Are values fixed or changing?

Why does Carl Rogers say that values are always changing and not rigid? Would Viktor Frankl agree with his assertion? What is the process of discovery of values? What can we learn from the infant? What is lost in contact with the world and what is gained in therapy? Is there a difference in the way Frankl and Rogers would answer these questions as well?


“[The infant] gradually learns that what “feels good” is often “bad” in the eyes of others…Now, as he pulls his sister’s hair, he solemnly intones, “Bad, bad boy.” He is introjecting the value judgment of another, taking it in as his own. To that degree he loses touch with his own organismic valuing process. He has deserted the wisdom of his organism, giving up the locus of evaluation, and is trying to behave in terms of values set by another, in order to hold love…

“He learns to have a basic distrust for his own experiencing as a guide to his behavior. He learns from others a large number of conceived values, and adopts them as his own, even though they may be widely discrepant from what he is experiencing. Because these concepts are not based on his own valuing, they tend to be fixed and rigid, rather than fluid and changing…

“…This fundamental discrepancy between the individual’s concepts and what he is actually experiencing, between the intellectual structure of his values and the valuing process going on unrecognized within him – this is a part of the fundamental estrangement of modern man from himself. This is a major problem for the therapist…

“When it is most effective, it seems to me [therapy] is marked by one primary value: namely, that this person, this client, has worth. He as a person is valued in his separateness and uniqueness. It is when he senses and realized that he is prized as a person that he can slowly begin to value the different aspects of himself. Most importantly, he can begin, with much difficulty at first, to sense and to feel what is going on within him, what he is feeling, what he is experiencing, how he is reacting…

“The valuing process which seems to develop in this more mature person is in some ways very much like that in the infant, and in some ways quite different. It is fluid, flexible, based on this particular moment, and the degree to which this moment is experienced as enhancing and actualizing. Values are not held rigidly, but are continually changing…

“Another characteristic of the way this person values experience is that it is highly differentiated…It is his own experience which provides the value information or feedback…

“In getting close to what is going on within himself, the process is much more complex than it is in the infant…It has meaning growing out of similar experiences in the past,,,[He makes] hypotheses about consequences…Past and future are both in this moment and enter into the valuing…

“Like the infant, too, the psychologically mature adult trusts and uses the wisdom of his organism, with the difference that he is able to do so knowingly…He trusts the totality of himself…

“To buy love we relinquish the valuing process. Because the center of our lives now lies in others, we are fearful and insecure, and must cling rigidly to the values we have introjected. But if life or therapy gives us favorable conditions for continuing our psychological growth, we move on in something of a spiral, developing an approach to values which partakes of the infant’s directness and fluidity but goes far beyond him in its richness. In our transactions with experience we are again the locus or source of valuing, we prefer those experiences which in the long run are enhancing, we utilize all the richness of our cognitive learning and functioning, but at the same time we trust the wisdom of our organism.”


“His responsibility is always responsibility for the actualization of values: not only “eternal” values, but also “situational values.” Opportunities for the actualization of values change from person to person just as much as they change from hour to hour. The requirement that values be actualized – a requirement that radiates from the world of values into the lives of men – thus becomes a concrete demand for every single hour and a personal summons to every single person.” (Doctor and the Soul p. 105)

“Logotherapy…focuses on the meaning of human existence as well as on man’s search for such a meaning. According to logotherapy, this striving to find a meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man. That is why I speak of a will to meaning in contrast to the pleasure principle [or]…the will to power…I would not be willing to live merely for the sake of my “defense mechanisms,” nor would I be ready to die merely for the sake of my “reaction formations.” Man, however, is able to live and even to die for the sake of his ideals and values!” (Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl, p. 121)

“It is the task of conscience to disclose to man the unum necesse, the one thing that is required. This one thing, however, is absolutely unique inasmuch as it is the unique possibility a concrete person has to actualize in a specific situation…which cannot be comprehended by any universal law… Only conscience is capable of adjusting the “eternal,” generally agreed-upon moral law to the specific situation a concrete person is engaged in.” (The Unconscious God p. 34-36)

“Conscience, unlike Freud’s concept of a restrictive superego which operates within the parameters of the psyche, is a spiritual capacity. It has transcendent qualities To have a conscience means that we are able to discern higher values and meanings, grasp their significance and freely embrace them. This means that we are not merely subjected to social restrictions internalized by a punitive superego, to which we succumb out of fear of what will happen to us if we don’t. Conscience functions on a higher level. It is our link to the trans-human dimension, our ability to hear the voice of the transcendent, ‘through the conscience of the human person, a strans-human agent personat – which literally means :”is sounding through.” (Quest for Destiny, Teria Shantall, pp. 23-24)

“As each situation in life represents a challenge to man and presents a problem for him to solve; the question of the meaning of life may actually be reversed. Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible. Thus, logotherapy sees in responsibleness the very essence of human existence…” (Man’s Search for Meaning, p. 131-133)

“If we were to give a quick account of what led existential analysis to recognize responsibleness as the essence of existence, then we would have to begin with an inversion of the question…Man is not he who poses the question, What is the meaning of life? But he who is asked this question, for it is life itself that poses it to him. And man has to answer to life by answering for life he has to respond by being responsible; in other words, the response is necessarily a response-in-action. While we respond to life “in action” we are also responding in the “here and now.” What is always involved in our response is the concreteness of a person and the concreteness of the situation in which he is involved.” (Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning, Frankl, p. 29)

“Human responsibility…is a responsibility springing from the singularity and uniqueness of each man’s existence. Man’s existence is a responsibility springing from man’s finiteness… Freedom can only be freedom in the face of a destiny, a free stand toward destiny. Certainly man is free, but he is not floating freely in airless space. He is always surrounded by a host of restrictions. These restrictions, however, are the jumping-off points for his freedom. Freedom presupposes restrictions, is contingent upon restrictions.” (Doctor and the Soul p. 60-61)

“Now, a part of the uniqueness of life is the uniqueness of every man’s destiny. Like death, destiny is a part of life. No man can break away from the concrete, unique sphere of his personal destiny. If he quarrels with his destiny – that is to say, with what is beyond his power, for which he bears no responsibility or blame – he is overlooking the meaning of destiny…Within his own “exclusive” sphere of destiny every man is irreplaceable. This irreplaceability adds to the responsibility with which he has to shape his destiny. To have a destiny means in each case to have one’s own destiny. With his unique destiny each man stands, so to speak, alone in the entire cosmos. His destiny will not recur. No one else has the same potentialities as he, nor will he himself be given them again. The opportunities that come his way for the actualization of creative or experiential values, the tribulations which are destined to come his way – which he cannot alter and must therefore endure and in the enduring of them actualize attitudinal values – all these are unique and singular…”(Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning)

What all of this is saying simply is that a value becomes meaningful when it is applied suitably for a particular person in a particular situation.

What are your conclusions when you reflect on all of this?

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2 Responses to Are values fixed or changing?

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I need to find out more specifics about it.

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