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What is congruence and incongruence?
Our self-concepts are not always perfectly aligned with reality. Some students might believe that they are great at academics, but their school transcripts might tell a different story.
According to Carl Rogers, the degree to which a person's self-concept matches up to reality is known as congruence and incongruence.
While we all tend to distort reality to a certain degree, congruence occurs when self-concept is fairly well aligned with reality. Incongruence happens when reality does not match up to our self-concept.
Rogers believed that incongruence has its earliest roots in childhood. When parents place conditions on their affection for their children (only expressing love if children "earn it" through certain behaviors and living up to the parents' expectations), children begin to distort the memories of experiences that leave them feeling unworthy of their parents' love.
Unconditional love, on the other hand, helps to foster congruence. Children who experience such love feel no need to continually distort their memories in order to believe that other people will love and accept them as they are.