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The Life and Theories of Psychologist George Kelly

By LeticiaFlannagan Jun 27, 2011 2130 Words
The life and theories of Psychologist George Kelly

PSY 330/ Theories of Personality/ Ashford University

December 6, 2010

The American psychologist George Kelly was born in 1905 and raised on a farm in small town located in the state of Kansas. His family moved out west and was one of amongst the last homesteaders located within the west. For four years his family struggled to raise and grow crops and livestock. Due to having limited water the family was unable to stay in Colorado, so they resettled in Kansas in a farm. Since the all of this was during a hardship time on his family, he did not attend school or receive an any form of teaching/education. His parents played a significant part in life as it relates to his education. The records also do not reflect him ever receiving a high school diploma. When Kelly reached the age of sixteen he went to Wichita, Kansas to attend Friend’s University. There he enrolled and majored in courses such as physics and mathematics. Soon he received a baccalaureate. He did not stop at this point he continued with his education and obtained a PhD. Once Mr. Kelly has gained a doctorate degree in psychology he soon became an educator for a college in Kansas titled Fort Hayes. Fortunately he obtained a teaching job there and maintained that position for twelve years. His career began during a time the economy began to decimate and a successful career was not seen vividly. He still made the best out of a tough time after all. Even then he was turning bad situations into positive ones. Kelly set his passion towards psychological psychology when he first started out and soon his energy diverted towards school age adults and children and their psychological needs. The vast amount of human aggravation and suffering in the Great Depression played a key role in his theory changes. This is when his ideas/visions for psychology theory became vivid to all around him. He was so eager that he lead the way for the traveling clinic that traveled around Kansas’s western side. The area of psychology and personal construct of personality theory was his greatest contribution. All constructed meanings reflect a point of view. However, constructivists often disagree among themselves about the implications of this position, particularly regarding the nature of reality, the origin of constructed meaning, and the best way to conduct psychological research. (Raskins, 2002)

George Kelly is amongst the exceptional psychologist that has added to the theoretical works in psychology. Other psychologists that stand out are famous ones like Erikson, Freud and Jung. These great men have introduced the world to one’s way of thinking, emotions, and better outcomes in linking theoretical views towards psychoanalyze for one’s family members. Psychology is very inquisitive to the mind and it also shares a very interesting subject matter. Kelly was a psychologist educator and a therapist that stood out in the psychology industry. George Kelly’s psychology accomplishments play a vital role in many disciplines. Mr. Kelly’s accomplishments continue to be a necessity in many theoretical programs endorsed by the British Psychological Association. Kelly’s work,” became a major force within clinical psychology in the postwar years”. (Hergenhahn, 2005, p.535)   The United States is continuing to use his theoretical works in the divisions of developmental psychology, industrial-organizational psychology, environmental psychology, friendship formation, relationship disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, depression and suicide, couples in conflict, perception, substance abuse, fear of death and physical illness, and childhood disorders. He discovered psychological processes such as repression, resistance, transference, and infantile sexuality, many of which are still focused on today.” (Engler, 2006, p.29) The philosopher Epicetetus stated the assumption that any one event is open to a variety of interpretations; Kelly stand of this was productive alternativism. Then stand that Kelly took for us all to become researchers and assist in constructing one’s own resolution to life’s everyday challenges is a refresher for all. Also, “Kelly’s approach has grown in recent years and seen as compatible with the growing interest in cognition” (Engler, 2006, p.405)   Kelly believed that in order for one to understand the world, one must create patterns to define the meaning of life to one’s self. People view the world as a translucent pattern made up of their own ideas/creations. There has forever been an alternative being that may perform an improved state of accounting for recording the detailed facts that one perceives. Thus our position in the world is one of constructive alternativism, as we change or revise our constructs in order to understand it more accurately. (Engler, 2006, p.406) Epictetus and Kelly had many similarities and amongst their works. Kelly instructs one to view alternative patterns and alternative approaches to the alike situations; and Epictetus thinks situations/events in one’s life are impersonal. Most situations occur regardless as to how the other one might feel. One thing that sways a person is their fears and hopes not what actual happened to one’s self. What is a “good” event? What is a “bad” event? There is no such thing! (Lebell, 1994, p.47) Kelly mentioned that we should not personalize an occasion but entertain the aspects of the occasion on a positive note. No matter the occasion one must always not allow the negative to prevent them from looking for the unseen opportunity. Kelly called sleuths/detectives a being that looked for all alternative ways with a skilled eye. Our imagination can take our mind away if used in a negative operative, and not using our mind can make us clueless to the world around us. The occasion is not what disturbs one; it is ones perception received from the occasion. My perceptions of the way I look at situations have altered. On a personal note I have to be at work at 8:30 am, I currently live an hour and thirty minutes from my job. On the weekends when I go shopping by my job, it only takes me between thirty and forty-five minutes to get to that side of town. This allows me to see just how much traffic I am in everyday. There were times when I would arrive at work very upset because of the long time I had just set in traffic. Now I just leave home earlier so I want have to endure the agony. Kelly viewed the personal construct theory as one’s processes can be psychologically directed in means that predict events and show up in the shape of constructs. Kelly’s work, “became a major force within clinical psychology in the postwar year” (Hergenhahn, 2005, p.535)  An abstraction is also seen as a construct, and this meaning is seen as a property that is attributed towards many occasion, and signifying that they could be distinguish through separate homogenous clusters. In order for events to be construed one must use abstracting as a means to gain knowledge from this operation. Each person goes at it in his own way, more or less, and that is where the title of this book, The Psychology of Personal Constructs, comes from. (Kelly, 1963, p.120)

Kelly focused on knowing that all people have their own given understanding as it relates to reality and their behaviors mirror the true reflection of their view about their selves. He focused directly towards the individual’s vision of their individual experiences other then granting his individual understandings. He also stands by each individual having a varied understanding of any given occasion and every occasion can have a different action and reaction for the outcomes. Kelly was famous for the Repertory Grid; in this method he would interview his new patients. This method enabled the individual to signify to him their own individual construct classification. The study of psychological disturbance, education/organizational behaviors, cognitive complexity, decision making, and close relationships breakdown has used this method closely in theory. Kelly’s theory is cognitive because he stressed that an individual’s behavior is determined not simply by the environment or heredity but also, and primarily, by attitudes, expectations, and beliefs. (Engler, 2006, p.405)  Role playing is very vital in Kelly’s treatment processes when he is determining the correct construct or treatment plan for the patient involved. As I read over the information about Mr. Kelly I began to see myself. I once viewed all life’s obstacles as a part of my path. I never once tried to look at the negative impacts as positive outcomes in my journey. He discovered psychological processes such as repression, resistance, transference, and infantile sexuality, many of which are still focused on today.” (Engler, 2006, p.29) Life is hard all by itself; one does not need to look for bumps in the road anymore they just come to you without any warning. I have had ups and downs and even thought about the things that I had experienced from April 2009 until present as a nightmare. I surely thought I should have had a nervous breakdown. My physiological stand point at that time showed I have everything I need to survive physically in this world. I found out that if one does not have the basics in life such as nutrition, a comfortable place to live, and viable health one will not survive physically. My life has been a little out of control since I had my first son; he is now age fourteen and is in the 9th grade. I also have one other son that is twenty months old and keeps me on toes. They are not alike at all, but they both have high spirits.

I strive to ensure they both have what they need to make it from day to day. Having a balanced life tends to steer children in a positive direction. I know I have made some bad choices in life when I became pregnant with both them. Life has its up and downs this is why must make the best of it at all times. My oldest son father was never really a part of his life and when his mind caught up with is age he died. My son never really got a chance to see how a real father is supposed to treat a child. I try to play both roles to my best ability, but it gets hard sometimes trying to cope with all that I am trying to handle in life. Between bills, household chores, work, school, taking the kids to their activities, PTA/School activities and family life I have to say “Lord hold me in your hands” constantly.

At times I feel as if I made the wrong decision because I was doing fine with me and my oldest son on my own. I can see the self-actualization taking precedence in this phase of my life. My level of individual development is low because of what I am feeling from the things in the background of my life. At all times I feel safe because I know God is taking care of me. With him all things are possible. I have taken away from George Kelly to always take the high road. He showed me that even without formal education in grades K-12, and a hard life with his parents during a depression time period he still made it to obtain his PhD and become a famous psychologist. This is why I think of Kelly as being fundamentally a humanistic psychologist, even as he himself sought to distinguish his theory from all other existing theories, including humanistic psychology. (Epting, & Paris, 2006)

Mr. George Kelly’s work ““remains a requirement in most clinical programs approved by the British Psychological Association” (Hergenhahn, 2005, p.535). His theory is stream lining once again in the United States in the industrial organizational psychology area.

Works Cited

1. Engler, Barbara. (2006). Personality theories: An introduction. (6th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

2. Epting, F. R., & Paris, M. E. (2006). A constructive Understanding of the person: George Kelly and humanistic psychology. The Humanistic Psychologists, 34(1), 21–37.

3. Hergenhahn, B., R.,Olson, M.,H., 2007, An Introduction to Theories of Personality, (7th Ed.)New Jersey, Pearson Prentice-Hall

4. Hergenhahn, B. R. (2005). An introduction to the history of psychology. (5th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thompson Wadsworth.

5. Kelly, G. A. (1963). A theory of personality: The psychology of personal construct. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

6. Raskin, J.D. (2002). Constructivism in psychology: Personal construct psychology, radical constructivism, and social constructionism. American Communication Journal, 5(3), Spring 2002. Retrieved November 16, 2010, from

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