately analyze themselves and are vulnerable — they can confidently say that they were scared of something or were nervous, etc. The next level is to be able to accept other individuals in the same way that the person now accepts themself.
  10. There are pressures from society to conform to the typical career path – go to college and get a job. You can do so much more than this.
  11. You need to develop an accurate understanding of the past. When you know the true past, you can trust yourself and believe that you know the past. If you lie to yourself and distort or omit events, you will not trust yourself.
  12. People naturally turn away from anger, sexual deviance, stealing, and hurting others when they are socially developed and have close positive relationships.
  13. People should self-improve rather than have smaller ambitions.
  14. The task of psychotherapy is to help the person achieve, through a special relationship with a therapist, good communication within himself. Once this is achieved he can communicate more freely and more effectively with others.
  15. Good communication, free communication, within or between men, is always therapeutic.
  16. When someone says something, rather than judging it (saying, yeah I agree; or No, I disagree), we should try to get into their mindset and ask them why they think that. What emotions or logic led them to that conclusion?
  17. If I can really understand how he hates his father, or hates the university, or hates communists—if I can catch the flavor of his fear of insanity, or his fear of atom bombs, or of Russia—it will be of the greatest help to him in altering those very hatreds and fears, and in establishing realistic and harmonious relationships with the very people and situations toward which he has felt hatred and fear. We know from our research that such empathic understanding—understanding with a person, not about him—is such an effective approach that it can bring about major changes in personality.
  18. When in conversation, ask clarifying questions and go deep into their emotions, feelings, and rationality.
  19. You can have reactions: “I don’t like what you’re doing.” But not judgments: “That’s bad.”
  20. Personality tests can help you determine your vocation. The Big 5 personality traits test is the best.

Summary

In therapy, the client knows what moments are troubling and need to be brought up.

When you talk to people, rather than judging, try to understand what they really mean or why they would believe that from their standpoint. This takes work because we naturally reject what others say because if we allow ourselves to understand someone else, it could change our opinion and we fear change.

If you love someone unconditionally, they will become more successful, kinder, and generally better.

The benefits of therapy come from having a good relationship. Anyone can give the same benefits as a therapist if they love the individual unconditionally.

As a therapist, you need to do 3 things:

  1. Accurately portray your own emotions. Be congruent. Be dependably real. Don’t put on an act. (This might mean don’t play the act of being perfect. Show them that you are human too.)
  2. Have an unconditionally good opinion of the client. Unconditional positive regard. (Don't silently or verbally judge or disapprove of the things they’ve done or said.) If they behave badly, you still have to accept them.
  3. Understand and empathize with where the client is coming from and their viewpoints. Empathic understanding.

If you view them as an immature child, an ignorant student, a neurotic personality, or a psychopath, each of these concepts of mine limits what they can be in the relationship.

Don’t try to mold your client to be like you. You should be able to help them by giving them a good relationship that stabilizes their life and a growth mindset. Then they can do whatever they want to do in life — rather than trying to emulate the teacher.

The degree to which you can help others grow is limited by how much you have grown.

  • Helping others requires you to be extremely open-minded.
  • You have to have a growth mindset.
  • You have to have experience helping people improve.
  • You have to be congruent and understand your own emotions on a deep level.
  • You have to know yourself and accurately portray yourself as a flawed human.
  • You have to be accepting of people even when they are behaving badly or blatantly rude.
  • Most people never get to this level of self-development in their life.

Freud said that humans are naturally bad — violent, sexual, abusive — and therapy should teach us how to hold back these impulses. But Rogers says that humans are naturally positive — social and kind.

‘Becoming a person’ means being able to see the nuance of things and understand multiple sides of an argument.

  • They do not judge their problems. If you’re always tired in the afternoon, instead of complaining about how you shouldn’t be tired, why not simply understand that your body is tired? And if you have a health problem, be wise enough to know that health problems will periodically occur in all people.
  • The locus of approval comes from within. The person’s esteem comes from within. They are not looking for the approval of others.
  • They understand that nobody can give you anything. Nobody can give you an education (your teachers cannot read for you).
  • They realize that they do not reach a state of completion, they are in a life-long process of becoming.

You can drop your defensive masks in therapy.

“I have tried to give my picture of the characteristic attributes of the person who emerges; a person who is more open to all of the elements of his organic experience; a person who is developing trust in his own organism as an instrument of sensitive living; a person who accepts the locus of evaluation as residing within himself; a person who is learning to live in his life as a participant in a fluid, ongoing process, in which he is continually discovering new aspects of himself in the flow of his experience. These are some of the elements which seem to me to be involved in becoming a person.

Get your partner to open up about sex. Talk about their shame around it and their enjoyment of it.

The process of ‘becoming’ largely revolves around accepting yourself. Have no shame about sex, frustration, or emotions. They're a part of human nature.

  • The therapist has to have gone through this process and mastered it to truly help patients.
  • People who have not done this process are completely disconnected from their emotions and have a fixed mindset. They don’t take responsibility. They avoid close relationships — they are perceived as being dangerous. They’ll say things like back then, that was depression. (Rather than I had depression or I was depressed.)
  • People who have done this process accept their emotions, don’t have shame, understand human nature, and have a growth mindset. They take responsibility. They have close relationships and live openly and freely. They can accurately analyze themselves and are vulnerable — they can confidently say that they were scared of something or were nervous, etc. The next level is to be able to accept other individuals in the same way that the person now accepts themself.

There are pressures from our parents to be good and not “bad.” Bad could be emotional, sexual, etc. Don’t let parts of you be shamed.

There are pressures from society to conform to the typical career path. College -> job. You can do so much more than this.

Don’t do things to make people like you or to get approval, do things that you want to do. However, it takes time and you cannot immediately and confidently start moving towards your own unique goals. It is a process where you find out more about yourself and get closer and closer to your purpose.

Being who you are is not about being rigid and unable to change. You actually change what your idea of yourself is; or rather, you become more yourself.

People are often worried that if you let your emotions or your true self out, it will be like releasing a monster or a beast onto the world. But a beast only kills to eat until he is full. And he only satisfies himself sexually, he doesn’t go on rampages or orgies. In other words, do what is necessary to satisfy your emotions and urges but not more.

You need to develop an accurate understanding of the past. When you know the true past, you can trust yourself and believe that you know the past. If you lie to yourself and distort or omit events, you will not trust yourself. You do not want to add in untrue events and you do not want to omit difficult memories. Write an autobiography in novelistic detail.

  • When you do this, you do not fear outbursts or emotions coming out of nowhere because you know exactly where they stem from. Knowing and accepting this allows you to overcome it.
  • Rejection in seemingly disconnected areas can cause emotions because they are proxies for failure in career and relationships.

People naturally turn away from anger, sexual deviance, stealing, and hurting others when they are socially developed and have close positive relationships.

A lot of the insights of therapy are:

  • I do have resentment for them...
  • I do have shame about that...
  • I can be whom I want to be...

It is like when a kid learns in school that 2+2=4 but they don’t truly understand it until one day when they’re playing with blocks and realize that 2 blocks + 2 blocks =4. Then they really understand it.

Rogers says that Huxley’s Brave New World shows us what happens when we try to purely use the scientific method in psychology. We also need to understand people’s unique experiences.

  • Rogers later revised his position and said that a good scientist always blends the scientific method with unique experiences.

How people often describe themselves: “Q-technique, developed by Stephenson (9). A large “universe” of self-descriptive statements were drawn from recorded interviews and other sources. Some typical statements are: “I am a submissive person”; “I don’t trust my emotions”; “I feel relaxed and nothing bothers me”; “I am afraid of sex”; “I usually like people”; “I have an attractive personality”; “I am afraid of what other people think of me.” A random sample of one hundred of these, edited for clarity, was used as the instrument. Theoretically, we now had a sampling of all the ways in which an individual could perceive himself.”

There is a gap between whom a person is and whom they want to become. It is better for the “self” to change, rather than the ideal version of whom they want to become. In short, people should self-improve rather than have smaller ambitions.

Therapy can generally reduce the client's stress response to stressful situations and makes them calm down faster — even in situations unrelated to the topics addressed in therapy.

The concept of college degrees should not exist. Learning should be life-long. College degrees insinuate the end of learning.

Teachers, like therapists, need to have ‘become a person’ to have a positive impact on their students. Their students can only grow if the teacher has grown and created an environment for learning. The teacher doesn’t need to pretend to like everything, that can be excited by certain topics and bored by others — and the students can think differently.

The teacher should give his knowledge, experience, and recommended books as offerings — things that can hopefully help a student on their journey. But he does not expect to be a rigid guide that must be followed. He does not think that the students have to come to the exact same conclusions as the teacher.

"There is one final tendency which we have noticed and which I would like to describe. It is quite noticeable that our clients tend in the direction of permitting each member of the family to have his own feelings and to be a separate person. This may seem a strange statement, but it is actually a most radical step. Many of us are perhaps unaware of the tremendous pressure we tend to put on our wives, our husbands, our children, to have the same feelings we do. It is often as though we said, “If you want me to love you, then you must have the same feelings I do. If I feel your behavior is bad, you must feel so too. If I feel a certain goal is desirable, you must feel so too.”

This book is largely about becoming open-minded and accepting yourself (removing shame). Follow your unique path. Therapists and teachers need to be very open-minded and accepting in order for their clients and students to improve.

***“The whole task of psychotherapy is the task of dealing with a failure in communication. The emotionally maladjusted person, the “neurotic,” is in difficulty first, because communication within himself has broken down, and second because, as a result of this, his communication with others has been damaged. If this sounds somewhat strange to you, then let me put it in other terms. In the “neurotic” individual, parts of himself which have been termed unconscious, or repressed, or denied to awareness, become blocked off so that they no longer communicate themselves to the conscious or managing part of himself. As long as this is true, there are distortions in the way he communicates himself to others, and so he suffers both within himself, and in his interpersonal relations. The task of psychotherapy is to help the person achieve, through a special relationship with a therapist, good communication within himself. Once this is achieved he can communicate more freely and more effectively with others. We may say then that psychotherapy is good communication, within and between men. We may also turn that statement around and it will still be true. Good communication, free communication, within or between men, is always therapeutic.

“I would like to propose, as a hypothesis for consideration, that the major barrier to mutual interpersonal communication is our very natural tendency to judge, to evaluate, to approve or disapprove, the statement of the other person, or the other group. Let me illustrate my meaning with some very simple examples. As you leave the meeting tonight, one of the statements you are likely to hear is, “I didn’t like that man’s talk.” Now, what do you respond? Almost invariably your reply will be either approval or disapproval of the attitude expressed. Either you respond, “I didn’t either. I thought it was terrible,” or else you tend to reply, “Oh, I thought it was really good.” In other words, your primary reaction is to evaluate what has just been said to you, to evaluate it from your point of view, your own frame of reference.”

“Real communication occurs, and this evaluative tendency is avoided, when we listen with understanding. What does this mean? It means to see the expressed idea and attitude from the other person’s point of view, to sense how it feels to him, to achieve his frame of reference in regard to the thing he is talking about.”

When someone says something, rather than judging it (saying, yeah I agree; or No, I disagree), we should try to get into their mindset and ask them why they think that. What emotions or logic led them to that conclusion?

  • “If I can really understand how he hates his father, or hates the university, or hates communists—if I can catch the flavor of his fear of insanity, or his fear of atom bombs, or of Russia—it will be of the greatest help to him in altering those very hatreds and fears, and in establishing realistic and harmonious relationships with the very people and situations toward which he has felt hatred and fear. We know from our research that such empathic understanding—understanding with a person, not about him—is such an effective approach that it can bring about major changes in personality.”
  • Ask clarifying questions and go deep into their emotions, feelings, and rationality.
  • You will find that the person you’re talking to has a completely understandable argument. This will likely change your perspective. This takes real courage. If you allow yourself to understand another person’s perspective, you might be changed. You might come to find that they are correct. What if they are neurotic or psychotic or nihilistic — but correct? This is scary. Only an intelligent person that has the courage to change perspectives and know that they will still be ok can do this.

Congruence: accurately understanding and communicating your experience and awareness.

  • You can have reactions: “I don’t like what you’re doing.” But not judgments: “That’s bad.”

Creative expressions should be judged by the individual who made them, not critics. If you are proud of your work, then it is good.

Personality tests can help you determine your vocation.

Reject and isolate people for a long time. Then try to shame and be unfriendly. This reversal of psychotherapy makes people want human connection. It makes them more agreeable. Interrogators use this to get people to confess. The interrogator is only accepting when the prisoner agrees.

Rogers thought we were headed for the "brave new world" in 1961.

Brave New World shows why you cannot simply have a goal to increase happiness. Because then everyone could simply take pills that make them happy every day.