Levels of Awareness :
an Alternative to “The Unconscious”


Kelly was not happy with the Freudian notion of psychic energy and unconscious processes as explained in motivation. However, he was well aware that much goes on in ourselves which is not at a conscious level.

Kelly preferred to talk about construing at differing levels of cognitive awareness. A high level of awareness is being aware of what is going on as and when something is happening.  A less high level of awareness occurs if you read something that disturbs you or makes you angry but for the moment you are not sure why.

At the lowest level of cognitive awareness there are preverbal constructs. These are constructs which continue to be used, even though they have no consistent words attached to them. They may or may not have been created before the person had command of speech. This concept plays a very important part in personal construct psychotherapy and counselling. Or, in fact, in any situation in which one is trying to help another person understand themselves and others better – such as in coaching, tutoring and mentoring.

As with other theoretical systems of psychotherapy, one major task may well be to help the client put some verbal labels on these preverbal constructs, so that they can be looked at, mulled over and generally made sense of.

Kelly says:

"...... personal construct theory is no more a cognitive theory than it is an affective or a conative one.  There are grounds for distinction that operate on one's life that seem to elude verbal expression.  We see them in infants, as well as in our own spontenaneous aversions and infatuations"

Unpublished manuscript.  Brandeis University.  Printed in Fransella, F. (ed) 2003 International Handbook of Personal Construct Psychology.  John Wiley & Son.

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