Explanation Constructs

Kelly's use of the word "construed" rather than "constructed" is important when he is discussing exactly what constructs are. A construct implies the dual nature of something—the relationship between two things or events immediately indicates that the individual has determined their similarity. But simultaneously the differences between the two are also recognized. In the case that a person might construe a situation in terms of a "black vs. white" construct, then even if that construct is misapplied or inappropriate—such as a person seeing only the color of another person's skin rather than the deeper character issues that might be relevant—the individual has applied that construct to matters that are seen only as black or white. In other matters of daily life, whether it is the time of day, the cost of bus fare, or the caloric intake of a fast-food meal, such a construct would not be relevant.

The dual, or "bipolar nature," of constructs, as Kelly termed it, does not precisely follow traditional logic. While it can be deemed that such concepts as "black" and "white" are to be treated as separate concepts, or that the way to view things is that they are either naturally alike or very different, Kelly thought differently. He proposed that while the nature of things might be considered real and unchangeable, that reality exists more clearly in the eyes of the person interpreting it.

Pertinent to his explanation of the nature of constructs, Kelly also outlined and offered 21 additional questions and issues when discussing the matter. Those in the category of personal usage of constructs, in addition to the question regarding the basic nature of a personal construct as discussed in the previous paragraph, were:

• Implied linkages in the interpretation of personal constructs.

• Constructs and anticipations.

• Constructs as controls.

• The personal construction of one's role.

• The real nature of constructs.

Under the category of formal aspects of constructs, Kelly presented the main categories for that aspect of defining his psychology, also with detailed explanation:

• terminology

• communication

• scales of constructs

• scanning by means of constructs

• personal security within the context of a construct

• dimensions of constructs

In the next category, changing construction, Kelly adds the following issues for determination:

• validation

• conditions favorable to the formation of new constructs

• conditions unfavorable to the formation of new constructs

The final section of Kelly's outline of explanation deals with the meaning of experience, a crucial piece of the puzzle of understanding human constructs, particularly in a clinical setting. The issues under consideration are:

• the construed nature of experience

• the interpretation of experience

• the historical approach

• group expectancies as validators of personal constructs

• gaining access to personal constructs through the study of the culture in which they have grown

Examples Kelly elaborates each step in his process of unfolding the philosophy behind his psychology. He examined and explained the nature of personal constructs by detailing examples of how to understand each category when considering that question. Focusing on the issue of the therapist in treating clients, Kelly offered the discussion of the final category, that of understanding a person's culture in order to treat them. This matter is a relevant one given the modern-day concept of "political correctness"—in the sense that people are seen within the context of their group or culture. Kelly warned the therapist against stereotyping individuals, and grouping them together simply because they were of a certain culture. He offered the example that:

The Gentile therapist who comes in contact with a series of Jewish clients for the first time may also be baffled by the similarities he sees by way of contrast with his other clients. If he is to understand them as persons, rather than to stereotype them as Jews, he must neither ignore the cultural expectations under which they have validated their constructs—expectation of both Jewish and Gentile groups—nor make the mistake of focusing on the group constructs to the exclusion of the personal constructs of each client.

The responsible therapist using the psychology of personal constructs must be clear in the distinctions and definitions, just as any other scientist would.

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Getting to Know Anxiety

Getting to Know Anxiety

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