How many steps do you think you have left in order to become your true self, to reach your desired goals or to start enjoying life?
One of my favorite psychologists, Dr. Carl Rogers, described 7 stages that reflect a human being’s journey of growth and the changes we undergo to become, as I call it, a Human² – a person who inspires others and who is completely unafraid to be him/herself.
The theory is complex, however I have tried to simplify the basic points from his book entitled “On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy.”
Check which level you have reached now and how many more stages are left!
STAGE 1 – HOMER SIMPSON
People at this stage completely ignore their feelings and say thing like “feelings are a waste of time.”
They are very defensive, resistant to change and see things in “black and white” terms. They grossly generalize, “people are all the same” and prefer to treat others like robots, “everyone ought to do as they are told.”
STAGE 2 – MEAN GIRLS
A recurring theme for the second stage is “I don’t do anything wrong, other people create problems for me.” People at this stage believe that feelings can be generalized and they mostly talk about other people’s experiences.
Problems that do arise are perceived to be external to the self and people at this stage do not take responsibility for the problems in their lives, “I’m not responsible when things go wrong, am I?”
Values, beliefs and assumptions are rigid and not open to being challenged, “No-one ever sees my good side, they only ever see the bad.”
STAGE 3 – THE JUDGE
At this stage, the individual recognizes that he/she exhibits feelings but considers them as shameful, bad, abnormal or unacceptable, “This is how you feel when someone does something like this to you, isn’t it?”
People at this stage experience the self from a distance or from an intellectualized point of view, “I don’t know why I never succeed at the things I try. Maybe that’s the way I am. I’m just doomed to failure.”
Experiences are described in the past and are made remote from oneself, “When I was a kid, I did a lot of things that made me feel bad. I just couldn’t tell anyone about them because of what would have happened if I did.”
STAGE 4 – SPECTATOR
At the Spectator level, the individual expresses their feelings but distrusts and fears them, however in spite of this, there is a desire to understand the meaning and symbolization behind these emotions, “I felt so desperately unhappy when she didn’t seem to care. I’ve never known such deep feelings, it really scared me.”
He/she recognizes that they have felt intense emotions in the past and, as a result, having close relationships with others seems dangerous, “If this is what falling in love means, then l’d rather not have it.”
The Spectator begins to realize that there is a sense of self-responsibility when it comes to problems and life is not always to blame. He/she question the validity of their values, beliefs and assumptions, “It’s crazy, isn’t it, the way I keep setting myself up for the same old let down. Look at me, a man of forty, acting like a kid.”
STAGE 5 – WANTING TO BE REAL
At the fifth stage, the individual has a strong desire to express their feelings freely and to be their real self, “I’ve just realized something. When I start feeling unsure of myself, I get this strange feeling inside which sort of strangles me, and stops me from being all of myself. It is happening now, but it’s gradually fading.”
There is a move towards checking cognitive formulations, giving meaning to feelings and better communication with the self. There is acceptance of self- responsibility for problems and a concern about their contribution to the problem, “I thought I was bad because I felt angry at my father. Now I realize that I was angry because I was hurt. It’s obvious to me now that if I get hurt, it’s natural to get angry. It all makes sense now. It doesn’t mean that I have to feel love for him all the time, he’s not perfect, and neither am I.”
STAGE 6 – ALMOST ON TOP OF THE WORLD
At this stage, the individual is completely comfortable with his/her feelings and expresses them without concern. It is understood that it is ok to be happy, excited, upset, angry and so on, “You know, when I look back and see myself as a three year old, and looking at what I had to put up with, I really do feel sorry for myself. And now, when I look at myself, I feel tender and loving towards myself. I know that I need to take care of me, and treat myself kindly and well….I never knew it was possible to feel this way…it feels really good… really warm.”
There is a shift towards unconditional positive regard for others and he/she begins to leave their previously created frameworks behind. There is no need to think about, defend or rationalize one’s feelings.
STAGE 7 – HUMAN²
At the final stage of this process, the person experiences the present in all its richness, “The experiencing of effective choice of new ways of being.” Personal values, beliefs and assumptions are not set in stone and are tested against experience.
Human² is now able to experience life at its fullest, without being bound by interpretations that belong to the past. There is a strong feeling of living fully in the present and an ability to relate freely to others. This means that the person has the ability to constantly change and grow.
Which stage have you reached now? Tell us in the comment section below.