re: the nature of "construct"
Thu, 13 Jun 1996 23:59:54 +0000

Pursuing our thread on "unconscious construing", Bill Ramsay said:

>I don't think the clinical bit
>is necessarily relevant, but, since you mentioned it, if unconscious
>construing does take place is it the same as construing _in_ the
>unconscious? If yes, what does that imply for the relationship between PCP
>and psychoanalytic models of disturbance?

and I'm out of my depth here, not having the clinical training or
experience to handle the implications that would be involved in choosing
one or the other. Come on, all you clinicians out there...

What I mean is two-fold (and may in fact exclude the "unconscious" as a
process in which non-Kellian notions of purpose might occur, as in
"unconscious motivation". Set that aside for the moment until the clinical
Cavalry arrive to my rescue).

a) as I wrote in a recent e-mail to Reid Creech, I certainly _am_ talking
about the preverbal, and preconscious, preference choices one habitually

"the physical and psychological preference choice I make between, say,
feeling attracted to a female but not to a male. Ask me to verbalise it and
I'll give you as many verbal labels, neatly laid out in the form of bipolar
opposites, as you might wish for. Ask me to talk about it and I'll talk
until the cows come home.
But the construing lies at the preverbal level, not in the labels I provide
when I turn my attention to it, d'you see?"

b) I'd also be inclined to include the physiological: as in the increase in
my heartbeat and the dilatation of my pupils which occur in the presence of
a female I'm attracted to but not a male. Again, I can verbalise about it,
but the words wouldn't be the constructs; the discriminations made by the
mechanisms of this male carcass I inhabit would be.

Notice: preverbal, and mechanisms, respectively. But the notion of "person"
is still there; I'd be a different person if these discriminations took the
opposite values in the presence of a male rather than a female: (I'd be a
gay Devi Jankowicz); in the presence of a child rather than an adult: (I'd
be a pederastic Devi Jankowicz); in the presence of a shoe rather than
another person (I'd be a fetishistic Devi Jankowicz)-- in short, a
different person to the straight Devi Jankowicz I currently am. Even though
the discriminations would occur before I put words to them.

In fact, (to rush into the clinical for a moment, at the risk of making a
fool of myself): isn't that what Personal Costruct clinicians are working
with when they work with, e.g., pederastic people? When they suggest
different activities whose purpose is to provide fresh replications of
experience, they surely aren't aiming to change the verbal labels, but to
change the discriminations underlying those labels that their clients make?

As for:

>Try this
>for size, not as an adversarial comment, but as counteradvocacy in pursuit
>of enlightnment: behaviour _is_ the selection; it may occur without
>awareness; it _is_ the agency, but not the actor.

You've got me there. Dunno; I might be inclined to rephrase my argument
using the word "actor" instead of "agency" and make an escape that way; but
I've no good answer to the notion of behaviour _being_ the selection.

But when it comes to:
>The argument as to whether unconscious distinction-making amounts to
>>construing depends then on personhood, otherwise the fire-alarm _does_
>>construe. If that's the only distinction (feeling my way cautiously here),
>why >bother? What does introducing 'construing' into the frame add?

I see the point you're making, and would respond "an awful lot!"

Saying that "a distinction is made" is simply to point out that something
has happened which results in one option having been selected from one or
more alternatives. The fire-alarm rings in the presence of smoke but not in
its absence.
In contrast, to say that "construing" has occured, with the notion of
personhood behind it, is to imply a history of replications which on
investigation would be seen to account for the selection, and to imply a
personal objective somewhere (to put it in Wodehousian terms) in the
offing. Whether these were consciously attended to or not.

But, to return to the crux of the whole thread, the important issue which
started all this:

>To construe you as a construer, first I have to construe you as a person. Is
>>'person' to be equated with 'human'?

Of course not! That would exclude cats, and _everyone knows_ that cats are

Kindest regards,

Devi Jankowicz

* = publicly verifiable, see?

(I have my doubts about dogs, though.)