construct psychology challenges
the idea that language gives us access to the way things are. Those who
that language provides a direct window onto nature – an objective
the reality of people, things, and events – operate in accordance with
mood. The indicative mood
purports to indicate the way
things are; when
operating from an indicative mood, accounts about goings-on in the
either correct or incorrect. By contrast, George Kelly
(1964/1969), in his
personal construct psychology, suggested that language might be used in
hypothetical manner. That is "our verbs could be cast in the invitational
mood" rather than in the
"indicative mood of objective speech"
(Kelly, 1964/1969b, p. 149). The invitational
mood is the idea that how we talk
about things is tied to particular constructions of the world.
of talking about things invite different implications for how to
Rather than trying to ascertain which ways of talking about things are
in a universal way, personal construct psychology invites us to
implications for different ways of construing the same set of
other words, using an invitational mood, one can entertain seemingly
contradictory constructions of the same thing in order to see where
construction leads. There is no pressure to remain wedded to particular
constructions; one can shift among various ways of construing the same
occurrences depending upon what one is trying to accomplish. Thus, what
is always defined in relationship to the construction of events that
been invited to accept. Different constructions of the same thing may
or less useful, depending on what one is trying to accomplish.
example of the invitational
mood is when he asks us to "regard the floor as if it were hard". If
we regard the floor as if it
were hard we are leaving open alternative
interpretations of the floor. The nature of the floor becomes
opposed to an objective interpretation, allowing us to question the
and limitations of our current constructions about the floor.
can construe the floor in many different ways. When we are walking from
kitchen to the bathroom, the construction that the floor is hard may be
useful. However, there may be other times when we find such a
Suppose, instead, we employ the language of
hypothesis. We say, in effect, "To
be sure the floor may be regarded as
hard, and we know something of what ensues when we cope with it in
such an assumption. Not bad! But now, let us see what happens when we
as soft." (Kelly, 1964/1969b, p. 160)
The invitational mood has many
with the scientific notion of hypothesis. Tentative in nature, the
safely guards us from the stagnating trap of objective truth. Instead
perceiving people, things, and/or events as in some final and
the invitational mood allows
us to view these things within the realm of
possibility. The hypothesis is our ticket to develop ideas and
that may be "pursued, tested,
abandoned, or reconsidered at a later time"
(Kelly, 1964/1969, p. 149).
The invitational mood can be used in
therapeutic relationships as a method employed by clinicians to gently
clients toward exploration of alternative possibilities and strategies
coping with their complaints and perceiving their worlds. The
and its encouragement to consider one’s most cherished assumptions as
tentative, "as if" hypotheses rather than final and unchallengeable
truths invites clients to suspend current constructions that are no
working long enough to entertain new possibilities (Epting, 1984;
opposed to challenging,
communicates respect for clients’ current ways of construing things. If
do not feel safe or are not ready to consider alternative
may occur in therapy (Epting, 1984; Leitner & Dill-Staniford,
Inviting clients to explore avenues previously not considered, while
simultaneously valuing their current constructions, allows a safety net
which they may fall back. Because clinicians are not communicating that
clients’ current constructions are wrong and are not forcing them to
these constructions in order to adopt the "right" ones, clients may
be more open to the idea of exploration. When language is used in this
people gain freedom from the habit of examining their beliefs and
terms of what is right or wrong within the framework of an objective
The invitational mood encourages people
accept responsibility for their constructions and grants them the
consider alternative constructions (McWilliams, 1996). Rather than
personal constructions as mirrors of external reality, the invitational mood
reframes these constructions as human inventions each of us creates in
navigate through life. Because we invent personal constructions, we are
responsible for them. However, because we invent personal
constructions, we are
also free to entertain new possibilities—and this is precisely what the
mood invites us to do.
- Epting, F.R.
(1984). Personal construct
counseling and psychotherapy. New York:
- Epting, F.R. &
Pritchard, S. (1993). An
experiential approach to personal meanings in counseling and
L.M. Leitner & N.G.M. Dunnett (Eds.), Critical issues in personal construct
psychotherapy (pp. 33-59). Malabar, FL:
- Kelly, G.A.
(1969b). The language of
hypothesis: Man’s psychological instrument. In B. Maher (Ed.), Clinical
psychology and personality: The selected papers of George Kelly
(pp. 147-162). New York: John
- Leitner, L.M.
& Dill-Staniford, T.
(1993). Resistance in experiential personal construct
and technical struggles. In L.M. Leitner & N.G.M. Dunnett (Eds.), Critical
issues in personal construct psychotherapy (pp.135-155). Malabar, FL: Krieger.
- McWilliams, S. A.
(1996). Accepting the
invitational. In B. M. Walker & J. Costigan & L. L. Viney &
Warren (Eds.), Personal construct
theory: A psychology for the future (pp.
57-78). Melborne: Australian Psychological Society.
- Raskin, J. D.
(2004). The permeability of
personal construct psychology. In J. D. Raskin & S. K. Bridges
in meaning 2: Bridging the personal and social in constructivist
New York: Pace University Press.
Jonathan D. Raskin & Laurie