On Becoming Congruent
Updated: Jul 15, 2021
Carl Rogers, one of psychology's most influential thinkers, held at the center of many of his theories the belief that people are self-righting ships. His premise was that we all have key wisdom about ourselves locked away, and that thoughtful questions from trusted and genuinely interested others (not advice or answers) is the key to shifting into a state of congruence.
This premise of psychological congruence, the idea that our internally experienced self and the self we present to others should overlap a lot, is more complex than simply “waking up” or developing insight. And as anyone who lives, works, or interacts with other people knows, being 100% authentically real all the time doesn't always lead to interpersonal or professional bliss.
Having insight about the "masks" we all wear in different social situations is an important step, but it doesn't automatically free us from overusing those masks. After all, we are social creatures who want -- and need -- to be a part of the groups and communities that surround us. Staying included (and subsequently, safe) takes a certain amount of savvy, emotional intelligence, and interpersonal navigation, and these skills get more difficult to access and sustain in times of stress and trauma.
So, here we all find ourselves, on what we can only hope is the long tail end of a pandemic, perhaps scarred and grieving, perhaps frayed and bewildered, perhaps numb, or perhaps racing ahead to the afterwards part, stomping our feet like race horses trapped in the starting gate. Many friends, colleagues, and clients who work in healthcare have shared the experiences of masks being worn away (or ripped off) by the pandemic, and of becoming aware of unexplored parts of themselves. These newly unearthed aspects can feel raw and insistent, demanding we stop and look at them, even as we are tasked with leading others through this incredibly challenging time.
For those of us responsible for leading teams, families, and communities in times of upheaval and change, moving beyond simple awareness means getting grounded in the values and strengths that have always been deep in your core. Unearthing them, bringing them into awareness, and acting in accordance with them can create an ever-strengthening foundation. Approaching the most important goals and tasks of your work life – being in congruence with this foundational information about the self -- can shift you from automatic pilot to making intentional and powerful choices about the next phase of your life.