Stephen Joseph Ph.D.

What Doesn't Kill Us

Are You Living the Life You Want?

How Client-Centred Therapy can help you make changes in your life.

Posted Jun 25, 2018

Abraham Maslow, the founder of humanistic psychology, said, ‘a musician must make music, an artist must paint and a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself’. What he meant was that true contentment comes from when we are living our lives in such a way that we are playing to our innate strengths, talents, and interests. It seems so obvious that this is important, but as a psychotherapist I can tell you that one very common complaint from people is the feeling that the life they are leading is in some way incongruent to who they really are. They look back on their life and wonder how they got to where they are.

As children many of us will have been encouraged by parents, teachers, and other adults to pursue a certain path in life. But this happened so long ago that we may be unaware of how the values and beliefs of those adults back then are still driving us today. Even if we are aware of this it can still be hard to shake it off.

Carl Rogers, the famous psychologist, talked about conditions of worth. By this he meant how parents and other adults put social pressure on children to develop in particular directions by being conditional with their affection. Researchers have studied this by asking people if they agree with such statements as the ones below.

As a child, my parents only showed me affection when I did well at school.

As a child, my parents were more loving towards me when I was well-behaved.

As a child, my parents only showed me affection when I did well at sports.

Those who agree with such statements as those above are more likely to be living lives in which their life goals were things they felt that they should do rather than what they wanted to do, they experienced guilt and shame when they failed to live up to the demands and they experienced only fleeting satisfaction when they did achieve success. For such people there may be feelings of discontent and distress, despite obtaining what may look like incredible success to an outside observer.  Does that sound like you?

No matter how successful you may be, if you are following a path in life that is not true to yourself, you are likely to feel a deep seated discontent with your achievements. For Carl Rogers, healthy psychological development comes about when our goals in life are truly our own.

Carl Rogers developed a form of psychotherapy called Client-Centred Therapy in which people can be helped to become more aware of their conditions of worth, and in turn figure out whether the goals they have in life are their own or really those of their parents and other caregivers. It is never too late to become truer to ourselves and to make the decision to lead a more authentic life – one in which we find a way of living our lives that match our innate strengths, talents, and interests.

The task of turning your life around can seem overwhelming. For some, it seems too daunting and they retreat to what they know. The secret is to do it in small steps. Authenticity is at the heart of our decision-making and it is in each and every small moment in life that it makes a difference. Practise being truer to yourself right now in each and every moment, and let the big picture unfold over time. It’s a bit like being in a boat and making small tilts of the rudder that eventually take you to a new destination, distant from the course you were originally on.

To find out more about authenticity, check out my new book, Authentic: How to be yourself and why it matters, or visit