What is Conditional Positive Regard?

What is Conditional Positive Regard?

 

What is Conditional Positive Regard?

By Disha Suresh

It is not uncommon to give individuals respect, kindness and affection based on their actions and their behaviour. This concept has a psychological basis to it, known as Conditions of Positive Regard. The American Psychological Association defines conditional positive regard as “an attitude of acceptance and esteem that others express toward an individual on a conditional basis, that is, depending on the acceptability of the individual’s behaviour in accordance with the others’ personal standards.” This concept is the opposite of unconditional positive regard, which is defined as “an attitude of caring, acceptance, and prizing that others express toward an individual irrespective of his or her behaviour and without regard to the others’ personal standards.”

This concept was proposed by Carl Rogers, the pioneer of humanistic psychology, which highlights the uniqueness of each individual. Rogers proposed that conditional positive regard is not conducive for growth and acceptance in children. He theorized that children need two vital things to develop as fully-functioning individuals; positive regard from other people and self-worth. Positive regard given on a conditional basis can be used by parents to discipline children or to make them meet their expectations. Through careful observation, we can see that most of the love, attention and approval that we receive are conditional. For example, we receive validation from our parents when our grades are good, or we receive appreciations from teachers when we are diligent and well-behaved. By relying too much on conditional positive regard, we develop conditions of self-worth, which are our perceptions of the actions we must perform in order to feel worthy or valued. Carl Rogers places this concept under the focus of his client-centred therapy. Feltham and Dryden define ‘conditions of worth’ as ‘the terms on which one receives approval from significant others’ When conditions of self-worth do no align with our natural abilities, talents and wants, there arises a condition called incongruence, which causes stress and confusion. 

While conditions of self-worth can help an individual stay disciplined and form goals, they are still the result of other people’s expectations. As children, we internalize these conditions and accept them as fact rather than opinions. It is necessary for us to gradually form our own conditions of self-worth and become our own versions of our ideal selves. Carl Rogers said that a characteristic of an individual who is fully actualized or someone who has reached their full potential is that of freedom from conditions of worth. Ideally, nobody must have conditions on expressing validation, love and regard. Hence, we must move towards becoming an individual showing unconditional positive regard, who is open to experiences, creative and reflective.