Rogers believed that every person could achieve their goals, wishes, and desires in life. When they did so self-actualization took place. For Rogers (1961) people who are able be self-actualize, and that is not all of us, are called fully functioning persons. This means that the person is in touch with the here and now, his or her subjective experiences and feelings, continually growing and changing.
In many ways Rogers regarded the fully functioning person as an ideal and one that people do not ultimately achieve. It is wrong to think of this as an end or completion of life’s journey; rather it is a process of always becoming and changing.
Rogers identified five characteristics of the fully functioning person:
1. Open to experience: both positive and negative emotions accepted. Negative feelings are not denied, but worked through (rather than resorting to ego defence mechanisms).
2. Existential living: in touch with different experiences as they occur in life, avoiding prejudging and preconceptions. Being able to live and fully appreciate the present, not always looking back to the past or forward to the future (i.e. living for the moment).
3. Trust feelings: feeling, instincts and gut-reactions are paid attention to and trusted. People’s own decisions are the right ones and we should trust ourselves to make the right choices.
4. Creativity: creative thinking and risk taking are features of a person’s life. A person does not play safe all the time. This involves the ability to adjust and change and seek new experiences.
5. Fulfilled life: person is happy and satisfied with life, and always looking for new challenges and experiences.
For Rogers, fully functioning people are well adjusted, well balanced and interesting to know. Often such people are high achievers in society. Critics claim that the fully functioning person is a product of Western culture. In other cultures, such as Eastern cultures, the achievement of the group is valued more highly than the achievement of any one person.