Personal Construct Theory

A bit on George Kelly’s Personal construct theory from Wikipedia:

…each individual’s psychological task is to put in order the facts of his or her own experience.

Mykala, please correct me if I’m off base here, but here’s what I’ve got: as story-makers, we are constantly fabricating a thread to connect our isolated experiences into a life that makes sense. So, on a daily basis, we tell a story of ourselves to ourselves.

When you stop thinking of your life as an ocean on which you are tossed, but instead imagine yourself as a sailboat that can use the prevailing winds to manipulate and shape your life course, you begin to realize the power you have.

Indeed, many things that happen to us do so by chance—we don’t get to choose those facts. What’s more, simply saying we get to choose how we view and respond to those facts sounds flimsy, useless and touchy-feely. When we begin to understand that our brains are designed to provide us a story of our lives, then this ability to shape our story starts to have some depth and meaning.

1 comment left


Mykala +1

Sounds good to me! I’m not exactly on board with your use of the term “fabricating”, as I’m not sure we’re creating something from nothing, but it’s close. :)

I think this theory is important, and I think it’s exciting to realize what we can do with it. My understanding of myself and my experiences shifted profoundly when I realized that we have control over not only how we react outwardly to people, situations, interactions, etc. but also that we can control our thoughts and feelings surrounding these things. Something about the Western understanding of thinking and feeling has led a lot of people to just accept their emotional responses as inevitabilities.

It is my personal theory (which is shared by many other therapists and philosophers, and which builds on Kelly’s work) that we get ourselves into cycles of reactivity, and suddenly find ourselves saying things like, “Well, how was I not supposed to say that?! I was so angry! It’s just how I feel.” And it’s obvious that there is a level of self-control missing here in terms of biting one’s tongue, but there’s arguably another level beyond that— and this is what fascinates me about the human mind. Because of our highly developed consciousness (in essence, our awareness of our consciousness), we have the ability to step back and observe our own thoughts, which also means we have the ability to maintain, modify, or eradicate these thoughts. So, when we say “it’s just how we feel”, we’re implying that these emotional responses are naturally occurring and outside of our control. In actuality, we’ve built a giant framework around situations and people and behaviors and on and on, and we’re stuck in a cycle of action and reaction until we figure out how to take control of these seemingly reflexive thoughts, judgments, and feelings.

Ok. That’s enough for now. Sorry. I get a little excited sometimes. Interesting stuff, though, no?

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