March 05, 2014

Unconditional Positive Regard

Unconditional positive regard is a term coined by influential American psychologist Carl Rogers. If you have unconditional positive regard (UPR) for someone, you support and accept that person regardless of his or her behaviour. It means that even when you don't respect or approve of what someone says or does, you maintain an overall attitude of acceptance and positive regard for him or her.

Rogers named UPR as one of three necessary and sufficient conditions for successful psychotherapy, along with therapist genuineness and accurate empathy. He believed that therapists who demonstrated UPR for their clients created a positive therapy environment conducive to client growth and development. According to Rogers, the demonstration of UPR allows clients to freely express thoughts, feelings, and actions without fear of offending or alienating the therapist. Therapists may still question clients' behaviour, but without condemning the client as a person.

What about outside therapy, though?

Unconditional positive regard can exist in parent-child or other family relationships, in close friendships, and in romantic relationships or marriages. It can't be assumed to be present but, if we're lucky, we have UPR in at least one of our relationships. Social psychologist David G. Myers referred to UPR in relationships as "an attitude of grace, an attitude that values us even when knowing our failings." He added "It is a profound relief to drop our pretenses, confess our worse feelings, and discover that we are still accepted... we are free to be spontaneous without fearing the loss of the others' esteem."

My experience is that that's exactly what it feels like. I can think of a handful of people who seem to have UPR for me, and the word relief accurately describes how it feels to spend time with them. I've told these UPR-extending individuals what I believe to be the most shameful and appalling truths about myself, and it didn't seem to change how they feel about me. I don't worry about my pride around them and even when I'm my worst self, it doesn't threaten the relationship.

I can also think of a handful of people for whom I have UPR. It's hard to imagine something they could say or do that would make me turn away from them permanently, or make me not try to understand their motivation. I love and/or respect them even when I dislike them.

Unconditional positive regard is lovely when it happens, but I think it's the exception rather than the rule. That is, I'd venture that most of our friends, and even many of our family members, could lose our esteem. There are usually only a select few loved ones for whom we really feel unconditional positive regard. It may be spontaneous or may develop over time.  

For whom do you have unconditional positive regard? Who has it for you? What does it      feel like?

1 comment:

  1. this is a helpful post for me
    thank you for posting it!