Most people engage in defensive behavior, but sometimes defenses fail and behavior becomes disorganized or psychotic. But why would defenses fail to function?
To answer this question, we must trace the course of disorganized behavior, which has the same origins as normal defensive behavior, namely a discrepancy between people s organismic experience and their view of self. Denial and distortion are adequate to keep normal people from recognizing this discrepancy, but when the incongruence between people s perceived self and their organismic experience is either too obvious or occurs too suddenly to be denied or distorted their behavior becomes disorganized. Disorganization can occur suddenly, or it can take place gradually over a long period of time. Ironically, people are particularly vulnerable to disorganization during therapy, especially if a therapist accurately interprets their actions and also insists that they face the experience prematurely (Rogers, 1959).
In a state of disorganization, people sometimes behave consistently with then organismic experience and sometimes hi accordance with their shattered self-concept. An example of the first case is a previously prudish and proper woman who suddenly begins to use language explicitly sexual and scatological. The second case can be illustrated by a man who, because his self-concept is no longer a gestalt or unified whole, begins to behave in a confused inconsistent, and totally unpredictable manner. In both cases, behavior is still consistent with the self-concept, but the self-concept has been broken and thus the behavior appears bizarre and confusing.
Although Rogers was even more tentative than usual when he first put forth his views of disorganized behavior in 1959, he made no important revisions in this portion of his theory. He never wavered in his disdain for ushig diagnostic labels to describe people. Traditional classifications such as those found hi the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) (American
Psychiatric Association, 1994) have never been part of the vocabulary of person-centered theory. In fact, Rogers always remained uncomfortable with the terms "neurotic" and "psychotic," preferring instead to speak of "defensive" and "disorganized" behaviors, terms that more accurately convey the idea that psychological maladjustment is on a continuum from the slightest discrepancy between self and experi-
Behavior can become disorganized or even psychotic when one's eiice to the lllOSt illCOll-
defenses fail to operate properly. grueilt.
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