The theory of Carl Rogers with its centerpiece of unconditional acceptance does not work in the real world. We saw in yesterday’s post that Rogers’ own experiment demonstrated the havoc this concept inflicts on individuals, relationships, and society.
How then does it persist as the guiding principle of our society?
American Mania in Psychological Costume
This theory finds its primary support in its compatibility with the culture of the sixties. Rogers’ perspective constitutes American mania in psychological garb. The two concepts driving that culture were framed in the clichés, “If it feels good, do it,” and “You have a right to do your own thing.” Rogers’ theory frames both of these concepts in psychological language.
His theory asserts that each individual possesses a self-actualizing tendency that guides the individual toward becoming a fully functioning human being, i.e. the individual will maximize his potential if he follows his natural inclinations—what feels right to him. This perspective not only calls the individual to follow his feelings, but it also asserts that following those feelings constitutes the path to ultimate fulfillment.
This belief that the self-actualizing tendency leads to ultimate fulfillment mandates unconditional acceptance of the individual, the heart of Rogers’ theory, since only the individual knows what is right for him. Unconditional acceptance assigns the right of the individual to “do his own thing.” It confiscates from any authority figure or society as a whole the right to tell the individual that some attitude or action is wrong, instead requiring that the individual be accepted and even affirmed in his choices and related behaviors. Even the student’s preference to spell “cat” as “kat” must be prized as his own creation. The same holds true for moral choices and resulting behaviors.
We see, then, that the psychological theory of Carl Rogers is compatible with the sixties manic culture, embodying that theory in psychological garb.
Culture Determines Truth
Previously we noted that culture determines truth for most people. Since America adopted the manic culture of the sixties, the compatibility of Rogers’ theory made it feel like truth.
Regarding the evidence showing the disaster inflicted by this system, we have previously noted that the sixties manic culture excluded rational analysis. Consequently, the scenario described in my previous post revealing the catastrophe created by this theory is of little concern to manic America. The only concern is that the theory meshes with our manic culture, which it does quite well. Therefore, the fact that the disastrous outcome of this experiment is now being experience by our society as a whole does not move manic America to challenge its validity and terminate its employment.
Rogers Returning the Favor
But just as American mania validated Rogers’ theory, his theory has returned the favor by validating American mania.
As we can image, during the sixties more mature Americans were not swept up by the Summer of Love, Woodstock, and the do your own thing mindset. Rather, they recognized that individuals doing what feels good and permitted to do their own thing will produce cultural chaos.
Rogers provided these skeptics with intellectual validation for American mania via his assurance that the individual following what feels good to him will become a fully functioning person, and that giving that person the right to do his thing, i.e. accepting him unconditionally, rather than producing a societal train wreck, will lead individuals and society as a whole to maximize their human potential.
As a respected psychologist his ideas possessed the full weight of scientific credibility, and Rogers claimed that credibility for his ideas. Therefore, Rogers armed those concerned with the manic culture of the sixties with what they believed to be scientific evidence. He assured them that allowing their teenagers to do their own thing would not just turn out okay but would lead to their becoming their human best.
Beyond that, it made them believe that to do otherwise would warp their children, making them as parents responsible for their failure. Imposing their values on their children rather than accepting them unconditionally, clinging to old fashion views of morality and parenting rather than adopting the findings of science regarding human nature, would saddle their children with backbreaking psychological baggage.
Therefore, we see that Rogers’ theory cemented the American manic cultural foundation into place with the mortar of perceived scientific credibility.
Though rational analysis exposes both American mania and Rogerian psychology as disasters, their support for each other has secured their combined message, captured in the concept of unconditional acceptance, as the foundation of American contemporary culture.