chapter  12
The root of psychological and emotional distress lies in the acquisition of conditions of worth
Pages 2

Individuals have a need for positive regard (Point 19) ± in particular from `signi®cant others', that is important people in the immediate environment such as parents and other principal carers. As the self develops, there is also a need for positive selfregard which Merry (2002: 25) indicates as being necessary to `develop a sense of trust in the accuracy and reliability of our own inner experiencing'. That is to say that positive self-regard allows individuals to trust their own perceptions and evaluations of the world as they experience it. In terms of person-centred theory, this position is having an `internal locus of evaluation'. However, the need for positive regard from others, especially those to whom the individual looks for care, protection and nurture, is so strong that this internal evaluation of experience can be easily overwhelmed if love and acceptance is withheld or threatened to be withheld ± that is if they become `conditional'. So, in order to gain and maintain the positive regard of others, the individual disregards or inhibits the expression of aspects of inner experiencing that con¯icts (or seems to con¯ict) with the needs and opinions of others because to do otherwise would risk the withdrawal of love and acceptance. When this happens, individuals rely on the evaluations of others for their feelings of acceptance and self-regard. They develop an `external locus of evaluation', distrusting inner experiencing even to the point of abandoning it altogether. In this way, individuals learn that they are only acceptable, loveable and prized, that is `worthy', as long as they conform to the demands, expectations and positive evaluations of others. In this way `conditions of worth' are acquired. In order to maintain a feeling of being valued and accepted, individuals seek or avoid experiences according to how well they ®t with their conditions of worth. Experiences that match these conditions of worth (and therefore the self

described 227). This experience and in behaviour. (Note: there are other propositions as to causes of incongruence, see Point 35.) It is the process of defence that leads to some expressions of emotional or psychological distress. Rogers (1959: 228) lists these as including:

not only the behaviors customarily regarded as neurotic ± rationalization, compensation, fantasy, projection, compulsions, phobias and the like ± but also some of the behaviors customarily regarded as psychotic, notably paranoid behaviors and perhaps catatonic states.