Unconditional Positive Regard
The concept of unconditional regard may strike you as difficult to envision. In everyday conversation, conditions are rampant. Pay attention to the next conversation you overhear. Most of the feedback is either a positive approval or a negative approval in varying degrees.
Even if someone is receiving lots of positive validation from people they can be unhappy. Because that validation is based on the thoughts of others, it can always be taken away, or worse yet turn negative. A person then becomes a psychological slave to the opinions of others, always seeking positive affirmation of their thoughts and actions. This dynamic then blocks out their own natural desires and thoughts, causing the frustration of needs and retarding the natural growth process of the human mind.
Do not confuse positive regard with positive judgment. The word unconditional is the most important word. Positive regard simply means a generally positive attitude towards a person that does not vary based on what they say. In other words it is a positive human interaction that is not conditional on them making statements that are agreeable or correct.
Regardless of whether or not you decide to engage in person centered therapy, using unconditional positive regard in your personal life will lead to stronger relationships and a stronger sense of who you are and what you truly want.
While unconditional regard is something that can be used with anyone you come across, applying it to close friends and family members will yield the greatest response. A stranger or coworker may not integrate your thoughts about them too strongly into their thought system, but a loved one will.
While the experience of UPR in the context of person centered therapy can be a refreshing and therapeutic feeling, it is certainly not limited to the confines of a therapists office. UPR, given and received, in the wilds of everyday life can greatly impact they way people feel about themselves and think about others.
So long as you are focused on the opinions of others, you aren’t focused on your own intrinsic desires and needs. Conditional positive regard serves to blot out your own genuine thoughts and wants, replacing it with a system of thought oriented on how to get more positive regard from other people.
Every person needs some positive regard in their life. We are social animals, thriving off positive interactions with each other. However more often then not, that positive regard from other people is laced with a condition. The positive regard flows for a reason, and if that reason goes so does the regard. “I like you Johnny, you’re so smart.”
Of course human relationships are going to have some conditions. No matter how deeply you love your child, there will be times when their actions drive you up a wall. Conditional regard is OK in limited amounts. It suffocates people when it becomes widespread, especially when it becomes based on ephemeral criteria or something you must keep up. “I love you” is the ultimate unconditional positive regard. “I love you because you are my daughter” is conditional, but based on something that can never change and thus very similar to unconditional regard. ‘I love you, you get such good grades” is very conditional, leading to deep stress over maintaining the link to parental love through high marks. Its this type of condition of worth that leads to the negative feelings and thoughts that lead to depression and illness.