Emotional Adjustment: Meaning and Significance

According to the humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers, emotional well-being is the main cause of psychological distress. He suggested that when one is not emotionally adjusted, one encounters psychological problems. Rogers' concept of emotional adjustment revolves around his concepts of self and congruence. He believed that emotional maladjustment occurs when the actual and ideal self is not congruent, and self-actualization does not occur. This maladjustment leads to psychological problems like distorted self-image, dysfunctional behaviors, etc.

Emotional Adjustment: Meaning

Emotional adjustment refers to one's acceptance of "self" or "self-concept." It is also explained as one's ability to be self-actualizing and fully functioning. The concept of a "fully functioning person is very closely related to emotional adjustment, as fully functioning describes a state when one is in optimum emotional health.” Emotional adjustment is important for personality development and maintaining a physiologically and psychologically healthy life.

Development of Emotional Adjustment

Emotional adjustment takes place when one's self is in congruence. The self-concept consists of three types of perceptions of self, i.e.,

  • Actual self − The "self" that a person believes he or she is.

  • Ideal Self − This is the "self" that a person wishes and desires to be.

  • Ought self − This is the self that one knows one should be.

These could be understood with the help of an example. Consider that a person perceives herself as obese as she weighs 76kg. She wishes to be very thin and weigh 40kg but knows she should be between 55kg and 60 kg to maintain a healthy weight. In this example, three different possible selves may be perceived. Unlike this, the difference between the three selves is not always clear, and they often overlap. It is the extent of this overlapping that influences the emotional adjustment of an individual.

Thus, when the actual and ideal self is in congruence, one is considered emotionally adjusted, but when they are incongruent, one is considered maladjusted. It is also important to acknowledge that the perception of self-matters and not reality. This implies that even if a person is honest, which is his ideal self, if he perceives himself as utterly dishonest, then the incongruency will exist.

Identifying Emotional Adjustment and Maladjustment

Emotional adjustment and maladjustment are two sides of the same coin and thus have opposing impacts on an individual. An emotionally adjusted person has a strong sense of self, is confident, open to experience, creative, accepting, and fully functioning and self-actualizing. Such individuals perceive things much like they are and feel worthy under all circumstances. They can, as Rogers suggests, lead a "good life' by developing and actualizing all their facets and becoming fully functioning. Rogers proposed that incongruence and emotional maladjustment lead to low self-esteem, self-worth, self-image, and even lower levels of self-actualization. This implies that emotional adjustment has a great toll on one's self-concept. Thus, some of the symptoms of emotional maladjustment are:

  • Nervousness and anxiety

  • Defensiveness in the form of social withdrawal or aggression

  • Insecurity and inferiority complex

  • Increased experiences of negative emotions like sadness, fear, etc.

  • Low confidence

  • Excessive use of defense mechanisms

  • They may also be perceived as awkward, confused, and unfriendly by others.

  • Denying and distorting unacceptable ways of perceiving reality leading to rigidity in experiences.

How to Ensure Emotional Adjustment

As the basic proposition of the Person-Centered Approach suggests, the person has the potential and ability to make choices and bring changes in one's life. It is one's perception that decides one's behavior and personality development. Thus, emotional adjustment can also be ensured by empowering an individual to be free to make choices. Some of the ways to ensure emotional adjustment in children are as follows:

  • A primary caregiver should provide positive regard for the child.

  • Encourage the child to explore and accept different experiences.

  • Avoid being overprotective or overly supportive.

  • Delegating responsibility to the child.

  • Teaching methods like meditation and stress management.

  • Giving moral education.

  • Acting as a guide and facilitator instead of an authority.

Similarly, an emotional adjustment in adults can be ensured by the following measures -

  • Meditating and practicing self-care.

  • Being self-aware and observing oneself.

  • Knowing one's strengths and weaknesses.

  • Being accepting and enjoying uncertainty and challenges.

  • Sharing one's problems with others.

Beyond this, when is loved one is in a debilitating condition, one should not avoid contacting and seeking help from psychological professionals.


Emotional adjustment is a characteristic feature of a fully functioning person. As per Rogers, one's emotional adjustment is directly affected by one's perception of the actual and ideal self. Being emotionally adjusted is important to living a psychologically healthy life. Overall, Rogers' emotional adjustment concept is relevant in personality and developmental psychology and has very important implications, especially for youth development.

Updated on: 08-Dec-2022

2K+ Views

Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started