The Principle of Coherence: Harmony Between what is Said and Done

The principle of coherence tells us that people strive, almost at all times, to be congruent . One of our main needs is to take care of that harmony between what we say and what we do, between what experience has taught us and what the immediate moment demands. Now, it is true that we do not always succeed and that this conflict creates discomfort.

One of the first to deepen the principle of congruence or coherence. In 1950, he defined it as an alliance between experience and awareness.

It would be, basically, the result of every thing lived and what we have learned from them to act in a manner consistent with our own scale of values, feelings and desires.

If Rogers worried about delving into this concept, it was for a reason. Something that can often be seen in therapy is incoherence, the clear distance between what one needs and what one does for oneself.

There are many people who come for help because they feel they have completely moved away from their “ideal self.” Their reality has lost meaning because they see a clear difference between what they want and what they do, between what they feel and what they receive.

If the principle of coherence is broken, discomfort and suffering emerge . This is a sadly common reality in which it is worth stopping.

The principle of coherence can sometimes be a problem

Sometimes, in our attempt to take care of our coherence, we find ourselves in contradictory situations that are problematic. An example could be that we define ourselves as environmentalists and as people strongly committed to the care of the environment and, nevertheless, we continue to use polluting energies.

Indeed, there are situations in which we experience a kind of social sanction for defending certain things and not being completely consistent with them . Likewise, all this is further complicated if we want to inspire others , if our desire is to reach other people through our values ​​and behaviors.

What can we do in these circumstances? Are we perhaps more incongruous than we think?

The coherence principle and small dissonances

There are circumstances in which one cannot comply 100% with the principle of coherence . We may not like discussions and discrepancies and have to deal with them frequently. We may defend political ideas and have a partner who defends the opposite. We may love children but we have decided not to have them .

Despite these apparent inconsistencies, there are a number of facts that we should consider:

  • In reality, a person can remain consistent despite the apparent daily inconsistencies . After all, as Carl Rogers himself pointed out, the principle of coherence makes use of one’s own conscience .
  • That is, if I do not experience any disharmony, if my perception continues to see harmony between what I feel and what I do, there is no problem . After all, our environment is incredibly complex and we are forced to deal with each stimulus, with each person, circumstance and unforeseen as we can.
  • The essential thing is that, at all times, an internal balance still exists. There will always be situations that completely undermine our principles, those in which we react with conviction to defend our coherence. Other times, we are obliged to make small concessions because the benefits interest us and we maintain, despite everything, internal homeostasis (such as having a partner with other ideals but with whom living together is happy and satisfying ).