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The Fully Functioning Person

Thought Experiment: How do I become a fully functioning person?

Psychologist Carl Rogers proposed the concept of the fully functioning person. Rogers believes humans have the opportunity for “growth” in environments where they are treated with genuineness, unconditional positive regard, and accurate empathetic understanding. In such a supportive environment, humans can thrive and learn to become themselves without being directed, advised, persuaded, or given suggestions on how they should behave.

Rogers was not advocating to leave humans to their own devices. Instead, he supported environments where people can learn to become adjusted, open to experiences, and make constructive choices from interfacing with the world.

The fully functioning person is not perfect. Instead, the fully functioning person is transformed by their many life experiences in subtle but powerful ways towards personal growth. The person’s transformation is not self-limiting but broadly and sometimes specifically addresses their mental, physical, social, emotional, and spiritual development.

There is no set doctrine to shape a person’s path to becoming a fully functioning person, but specific attributes strengthen becoming a fully functioning person. For example, openness to one’s emotional health, emotional intelligence, maintaining healthy boundaries, and learning to demonstrate unconditional positive regard for self and others.

Some of Rogers’ ideas are grounded in existentialism; people are not defined by their experiences and not victims of circumstances, given we have a role to play in who we become as a person. Indeed, some experiences are more challenging than others, and the time it takes to rebound is uncertain. Whatever the case, we can learn from our many adventures and decide our path to being fully functioning.

To become free, we have an obligation to ourselves and the community to use our capacity to be resilient. One can reasonably argue the meaning we ascribe to our lives is strengthened by the freedom to choose for ourselves when dealing with moments of uncertainty. The ability to utilize this freedom comes from properly allocating our mental resources to think critically about our responsibility to ourselves.

The thinking of the fully functioning person is adaptable and flexible. Their behaviors are purpose-driven and desire to add value to their lives. Recognizing the past is an opportunity for growth and meaning-making rather than obsessing about what went wrong.

Consequently, the past is not an anchor to a place and time that they cannot meaningfully change. This is not to say, the fully functioning person cannot have unfinished business from the past that they cannot meaningfully accept and aspire to learn from to improve their current functioning.

Thus, creating situations where people process their feelings and value the freedom to think and be decisive about their current and future functioning. For example, someone wrongs you and is reluctant to accept responsibility, you struggle to move on. You likely resent the person, but you realize it is counterintuitive to harbor resentment. Though the bitterness may seem justified and could be rationalized, you recognize resenting the offending party will not restore your humanity or sense of justice.

Fully functioning individuals possess an uncanny sense of self-awareness. They recognize when they are out of their depth and demonstrate a willingness to seek support when necessary. For instance, saying I do not understand is not a source of stress or great anxiety. Instead, these individuals embrace being transparent and receptive to different ideas from their own.

The fully functioning person is not perfect but adaptable to environmental changes. They also utilize their personal agency towards growth.

Stay Naturally Curious.


Corey, G. (1996). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (5th ed). Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.

Sharf, S. R. (2004). Theories of psychotherapy and Counseling: Concept and cases (3rd ed).Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.

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