| George A. KELLY |

 
 

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BIOGRAPHY
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ARTICLES
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BIBLIOGRAPHY
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IDIOSYNCRASIES
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LINKS
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"A good deal is said these days about being oneself. It is supposed to be healthy to be oneself. While it is a little hard for me to understand how one could be anything else, I suppose what is meant is that one should not strive to become anything other than what he is. This strikes me as a very dull way of living; in fact, I would be inclined to argue that all of us would be better off if we set out to be something other than what we are. Well, I’m not so sure we would all be better off - perhaps it would be more accurate to say life would be a lot more interesting.

There is another meaning that might be attached to this admonition to be oneself; that one should not try to disguise himself. I suspect this comes nearer to what psychologists mean when they urge people to be themselves. It is presumed that the person who faces the world barefaced is more spontaneous, that he expresses himself more fully, and that he has a better chance of developing all his resources if he assumes no disguises.

But this doctrine of psychological nakedness in human affairs, so much talked about today and which allows the self neither make-up nor costume, leaves very little to the imagination. Not does it invite one to be venturesome. I suspect, for example, that in the Garden of Eden it might have occurred to Adam to take a chance much sooner than he did if Eve had been paying a little more attention to her wardrobe. As it was I hear she had to bribe him with an apple. Later on they say she contrived a saucy little something out of fig leaves.

What I am saying is that it is not so much what man is that counts as it is what he ventures to make of himself. To make the leap he must do more than disclose himself; he must risk a certain amount of confusion. Then, as soon as he does catch a glimpse of a different kind of life, he needs to find some way of overcoming the paralyzing moment of threat, for this is the instant when he wonders who he really is - whether he is what he just was or is what he is about to be. Adam must have experienced such a moment."

George Kelly - pp157-8 / The Language of Hypothesis - 1964

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BIOGRAPHY

George Kelly - Psychologist, Mathematician, Educator - Invented the theory of the Psychology of Personal Constructs - was born in 1905 in Kansas. In 1909 he made a family trip in his father’s covered wagon to stake a claim on the last free land in Eastern Colorado offered to settlers in the west. After returning to the farm in Kansas he attended school irregularly and was educated by his parents. By 1926 he had completed his BA in physics and mathematics There followed a B.Ed. at Edinburgh University and a Ph.D. in psychology at Iowa. In 1931 he began to work in clinical psychology organizing a programme of travelling clinics in and around the rural areas of Fort Hays, Kansas. This travelling clinic offered services to children and adults in the areas of psychotherapy, counselling etc. This ‘travelling clinic’ comprised just himself and four of his students helping out.

He worked mainly in the area of clinical psychology in the USA, elaborating his theory of the Psychology of Personal Constructs with a focus on personal change through ‘psychotherapy’ - although he did not like this term to describe the human venture of personal transitions and transformations and opposed the usual psychiatric and psychological terminology as reductive and unhelpful. In 1945-6 he was appointed Professor and Director of Clinical Psychology at Ohio State University. He remained here until 1965 when he took up the Distinguished Professorial Chair in Theoretical Psychology at Brandeis University. He died in 1967.

 

IDIOSYNCRASIES

Claimed as an intellectual source / fellow-traveler by more mutually exclusive schools of thought than any other writer.

SEE QUOTE FROM KELLY:

‘I have been so puzzled over the early labelling of personal construct theory as ‘cognitive’ that several years ago I set out to write another short book to make it clear that I wanted no part of cognitive theory. The manuscript was about a third completed when I gave a lecture at Harvard University with the title, ‘Personal Construct Theory as a Line of Inference.’ Following the lecture, Professor Gordon Allport explained to the students that my theory was not a ‘cognitive’ theory but an ‘emotional’ theory. Later the same afternoon, Dr. Henry Murray called me aside and said, ‘You know, don’t you, that you are really an existentialist.

Since that time I stepped into almost all the open manholes that psychological theorists can possibly fall into. For example, in Warsaw, where I thought my lecture on personal construct theory would be an open challenge to dialectical materialism, the Poles, who had been conducting some seminars on personal construct theory before my arrival, explained to me that ‘personal construct theory was just exactly what dialectical materialism stood for.’ Along the way also I have found myself classified in a volume on personality theories as one of the ‘learning theorists,’ a classification that seems to me so patently ridiculous that I have gotten no end of amusement out of it.

A few years ago an orthodox psychoanalyst insisted, after hearing me talk about psychotherapy, that, regardless of what I might say about Freud, and regardless even of my failure to fall in the apostolic succession to which a personal psychoanalysis entitled one, I was really ‘a psychoanalyst.’ This charge was repeated by a couple of psychoanalytically sophisticated psychiatrists in London last fall and nothing I could say would shake their conviction.

I have, of course, been called a Zen Buddhist, and last fall one of our former students, now a distinguished psychologist, who was invited back to give a lecture, spent an hour and a half in a seminar corrupting my students with the idea that I was a ‘behaviorist'.

I think I should tell you all this at the outset, so that a little later on when you find that you are hopelessly confused by what I have to say, you will not be overly critical of yourselves or me.’

- Kelly - The Psychotherapeutic Relationship - 1965

 

ARTICLES

Confusion And The Clock by George Kelly [02.01.01]

On Becoming a Personal Anarchist by Spencer A. McWilliams [12.15.98]

An Introduction to the Personal Construct Psychology of George A. Kelly by Vincent Kenny [09.02.98]

The Psychological Reconstruction of Life: An Introduction to Personal Construct Psychotherapy by Vincent Kenny [09.02.98]

Kelly, Bannister and a Story Telling Psychology by Miller Mair [30.09.98]

The Threat of Aggression by George Kelly [06.12.98]

Hostility by George Kelly [06.12.98]

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bibliography

Personal Construct Psychology and Psychotherapy:
A Bibliography edited by Gabriele Chiari

 

LINKS

 

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