Becoming a Person

Rogers (1959) discussed the processes necessary to becoming a person. First, an individual must make contact—positive or negative—with another person. This contact is the minimum experience necessary for becoming a person. In order to survive, an infant must experience some contact from a parent or other caregiver.

As children (or adults) become aware that another person has some measure of regard for them, they begin to value positive regard and devalue negative regard. That is, the person develops a need to be loved, liked, or accepted by another person, a need that Rogers (1959) referred to as positive regard. If we perceive that others, especially significant others, care for, prize, or value us, then our need to receive positive regard is at least partially satisfied.

Positive regard is a prerequisite for positive self-regard, defined as the experience of prizing or valuing one's self. Rogers (1959) believed that receiving positive regard from others is necessary for positive self-regard, but once positive self-regard is established, it becomes independent of the continual need to be loved. This conception is quite similar to Maslow's (see Chapter 10) notion that we must satisfy our love and belongingness needs before self-esteem needs can become active, but once we begin to feel confident and worthy, we no longer require a replenishing supply of love and approval from others.

The source of positive self-regard, then, lies in the positive regard we receive from others, but once established, it is autonomous and self-perpetuating. As Rogers (1959) stated it, the person then "becomes in a sense his [or her] own significant social other" (p. 224).

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