Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Lexicon of Madness -- Unconditional Positive Regard

Unconditional Positive Regard: A core ingredient of Rogerian client-centered therapy. Everyone needs warmth, respect, sympathy, and acceptance. Unfortunately, for most people, this positive regard is offered only conditionally. Your parents were warm towards you only as long as you behaved as they wanted you to behave. They respected you when you performed as they expected you to perform. They accepted you only so far as you met their conditions of worth. Most other people -- teachers, spouses, bosses -- also provide only conditional positive regard. Conditional positive regard can, at best, result in conditional positive self-regard, i.e. you like and accept yourself only when you are meeting other people's expectations. Psychological problems arise as we become increasingly aware of the incongruity between the values we have introjected from our other people and the values we experience as arising from our true selves. According to Carl Rogers, a therapist should provide clients with unconditional positive regard. This does not, however, entail blind acceptance of a client's despicable behaviors. Empathy and genuineness must precede the unconditional positive regard. Through careful questioning and active listening, the therapist comes first to truly know and understand the client, without trying to direct or control her. The therapist also monitors his own feelings and experiences within the counseling relationship, demonstrating congruence between his true experience and how he is thinking or feeling about the experience. When a genuine person says that he is "glad to see you," it is because he is actually experiencing gladness at the sight of you. He doesn't "think" he is glad, or "feel" that he is glad (and he certainly isn't saying it just because it seems like an appropriate thing to say) -- he is genuinely experiencing gladness. It all sounds so simple, doesn't it? Sadly, unconditional positive regard, empathy, and genuineness are vanishingly rare.

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