RE: ruminations/obsessionality

Bob Green (
Sun, 18 May 1997 07:46:53 +1000

Hello Lindsay,

Your post prompted to go back and read what Kelly had to say about anxiety.
It would seem to me that what Kelly refers to as threat or fear have more in
common with anxiety as it is generaly understood (e.g., DSM definition), e.g.,

'But if that problem is an item on an intelligence test which he thinks
determines his capacity to pursue a profesional career, he may be anxious.
The anxiety in that case will not stem so much from the fact that he will be
administratively eliminated from the group of candidates- that is fear or
threat-but from the fact that he is confused in general, that he doesn't
"know the score" '

Some more quotes:

"It is not merely the invalidation of a construct that produces anxiety.
Anxiety appears only if the construct is abandoned - appears no longer
relevant - and there is nothing to take its place."

"Anxiety is something less than the failure to anticipate events optimally:
It refers to a particular kind of failure: the failure to produce a
construction that appears wholly applicable to the events of which one is aware"

>Anxiety in personal construct terms is when the person experiences things
>outside their range of convenience ie they cannot predict (and therefore they
>feel anxious). They have the same hypothesis about what may happen and test it
>out, over and over. The prediction that they will feel better is always
>validated (ie by the behavioural compulsion).

In the case I am thinking off, the person doesn't have compulsions (that I
know of), rather the problem is intrusive derogatory thoughts about others..
regarding people who are not consciously disliked. Accompanying these
thoughts are thoughts the person is going mad and fears about these thoughts
still being there, even if they appear to go away. Gwyneth Daniel has
suggested the association of these thoughts with depression.

In this case the person's prediction is that they will never feel better or
can't cope with their thoughts (fear?). Perhaps the issue is one of
depression rather than anxiety or fear, however it is the distress of the
intrusive thoughts which is the persistent presenting complaint. Further, a
feature of the person's construing has been its rigidity and narrowness,
e.g., the thoughts never decrease in intensity rather they just get worse at
certain times.

My reading of Kelly is that a key issue is to understand the locus of the
anxiety. When I last saw the person I asked that contents of these
ruminations be written down, so as to provide an elaboration of these
experiences but also to give an opportunity to externalise these thoughts.
We had also discussed strategies to see if even a few moments peace can be
attained each hour. The other thing I have been considering is to discuss
other issues altogether as an alternative way to demonstrate change is
possible. Self characterisation is one approach I am considering.

>However, at a broader level, it could be said they are hostile
>because over time the behaviour no longer works ie it is the predictable but
>perhaps not the elaborative choice.
>A further interpretation is that these people may be stuck somewhere in the
>CPC cycle trying to decide- ie vacillation. Impulsivity may result as a
>defence against the experiencing more anxiety- ie conduct the same experiment
>to be validated rather than trying other options.

In relation to both of your above comments, risk to self would seem a major

I look forward to any responses to my meandering,



>As I said these are just ideas. Tell me what you think/feel.
>Lindsay Oades
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>Subject: RE: ruminations/obsessionality
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>Hello Lindsay,
>Thanks for the reply. Now that you have whetted appetite, can you say some
>more about predictability and conducting experiments. I am sure that even
>your CBT approach would have a touch of PCP to it, so any further comments
>would be welcome. If you like I could provide some details of the case.