Levels of Awareness

Rogers (1959) recognized tlnee levels of awareness. First, some events are experienced below the threshold of awareness and are either ignored or denied. An ignored experience can be illustrated by a woman walking down a busy street, an activity that presents many potential stimuli, particularly of sight and sound. Because she cannot attend to all of them, many remain ignored. An example of denied experience might be a mother who never wanted children, but out of guilt she becomes overly solicitous to them. Her anger and resentment toward her children may be hidden to her for years, never reaching consciousness but yet remaining a part of her experience and coloring her conscious behavior toward them.

Second Rogers (1959) hypothesized that some experiences are accurately symbolized and freely admitted to the self-structure. Such experiences are both non-threatening and consistent with the existmg self-concept. For example, if a pianist who has full confidence in his piano-playing ability is told by a friend that his playing is excellent, he may hear these words, accurately symbolize them, and freely admit them to his self-concept.

A third level of awareness involves experiences that are perceived in a distorted form. When our experience is not consistent with our view of self, we reshape or distort the experience so that it can be assimilated into our existmg self-concept. If the gifted pianist were to be told by a distrusted competitor that his playing was

Chapter 11 Rogers: Person-Centered Theory 315

excellent, he might react very differently than he did when he heard the same words from a trusted friend. He may hear the remarks but distort their meaning because he feels threatened. "Why is this person trying to flatter me? This doesn't make sense." His experiences are inaccurately symbolized in awareness and therefore can be distorted so that they conform to an existing self-concept that, in part, says, "I am a person who does not trust my piano-playing competitors, especially those who are trying to trick me."

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