‘Another tendency of this sort seems evident in the client’s moving away from the compelling image of what he “ought to be”. Some individuals have absorbed so deeply from their parents the concept “I ought to be good, “or “I have to be good, ” that it is only with the greatest of inward struggle that they find themselves moving away from this goal. Thus one young woman, describing her unsatisfactory relationship with her father, tells first how much she wanted his love.”I think in all this feeling I’ve had about my father, that really I did very much want a good relationship with him…. I wanted so much to have him care for me, and yet didn’t seem to get what I really wanted. ” She always felt she had to meet all of his demands and expectations and it was “just too much. Because once I meet one there is another and another and another, and I never really meet them. It’s sort of an endless demand. “She feels she has been like her mother, submissive and compliant, trying continually to meet his demands.”And really not wanting to be that kind of person. I find it’s not a good way to be, but yet I think I’ve had a sort of belief that that’s the way you have to be if you intend to be thought a lot of and loved. And yet who would want to love somebody who was that sort of wishy-washy person? “The counsellor responded, “who really would love a doormat? “She went on, “at least I wouldn’t want to be loved by the kind of person who’d love a doormat! ” Thus, though these words convey nothing of the self she might be moving toward, the weariness and disdain in both her voice and her statement make it clear that she is moving away from a self which has to be good, which has to be submissive.
Curiously enough a number of individuals find that they have felt compelled to regard themselves as bad, and it is this concept of themselves that they find they are moving away from. One young man shows very clearly such a movement. He says: “I don’t know how I got this impression that being ashamed of myself was such an appropriate way to feel…. Being ashamed of me was the way I just had to be…. There was a world where being ashamed of myself was the best way to feel…. If you are something which is disapproved of very much, then I guess the only way you can have any kind of self-respect is to be ashamed of that part of you which isn’t approved of…. “But now I’m adamantly refusing to do things from the old viewpoint …. It’s as if I’m convinced that someone said,”The way you will have to be is to be ashamed of yourself – so be that way!” And I accepted it for a long, long time, saying “okay, that’s me! “And now I’m standing up against that somebody, saying, “I don’t care what you say. I’m not going to feel ashamed of myself! “Obviously he is abandoning the concept of himself as shameful and bad.’
Carl Rogers: On Becoming A Person
Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter
Counselling Exeter since 1994