The 14 Significant Learnings of Carl Rogers

In his book ‘On Becoming A Person’ after his own introduction, he proceeds to summarize his life’s work into fourteen key learnings that may be applied to understanding of interpersonal relationships and psychotherapy. The essence of Person-Centered Therapy would have been captured somewhere within these statements.

“In each case I believe they become a part of my actions in inner convictions before I realized them consciously. They are certainly scattered learnings, and incomplete. I can only say that they are and have been very important to me. I continually learn and relearn them. I frequently fail to act in terms of them, but later I wish that I had. Frequently I fail to see a new situation as one in which some of these learnings might apply.’

‘In my relationships with persons I have found that it does not help, in the long run, to be act as though I were something that I am not.’

Be congruent to what you really experience about yourself. Even as a therapist, the need to ‘be’ more educated, wiser, resourceful, when you are not, will distort your perceptions of reality in the long run. It means the rejection of your present experiencing of yourself and your ability to trust your senses, both personally and professionally.

That does not help.

You, the way you are now, is enough for the challenges you have to face now. You can accept it.

‘I find I am more effective when I can listen acceptantly to myself, and can be myself.’

One of the greatest skills you can cultivate for yourself as a person and a therapist is learning to trust and accept your senses about yourself, others, and the world.

What are your senses telling you? Does this feel good now, but wrong in the long run? Does this feel right in one perspective and wrong from another? Is this the best use of your time even though you feel empty later?

No one else can do that for you as well as you do. Listening is a skill that takes a lifetime to master, practice it with yourself.

‘I found it of enormous value when I can permit myself to hear others.’

Hearing another person doesn’t happen naturally. You have to give yourself that permission.

Modern life shape our minds to get others to listen to us, to shut down and overwhelm others. To truly listen is to accommodate and allow them to enter our worlds as we enter theirs. That takes courage that may never be recognized or fully understood, but with practice you may emerge from it safely.

Give yourself that permission.

‘I have found it enriching to open channels whereby others can communicate their feelings, their private perceptual worlds, to me.’

We can be pleasantly surprised at every occasion we allow others to speak personally to us.

Are our channels open? Have we allowed others to truly speak their minds to us? Are there answers we are not willing to hear? Are there feelings that we are not willing to let into the space we share?

Allowing others to enter fully can enrich us in ways we cannot see.

‘I have found it highly rewarding when I can accept another person.’

To accept another person is more than simply validating what’s good and strong about them. It is also about accepting their flaws, confusions, contradictions, rejection of our validation, and frustration at us when we fail to hear them.

‘The more I am open to the realities in me and in the other person, the less do I find myself wishing to rush in to ‘fix things’.

Sometimes our innate compassion for others works against us. It motivates us to take action, even when they are not always the wisest or warranted. Even when things are broken and in need of fixing: Are we equipped with the appropriate tools? Are we responsible for fixing? Is the fixing the best course of action? Are we the best persons to provide the fix?

All too quickly we jump to the fix without considering these questions as we lack the openness towards the myriad realities of others. Let compassion guide us towards openness, and tame our impulses to fix.

‘I can trust my experience.’

We can trust our experiences. Every one in this world have been given similar tools to make sense of the world. Ours are not better or worse than others’. At the very least we can learn to trust it, and inadvertently learn to use it better.

‘Evaluation by others in not a guide for me.’

Honoring our owns experience often also means rejecting the evaluations by others, which is treacherously difficult. The evaluations by others, in a vacuum, can only harm us on the long term, as we start living inside their lenses and not ours. Their lenses will always be impossible and inhabitable, and our lenses will stay rusty and blurred as we put them away.

‘Experience is, for me, the highest authority.’

Science and truth do not exist without experience. The only way to know truth begins with our own experiencing and attuning to it, and it is only through honoring our experiences we can understand science and people who look to us for help.

‘I enjoy the discovering of order in experience.’

Science is simply about ordering (and giving meaning to) our experiences of the world, and that process can be very enjoyable. The same joy that accompanies scientific exploration might also be found in the process of good psychotherapy.

‘The facts are friendly’

Facts are friendly. Knowledge can never truly hurt us, and can only liberate us.

It can be hard to navigate the labyrinths of opinions, facts, myths, science, and pseudoscience. It can be hard to listen to the theories of others when we spent so much time cultivating and refining our own. It can even feel treacherous when other people may be waiting to catch us wrong and prove themselves right in whatever means possible. But the facts, on their own, are friendly with anyone willing to open their eyes and hearts.

‘What is most personal is most general.’

As surprising as it sounds, our most personal and private experiences are paradoxically the most universal. The foundations and depths of what it means to be human is often shared with everyone, be it our fear of death and isolation, our cherishment of intimacy, our complex relationship with health and wealth, fear of uncertainty, and preference for simplicity. We might have different understandings of these ideas and advocate for different ideologies. But if we might strip everything that is formal (rules, religion, political ideologies), we will find what's remaining of ourselves to be surprisingly similar.

The personally we feel, the more universally it is shared.

‘It has been my experience that persons have a basically positive direction.’

People are at heart good. Even those with personality disorders, violent tendencies, have/had malicious thoughts, and destroyed societies. When every one can see that they no longer have to be someone else or do something to be worthy, they will grow in positive directions. Every last one of us.

‘Life, at its best, is a flowing changing process in which nothing is fixed.’

Nothing is fixed. The fully functioning person does not stay stagnant and rigid with a specific configuration of ideal personality traits and talents, but rather understands that life changes and he/she will change along with it. The best attitude under such circumstances might be a radical acceptance of everything: both the ebb and flow of the world, and the feelings of right and wrong within us.



Inspired by Carl Rogers’ Person Centered Approach, this is a platform that provides ideas, arguments, and tools for a more humanistic counselling psychology.

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JY Tan

Psychology enthusiast, trainee counsellor, washed up scientist, struggling writer. Sometimes reviews games and books, but mostly rants about life’s left hooks.