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Every Obstacle

Unleashing the Innate Process: Yielding to the Actualizing Tendency

The essence of this quote resonates with Carl Rogers' concept of the Actualizing Tendency.

There is a desire present in all living things that pushes the organism toward growth. In the case of humans, we all want to express ourselves creatively and reach our full potential.

Rogers explains this with a potato metaphor.

"I remember that in my boyhood, the bin in which we stored our winter’s supply of potatoes was in the basement, several feet below a small window. The conditions were unfavourable, but the potatoes would begin to sprout — pale, white sprouts, so unlike the healthy green shoots, they sent up when planted in the soil in the spring. But these sad, spindly sprouts would grow 2 or 3 feet in length as they reached toward the distant light of the window. The sprouts were, in their bizarre, futile growth, a sort of desperate expression of the directional tendency I have been describing. They would never become plants, never mature, never fulfil their real potential. But under the most adverse circumstances, they were striving to become. Life would not give up, even if it could not flourish. In dealing with clients whose lives have been terribly warped, in working with men and women on the backwards of state hospitals, I often think of those potato sprouts. So unfavourable have been the conditions in which these people have developed that their lives often seem abnormal, twisted, scarcely human. Yet, the directional tendency in them can be trusted. The clue to understanding their behaviour is that they are striving, in the only ways that they perceive as available to them, to move toward growth, toward becoming. To healthy persons, the results may seem bizarre and futile, but they are life’s desperate attempt to become itself.

[Source Carl Rogers (1980)]

Organisms have an innate motivation to live in accordance with their true nature. When the organism cannot do this, it experiences incongruence yet continues to push toward actualizing (the white nubs) even though the environment, the conditions, may be complicated.

We see this when flowers shoot up between cracks in concrete, when corn stalks grow between road grates, and when a tree grows inside of the stump of another tree. We also see this when people struggle to define who they are amidst being told who they are. Often, it is this struggle that leads a person to seek out support (as in AllowingWholeness sessions).

Just like those flowers growing between the cracks, the actualizing tendency cannot be destroyed unless the organism is destroyed (

What might it be like to yield to this innate process?


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