The capability of an individual to help himself through any hardship has been a topic of debate in the field of psychology for a long time. One of the techniques to motivate an individual towards it is called unconditional positive regard. Follow the article to learn about unconditional positive regard psychology.

How one feels about himself shapes his personality and mental growth. Therapies have been playing a major role in the development of a person through several techniques. One such technique is called unconditional positive regard, which helps the client to contemplate their thoughts without being defensive or threatened about the reaction of another person.

Psychologists have adopted unconditional positive regard because of its effectiveness in nurturing the attitude of the client towards positivity which is the innate potential of every human being. This article covers all the aspects related to unconditional positive regard psychology, including the importance of its implementation in different domains of life.

What is conditional positive regard in psychology?

Conditional positive regard is when the positive behavior and affection of people around you depend on certain conditions. If those conditions are not fulfilled, you will be deprived of the affection and acceptance that every human needs to live. It usually refers to the people close to you, such as parents, siblings, partners, friends, etc.

For instance, when parents put conditions on their love that the child will only be loved and listened to if he fulfills a certain duty. According to Carl roger, this works against the psychological development of the child and ignites negative effects. It can deprive him of self-actualization as every child needs acceptance, specifically from his parents, despite his academic performance.

If the parents provide the necessary affection and acceptance to the child on the basis of conditions, it can make the child depend on others to seek approval and will be unable to make his own decisions. Along with parent-child relationships, the existence of conditional regard in friendships and relationships can also demean the quality of the bond. It has the tendency to turn down an individual’s autonomy and self-realization as he is constantly striving to meet the conditions of the other person.

What is unconditional positive regard in psychology?

Unconditional positive regard is when the positive behavior of people around does not get affected by your actions and achievements. They accept you for your individual personality without any involvement of conditions. If a person accepts your existence and shows affection towards you, it will not be discarded if you stop meeting certain expectations and behave in a different way.

However, it does not give access to the other person to behave in a harmful manner, but it rather gives him relief so that he does not constantly worry about winning other people’s approval to feel good and be accepted as a person. He will not be threatened to lose the affection and can try out new things, which can bring negative and positive consequences but is an essential element for self-actualization.

For instance, if a child gets unconditional positive regard from his parents, he can attain personal growth in a better way as he will have self-confidence because of the fact that his parent’s affection does not depend on materialistic achievements. This conditional positive regard does not point towards unrestrained freedom that leads a child to carry out harmful activities, but rather implies secure expectations. These expectations do not bind the person to conditions but make him explore himself to his maximum potential without any fear of abandonment.

Unconditional positive therapy:

The concept of unconditional positive regard was introduced by Carl Roger under the definition of the humanistic theory of psychology. It has been introduced in the world of psychology to treat people, as therapy sessions based on this ideology have shown effective results. In this kind of therapy, the client’s emotions and behavior are accepted without any judgment or conditions.

They express all aspects of their behavior without any fear of being accepted based on good or bad behavior so that the client realizes that it is permissible for him to feel and experience things as a separate person. It creates a sense of relief in a person as he is able to confess his emotions, even if those are worst, without any fear of abandonment. People who do not experience this type of acceptance in their personal lives suppress their feelings. These feelings bottle up and result in a negative manner.

According to Carl Roger, it is important for the patient to express themselves honestly without any fear of judgment in front of their therapist. Therapists use this methodology of unconditional positive regard so that a person can realize his true self and capabilities to change it in a positive manner. Therapists ask several questions so that the client can open up and share their true self even if they consider it morally wrong. Clients are listened to and not told about the negative behaviors that therapists detect.

The purpose of this non-judgmental listening is to reach the cause of the mental disturbance. If the therapist starts targeting and pointing out the negative aspects of his personality, the client will be reluctant to share his true self, so the therapist will not be able to help him.

Counseling techniques:

The therapist is expected to put all the judgments aside and be involved in the situation of the client. The client will open up about his behaviors and mindset, and the therapist has to find out the root cause of the behavior. The therapist will try to understand the behavior from the perspective of the client and help him identify the loophole in his personality that is triggering the bad behaviors and thoughts.

The client is neither judged nor encouraged for any behavior and is only given conditional positive regard, so he feels accepted and heard. The therapist leads the client to the stage of self-realization so that he can decide what changes he wants to implement in his life. One of the challenges for the therapist in implementing unconditional positive regard is an unconscious bias. They can control their judgment in the direct interaction with the client, but if the judgment lies in the unconsciousness of the therapist, it can influence the interaction indirectly.

Hence they need to eradicate the judgmental mindset in direct and indirect interaction so that they can help the client in treating themselves. The therapist can ensure it by checking his actions and words with the client to see whether those words are helping him grow or not.

Unconditional positive regard in relationships

Every human being wants to be listened to and heard by the people close to him. These people include parents, siblings, friends, and your significant other. The role of unconditional positive regard in these relations is as follows:

Parenting:

Many parents confuse the concept of unconditional positive regard with acceptance of the wrongdoings of their child and choose not to implement it in their parenting strategy because it will result in their child becoming careless and irresponsible. Unconditional positive regard does not refer to accepting the wrongs of your child but rather to accepting your child and not putting conditions on that acceptance.

Parents should realize that their child, like every other child, is in a growing stage where he is constantly in the struggle to explore himself. If they teach them that they have to constantly strive for others’ approval, it will make them dependent on others for their self-worth. It is only through self-exploration can a person be aware of himself and reach self-actualization.

This definitely does not imply letting the children do whatever they want to do in life but not setting boundaries for them. Parents do not need to provide a sketch in every situation but provide only guidance so that when they drift away to a harmful track, parents are there to hold them back. Moreover, it will eradicate the fear of being open in front of your parents, so a child will keep his insecurities to himself. It is through mistakes that a child will be able to learn honesty and self-actualization.

Some of the key points that can help a parent implement unconditional positive regard for his child are as follows:

  • Use affirming words with your child even on the days he performs academically poorly and make him realize in a gentle manner how he is capable of doing much better.
  • If your child comes to you with a sense of guilt or doubting his self-worth, you should respect his feelings and not be judgmental at that moment. If he has a sense of guilt, make him realize how he can turn it into a lesson and make better decisions for himself.
  • Do not withdraw your love but rather show their actions will eventually harm them if they do not learn from it.

Marriage:

A marriage based on conditions becomes a controlling relationship in which one person is striving to meet the conditions constantly. Although the expectations are natural and every partner can have them in a marriage, they should not wreck the self-worth of the other person. A genuine partnership is built on acceptance and respect, so when a partner is going through a rough patch, the other person should be careful with his words and actions so that they are not adding to the difficulties.

It does not mean that a partner should tolerate ill behavior, but he should make the other person realize what his capabilities are and how some of his behaviors are becoming barriers to his development and growth. Moreover, he should be confident about his relationship with you and that it is not based on any materialistic conditions. It will keep the line of communication open, and the marriage will be based on genuine and honest feelings.

Some of the key points that can help you implement unconditional positive regard in your marriage are as follows:

  • If your partner shares something with you, respond in a mature way, and do not lash out, even if it is against your expectations.
  • Try to converse about disagreements and inappropriate behaviors.
  • Do not blame your partner for hardship but try to get rid of it with a collective effort so that they do not feel worthless.
  • Understand that your partner is a human and can make mistakes, so try to make him work on it.

Why is unconditional positive regard important?

According to Carl Roger, Every individual has the tendency to flourish in a positive way if his emotional needs are catered to so a therapist can fill the void so that they can experience the feeling of being accepted and understood. Some of the important factors should be satisfied to ensure that an individual reaches his maximum potential and development. These factors include self-worth and unconditional positive regard.

For our psychological health and positive character development, we need to realize our self-worth so that we can acknowledge our abilities to achieve goals and objectives. If a person does not realize his self-worth, his personality lacks self-confidence, which demarcates him from his goals as he can be easily crushed by the challenges life throws at him. Life can bring unexpected circumstances to our lives, so people having knowing self-worth and positive regard can deal with these circumstances efficiently.

Depending on others to provide you with support and direction does not work in the long run, as a person should be capable enough to make his own firm decisions. Hence, the factors of unconditional positive regard and self-worth have to be instilled in the nurturing years of the individual, which are early childhood years and should continue throughout life. A person needs to be loved and valued by the people around him.

This type of ideology is not implementable in every situation; if a therapist encounters a murderer or criminal, he can not be told that he is being accepted despite his crime. This will rather work in a negative manner as his wrongdoings will be encouraged, which can make him more dangerous to society. Therefore, the main purpose of unconditional positive regard is to provide a listening ear to the sufferings and insecurities that ignite such criminal behaviors.

Benefits of unconditional positive regard

Unconditional positive regard has been a part of therapy sessions for many years due to its benefits. Some of the ways through which unconditional positive regard helps a client deal with his mental instability are as follows:

Self-actualization:

According to an American psychologist Abraham Maslow, self-actualization is the final stage of an individual’s mental growth, but many people do not reach that stage as their basic needs are not fulfilled properly. When unconditional positive regard gives access to an individual to analyze himself so he can reach his highest potential and gain self-actualization, as Carl Roger considers every human being capable of reaching and striving towards his self-actualization, unconditional positive regard therapy can help him attain it.

For instance, when a client talks about all the aspects of his life in front of his therapist and the therapist deals with him using unconditional positive behavior, it gives him a sense of openness and honesty. He feels relieved that he is being understood, and through his words, he tries to strive toward the solution to his problem. He does not judge himself through the lens of other people and focuses on his own development.

However, unconditional positive regard is not only restricted to the therapies as people in social interactions and relationships are also advised to include it in their lives towards people close to them so that people do not strangle in negative thoughts and get depressed.

Boosts confidence:

Many people stay reluctant to pursue their dreams and goals because they are constantly busy making other people feel good and making sure that they are meeting the conditions set for them by other people. His mind is led by other people, and he has this constant fear of losing people close to him if he disappoints him. Some experiences require us to think beyond the judgments of others so that the goal can be achieved.

Hence unconditional positive regard can fulfill the emotional needs of the person and will make him or them not seek it from any other person. This boosts his confidence so that he does not feel hesitant in any given situation.

For instance, If parents keep using sharp and discouraging words to the child to make him realize how he is not meeting the conditions, his self-esteem will be destroyed, and he will always feel reluctant to make his decisions as he feels he is not capable of doing anything good.

Sense of authenticity:

People who face extreme criticism and backlash demolish their true selves and shape themselves into a form that is created by others. In every relation of their lives, they try to shape their personality according to the conditions of others. It ruins the true identity of an individual as he is afraid of not being embraced if he behaves in his authentic manner, which is a necessary element of personal development.

Only an authentic person will be able to feel comfortable even with his flaws and deal with every situation that life brings to him. He rather tries to fit in and constantly makes an effort to satisfy other people as he feels only others can bring out the best in him, and their rejection can label him a failure even if it means being someone you are not.

For example, when a client expresses his true self to the therapist, and the therapist shows unconditional positive regard, it creates a sense of acceptance in him. He does not need the requirement to fit in or shape himself as he is being accepted for who he truly is. He feels relatable to his fellow human beings, so he does not suppress his authenticity.

Unconditional positive regard in the workplace

As the workplace includes interactions with different people every day, it requires some positive social skills that can make it easier for you and the people around you to communicate and interact without any toxicity. When the people around you in your workplace start using a negative attitude toward you, it starts affecting your mental growth. Some people intend to help their colleagues, but they use demotivating and hurtful words that rather do more harm than good.

One of the departments that work especially for the well-being of the people is social workers because they deal with people who are struggling with low self-esteem and self-realization. They are emotionally and financially dependent on others which makes them vulnerable as they have lost their sense of worth. Hence, social workers need to implement unconditional positive regard in their interaction with people by keeping aside all biases and judgments.

The inclusion of unconditional positive regard in all workplaces, most importantly in the social workers’ attitude, can be possible with positive verbal communication without attacking or blaming the person. Moreover, there should be an open door policy so that nobody is under the pressure of fabricating himself as perfect rather, he can easily share ideas and concerns for collective growth.

Conclusion

Unconditional positive regard was introduced by Carl Roger in the world of psychology and since then has been a vital part of therapy sessions. Humans are loved and accepted in the world under conditions, and it gets inculcated in their minds that they have to constantly meet the criteria, which diminishes their personality development.

Psychologists, through unconditional positive regard in therapy sessions, provide a condition-free environment where they express their true selves and work to improve their flaws. This technique is encouraged to be applied in every relationship so that people feel loved and fight through the challenges of life.

Author

Nabeel Ahmad is the founder and editor-in-chief of Lone Mind. Apart from Lone Mind, he is a serial entrepreneur, and has founded multiple successful companies in different industries.

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