A Self-Help Book To Read | On Becoming a Person by Carl Rogers
On Becoming a Person by Carl Rogers, a non-fiction “self-help” book surpassed my expectations. As much as I hate to categorize certain books as “self-help” this particular book did wonders for my mental health and my understanding of psychology and how to approach psychotherapy as a beginner.
On Becoming a Person is about mental health (which is obvious) but it’s also about the therapeutic process; the characteristics of a relationship between a therapist, a psychotherapist and a client; what it means to become a person; the various processes involved in becoming a person, both mentally and emotionally; and lastly, a philosophical and psychological approach of what it means to therapize oneself.
Therapize, I realize, is a word we don’t use a lot when talking about psychological and philosophical books but it’s a word that I kept coming back to while reading this book.
Buy the book: Amazon
The index of the book breaks down the process of psychotherapy into bite-sized chapters so that it doesn’t overwhelm you. I highly recommend that you read the book from cover to cover but you can also dip in and out of the chapters if you want to gain some understanding of what Carl Rogers is writing about.
It’s also a good introduction to “Client-Centered Therapy,” a technique developed by Rogers himself that focuses on creating the right kind of environment for a person to become aware and come to terms with their behaviour and emotions.
What I loved is how human and sympathetic this approach is to sort of navigate through the nuanced complexities of being and becoming a person, which Carl Rogers emphasizes is never the same for any two people.
The remedy for so our so-called “negative” emotions like sadness, anger, despair, and helplessness is not what we’ve been told to believe. Firstly, it’s not right to compartmentalize such experiences as “negative” to begin with but what this book does so well is it insists on our awareness of these experiences in a more existential and humanistic manner, not to disregard them as a weakness or a “disability” we struggle with.
Another learning from this book is about how self-acceptance does more for our mental health than we think:
“It seems to me to have value (it being self-acceptance) because the curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, then I change. I believe that I have learned this from my clients as well as within my own experience – that we cannot change, we cannot move away from what we are, until we thoroughly accept what we are. Then change seems to come about almost unnoticed.”
There is a distinction made between awareness and experience; the intuitive approach identifies what it means to “become” a person; when an individual comes to be in awareness what he is in experience. Bridging that gap and being accepting of every ounce of emotion that sort of flows from it is what Carl Rogers encourages us to do.
In a lot of ways, it’s a paradox because this is a process of “unselfing” as much as it is a process of becoming a self:
"Yet it has come to seem to me that this separateness of individuals, the right of each individual to utilize his experience in his own way and to discover his own meanings in it, - this is one of the most priceless potentialities of life. Each person is an island unto himself, in a very real sense; and he can only build bridges to other islands if he is first of all willing to be himself and permitted to be himself.”
The notion of “fixing a person” is completely rejected because, according to Carl Rogers, it is a form of manipulation, to force someone to adopt a way of doing things that are supposed to be helpful and life-changing but are, in reality, a temporary alteration for living. It doesn’t bring about a real change in a person because it rejects the unique experiences of a person.
It's all so very existential; the notion that every individual is prescribed their own unique ability to create their own meaning instead of turning to a prescription that is omnipotent and “productive.”
“Life, at its best, is a flowing, changing process in which nothing is fixed.”
“It is clear that there can be no closed system of beliefs, no unchanging set of principles… life is guided by a changing understanding of and interpretation of experience. It is always in process of becoming.”
A book like this deserves to be read over and over again. Carl Rogers unifies philosophy with psychology as cogent approaches for understanding mental health, self-acceptance, and self-awareness.
“The self, at this moment, is this feeling. This is a being at the moment, with little self-conscious awareness, but primarily a reflexive awareness, as Sartre terms it. The self is, subjectively, in the existential moment. It is not something one perceives.”
I highly recommend the book if you want to understand what it means to move toward self-awareness and away from self-ignorance and self-deception. These are not bad words (self-ignorance and self-deception) it’s just one of the outcomes of this book, at least for me, and I just regret not reading this book sooner.
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