Actualizing Tendency

An interrelated and more pertinent assumption is the actualizing tendency, or the tendency within all humans (and other animals and plants) to move toward completion or fulfillment of potentials (Rogers, 1959, 1980). This tendency is the only motive people possess. The need to satisfy one's hunger drive, to express deep emotions when they are felt, and to accept one's self are all examples of the single motive of actualization. Because each person operates as one complete organism, actualization involves the whole person—physiological and intellectual, rational and emotional, conscious and unconscious.

Tendencies to maintain and to enhance the organism are subsumed within the actualization tenancy. The need for maintenance is similar to the lower steps on Maslow's hierarchy of needs (see Chapter 10). It includes such basic needs as food, air, and safety; but it also includes the tendency to resist change and to seek the status quo. The conservative nature of maintenance needs is expressed hi people's de-she to protect then current, comfortable self-concept. People fight against new ideas; they distort experiences that do not quite fit; they find change pahiful and growth frightening.

Even though people have a strong desire to maintain the status quo, they are willing to learn and to change. This need to become more, to develop, and to achieve growth is called enhancement. The need for enhancing the self is seen in people's willingness to learn things that are not immediately rewarding. Other than enhancement, what motivates a child to walk? Crawling can satisfy the need for mobility, whereas walking is associated with falling and with pahi. Rogers's position is that people are willing to face threat and pahi because of a biologically based tendency for the organism to fulfill its basic nature.

Enhancement needs are expressed hi a variety of forms, including curiosity, playfulness, self-exploration, friendship, and confidence that one can achieve psychological growth. People have within themselves the creative power to solve problems, to alter then self-concepts, and to become increasingly self-directed. Individuals perceive then experiences as reality, and they know then reality better than anyone else. They do not need to be directed controlled exhorted or manipulated in order to spin them toward actualization.

The actualization tendency is not limited to humans. Other animals and even plants have an inherent tendency to grow toward reaching their genetic potential— provided certahi conditions are present. For example, hi order for a bell pepper plant to reach its full productive potential, it must have water, sunlight, and a nutrient soil. Similarly, a human's actualization tendency is realized only under certahi conditions. Specifically, people must be involved in a relationship with a partner who is congruent, or authentic, and who demonstrates empathy and unconditional positive regard. Rogers (1961) emphasized that having a partner who possesses these three qualities does not cause people to move toward constructive personal change. It does, however, permit them to actualize then innate tendency toward self-fulfillment.

Rogers contended that whenever congruence, unconditional positive regard and empathy are present hi a relationship, psychological growth will invariably occur. For tins reason, he regarded these three conditions as both necessary and sufficient conditions for becoming a fully functioning or self-actualizing person. Although people share the actualizing tendency with plants and other animals, only humans have a concept of self and thus a potential for self-actualization.

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