The fully functioning person
Optimal development, as referred to in proposition 14, results in a certain process rather than static state. He describes this as the good life, where the organism continually aims to fulfill its full potential. He listed the characteristics of a fully functioning person (Rogers 1961):
- A growing openness to experience – they move away from defensiveness and have no need for subception (a perceptual defense that involves unconsciously applying strategies to prevent a troubling stimulus from entering consciousness).
- An increasingly existential lifestyle – living each moment fully – not distorting the moment to fit personality or self concept but allowing personality and self concept to emanate from the experience. This results in excitement, daring, adaptability, tolerance, spontaneity, and a lack of rigidity and suggests a foundation of trust. “To open one’s spirit to what is going on now, and discover in that present process whatever structure it appears to have” (Rogers 1961)
- Increasing organismic trust – they trust their own judgment and their ability to choose behavior that is appropriate for each moment. They do not rely on existing codes and social norms but trust that as they are open to experiences they will be able to trust their own sense of right and wrong.
- Freedom of choice – not being shackled by the restrictions that influence an incongruent individual, they are able to make a wider range of choices more fluently. They believe that they play a role in determining their own behavior and so feel responsible for their own behavior.
- Creativity – it follows that they will feel more free to be creative. They will also be more creative in the way they adapt to their own circumstances without feeling a need to conform.
- Reliability and constructiveness – they can be trusted to act constructively. An individual who is open to all their needs will be able to maintain a balance between them. Even aggressive needs will be matched and balanced by intrinsic goodness in congruent individuals.
- A rich full life – he describes the life of the fully functioning individual as rich, full and exciting and suggests that they experience joy and pain, love and heartbreak, fear and courage more intensely. Rogers’ description of the good life:This process of the good life is not, I am convinced, a life for the faint-hearted. It involves the stretching and growing of becoming more and more of one’s potentialities. It involves the courage to be. It means launching oneself fully into the stream of life. (Rogers 1961)