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The Person-Centered Theory by Carl Rogers Term Paper

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Updated: Nov 15th, 2021

Introduction

Human beings have enormous vitality and psychological resistibility, as both the film “The Pursuit of Happyness” (sic) (2006) and Carl Rogers’s person-centered theory prove. The present paper is intended to discuss the film from the Rogerian viewpoint.

A brief summary of the film “The Pursuit of Happyness” (sic)

“The Pursuit of Happyness” narrates about a salesman Chris Gardner, who tries to make a beneficial investment for the sake of his family’s well-being. However, the novel equipment for bone-density scanning that he purchases is practically the same as classical x-ray, but costs twice as much. Thus, he has no prospects of selling the apparatuses out and considering the existing financial problems in the family, his spouse leaves him to rear five-year-old Christopher by himself. As he loses all of his savings and property, Chris and his little son become homeless and live on the streets and in special shelters. Further, Chris receives an internship position as a stockbroker, which is not paid for six months until the tops make the decision to hire him as a staff employee, which is not guaranteed. The main character goes through numerous difficulties, including street life, poverty, loss of social status and imprisonment, but finally, owing to the support of his son and his intrinsic motivation and commitment to the child, Chris becomes a successful stockbroker and Wall Street Star.

A brief summary of Carl’s Rogers’s person-centered theory

Carl Rogers (Ryckman, 2007) assumes that an individual has an underlying tendency to self-actualization, directed to the enhancement of all personal abilities and capacities. This feature is universal and can be attributed to all human beings. This tendency can be oppressed, but it is impossible to destroy such directive and constructive intrinsic aspiration. All temporary motives, desires and wishes can be thus united into this large force, so Rogers believes that each human action serves rather an optimistic goal, i.e. personal growth and progress.

The phenomenology of individuals includes both conscious and unconscious experiences (Ryckman, 2007). During one’s development, an individual differentiates certain part of these experiences, which in fact turn into human self, so the ‘self’ is a center of the theory, yet the scholar also takes into account the fact that human is a social creature and develops under the influence of interpersonal interactions that increase awareness and intensify both individual and social functioning (productivity). Self-actualizing tendency thus refers to the aspiration to the actualization of the experience stored in the ‘structure’ of the self. Self-actualization is associated with creating desirable experiences into concrete actions (finding an appropriate job, making scientific inventions, creating a stable family and so on). All these aspects of self-actualization serve one major goal – building consistent and conscious self-esteem in particular and a view of one’s self in general.

Discussion of the motion picture from Rogers’s perspective

Thus, from the Rogerian perspective, Chris is a healthy personality, who perceives difficulties constructively, viewing them as new challenges which make him stronger. First of all, he is depicted as a socially competent person, as the main character is extremely adherent to family values and uses each opportunity to increase the economic stability of his household. However, his decision appears to be faulty and strategically inappropriate, as the expensive equipment he promotes is replaceable with a much more affordable x-ray. At the stage of the economic collapse of the family’s budget, it is also important to note the response of his spouse, Thandie. The woman is supposed to maintain the family’s unity in such a difficult situation and, more importantly, remain trustful and loyal; instead, she simply flees the trouble by abandoning Chris and their 5-year-old-son. As Carl Rogers suggests in his article entitled “What Understanding and Acceptance Mean to Me” (Rogers, 1995) that non-judgmental approach is taken to others, it possible to assume that Thandie encounters serious stress, which refers to the “loss of everything” and the necessity of building the family’s economy from the very beginning (Peetz & Wilson, 2009; Cornelius-White, 2002). Thus, when “stepping into the shoes” of the woman, it is possible to note that the dilemma she faces is not a trivial one, as she needs to choose between certainty and absolute vagueness of the future. As her personality development is heavily thwarted by the psychological stress, she is not able to approach the situation constructively and thus chooses to vanish from her husband and son’s lives. Such a drastic change from a caring, although authoritarian, mother and wife, might be associated, like Olson, Fazio and Han suggest, with extrapersonal associations, or information or cognitive constructs, which are available in memory but do not directly shape one’s attitudes towards an object or a phenomenon. In this sense, the woman’s behavior might be transformed under the influence of the traditionalist views on the family, i.e. after she develops an idea that her husband is a poor breadwinner (Olson, Fazio & Han, 2009). As Carl Rogers also propagates acceptance and belief in the continuous perfection of the human personality (Rogers, 1995; Peetz & Wilson, 2009), he would also suggest that the woman will actually draw conclusions from her experience (Patterson, 2007) when she will be consumed by guilt, so she deserves acceptance and probably forgiveness, and the family might be reunited in case her life goals and values will remain consistent with those of Chris.

Furthermore, Chris might also be classified as a self-actualizing and self-determined personality, according to the Rogerian paradigm (Patterson, 2007). First of all, he has a very clear and logical value system, in which priorities, such as the safety and well-being of his family and his professional career, are emphasized (Olson, Fazio & Han, 2009; Peetz & Wilson, 2009). Accordingly, Chris sets lucid and achievable goals, in which the current objectives (e.g., applying for an internship, finding a temporary shelter, helping Christopher with reading) are the integral parts of the strategic ones which include rebuilding his life from a new page and giving his son a good education. He also designs and implements mitigation strategies if there appear unexpected obstacles to certain desirable results (e.g., imprisonment, which does not allow to visit the interview), so the protagonist does not fall into despair and pursues his goal strictly and consistently. Illustrative is the example of his professional growth: Chris does not seek long-term employment as a manual worker, although this behavior is plausible in his case, considering the lack of money and his possible disappointment with his abilities and talents. Due to the positive influence of his values, Chris is also motivated to achieve these goals and invents his own professional techniques to get the job he needs; as Patterson notes, intrinsic motivation which derives from a commitment to a certain group of oneself is an important aspect of self-determination and self-actualization (Patterson, 2007). In his specific case, Chris Gardner is stimulated by his love for his child, which makes his acts to great extent unselfish and confirms his ability to take the responsibility for the other person’s life.

Conclusion

As one can conclude, the main character of the film “The Pursuit of Happyness” is a true Rogerian individual, who has awareness of his potential, values and works hard to achieve his goals. The film demonstrates that self-actualization is not a smooth, but rather an undulatory process that brings both achievements and failures, from which the Rogerian self-actualizing personality draws conclusions, instead of estranging from them as Chris’s spouse does.

Reference list

  1. Cornelius-White, J. (2002). The phoenix of empirically supported therapy relationships: The overlooked person-centered basis. Psychotherapy, Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 39(3), 219-222.
  2. Olson, M., Fazio, R. & Han, A. (2009). Conceptualizing personal and extrapersonal associations. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 3(2), 152-170.
  3. Peetz, J. & Wilson, A. (2009). Teaching and learning guide for: The temporally extended self: The relation of past and future selves to current identity, motivation, and goal pursuit. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 3(2), 178-189.
  4. Patterson, T. (2007). Person-centered personality theory: Support from self-determination theory and positive psychology. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 47(1), 117-139.
  5. Rogers, C. (1995) What understanding and acceptance mean to me. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 35(4), 7-22
  6. Ryckman, R. (2007). Theories of Personality. Wadsworth Publishing.
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