Counselling in Oxfordshire

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Blog » Does incongruence compound the damage of neglect?


17 Jan 2008

A study by Rollo May, in his first book, The Meaning of Anxiety, based on his doctoral thesis, highlights the importance of congruence in relation to those who are in a carer role to us in childhood.

May carried out a study of anxiety in single mothers, and found that neurotic anxiety didn't correlate with experiences of parental rejection per se, but rather with rejection covered with pretences of love and concern.

In other words, it was the incongruence related to parental rejection rather than the rejection itself that led to neurotic anxiety.

This highlights that incongruence in the individual’s carers in early life plays a strong role in the acquisition of introjected conditions of worth, and that trying to fake acceptance (unconditional positive regard or UPR) with a vulnerable individual may be more harmful to their ability to self-actualise than a genuine and explicit failure to display UPR.

It also re-emphasises for us as practitioners that the core conditions of empathic understanding, UPR and congruence, are not a set of techniques or a set of behaviours, but that they require a commitment from and an engagement with the whole self of the counsellor.

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