Re: Request for advice on laddering and grids -thanks

Tim A. Connor (
Thu, 4 Mar 1999 21:34:25 -0800 (PST)

On Thu, 4 Mar 1999 wrote:

> there doesn't really seem to have been development of the theory, as far as I
> can tell, from trawling the group. Is this really true? Come on you
> lurkers-surely, SURELY someone somewhere in PCP must be trying to tackle
> the basic theory or are we all just "running the job" ( I realise I am getting
> provocative now in order to try and get more of a response from the list -any
> comments, Devi, Jim ? Others?)

OK, I'll bite. I do think there's a real issue here. I don't think
(referencing an earlier thread) that there are inherent limitations in PCT
(except that its range of convenience is human activity--it's probably not
much use for understanding the weather). But it does seem to me that
there are areas of the theory that have remained relatively unelaborated.
This does seem, in part, to be a result of a reluctance to challenge or
revise Kelly's ideas. Compare the development of PCP to what happened in
psychodynamic theory in the 30 years after Freud's death, or to
behaviorism after Watson, and you get a remarkably static picture.

One of the unelaborated areas is "emotion." Not that there haven't been
attempts, and apparently Kelly himself was planning to address this just
before he died; but the attempts (such as Bannister's essay on "The Logic
of Passion") have tended, unintentionally I assume, to reduce "emotion" to
"cognition" by explaining it purely in terms of the validation or
invalidation of constructs, and taking the scientist metaphor far too
literally. There is a reason that people generally employ a
thinking/feeling construct, and it seems to me that it has to do with the
fact that "emotions" are accompanied by (sometimes very intense) bodily
sensations, while "cognitions" often are not. PCP has generally neglected
the "physiological" dimensions of construing and stayed with the
verbalizable, cerebral aspects that are easily analyzed in repertory

Not that Kelly would have done this--he always stated clearly that the
distinction between psychological and physiological was just another
construct, which might or might not be useful, depending. But he didn't
have the need or the ability to fully transcend the distinction (though he
did criticize Szasz for accepting the construct of "mental" too
complacently). I believe there is a crying need for someone to do a
thoroughgoing review of PCP in the light of the past few decades of
empirical research in cognitive neuroscience. I believe that by and
large, it will support and strengthen the theory, though a few corollaries
may be in need of revision or elaboration. (Organization and Dichotomy
are my favorite candidates.)

In a way, it is Kelly's fault--he presented his theory whole, in a single
magnum opus, instead of allowing us to watch it develop. Reading Freud in
sequence, you can watch him changing his mind, and it makes it that much
easier to challenge his conclusions. I know of no one in the PCP world
who has dared to do with Kelly what Fairbairn or Klein or Sullivan did
with Freud. It's long overdue, IMHO.

Well, you said you were trying to be provocative....:-)



Tim Connor, M.S. "Psychotherapy is not
Pacific University an applied science, it
School of Professional Psychology is a basic science in
2004 Pacific Avenue which the scientists
Forest Grove, OR 97116 USA are the client and his
<> therapist"
--George Kelly