Re: cognitive awareness

Josh Soffer (
Sat, 12 Sep 1998 19:58:35 -0500 (CDT)

Kellly noted in Psychology of Personal Constructs that "a person's
construction of events, by which those events become incorporated into
experience, is not necessarily a highly verbalizable or conscious
process.(p.475)" He spoke of interpretive constructs which he said
"fall in the areas popularly known as the unconscious, preconscious, or
foreconscious-preverbal constructs, submergence, and suspension." Why
would he have need for such stuctures in a cognitive theory? The very
fact that the construing process is by its nature always in a state of
transition implies a traversal of both familiar and strange terrain
marked by the rhythms of mood. The origin of remembrance and forgetting
is in the shifting successes of construing. Kelly explains that items
that were remembered at one point may not be remembered at a later time
due to the fact that the larger structure of understanding within which
those items are framed may be impermeable. He calls this suspension.
When there is no overall stucture within which to make sense out of a
detail of experience, it sits in limbo, later to be remembered at such
time as a more effective overall framework is articulated. Of course,
the sort of meaning structure which is impermeable is that which is felt
to be threatening, but it is not the threat which 'causes' the
suspension. It is the absense of a coherent way of making sense of an
event. Kelly emphasized that this notion differs from Freudian notions
of repression in that "Our theory does not place the emphasis on
remembering what is pleasant or forgetting what is unpleasant; rather,
it emphasizes that one remembers what is structured and forgets what is
unstructured." This is an important point, because it also means that
unlike repressed material for Freudians, suspended elements don't
dictate or exert power over one's present ocncerns, but are instead at
the mercy of those superordinate issues. I don't think that Kelly's
notion of submergence of one pole of a construct serves the purpose of a
Freudian defense mechanism either. Kelly did not refer to this notion as
a repressive device. It seems to be a matter of a person's being
uncomortable with fully articulating to themselves and the therapist the
full dichotomous imlications of their outlook in a particular area.
Agian , it is not a matter of a substantive, upleasant belief being
hidden from the individual. The person is not a panoply of intentions in
conflict with each other but an intergral process of meaning-making
which varies in its success across its edevlopmental path. It certainly
makes sense that if access to understanding of the present is impeded,
impoverished , interrrupted during periods of unraveling superordinate
structure, that is , during moments of emotional crisis, then certainly
events form the past which continue to be ineffectively construed will
also fall victim to a failure of access. As long as a theory of
personality has to account for the fact that events are not always
experienced under the guise of optimal clarity and familiarity, there
will be a need for some notion to explain vissicitudes in recollection
of a past as well as construal of a present and anticipation of a