preverbal construct is one which
continues to be used even though it has no
consistent word symbol. It may or may not have been devised before the
had command of speech." (Kelly, 1955/1991, Vol. 2, p. 6)
Kelly's way of dealing with what several
psychological theoretical systems call the unconscious
was to say we construe
at different levels of cognitive awareness.
At the lowest levels of
cognitive awareness are preverbal
construing, submergence and suspension. Preverbal construing
in particular plays a major role in dealing with the generally accepted
that much of the sense we make of our world does not involve conscious
Although Kelly says in his definition
the term refers to construing that may or may not have been created
onset of speech, in practice it describes discriminations we made
events before we had learned any language. The discriminations a baby
between "faces" at a very early age have no verbal labels attached to
them. The "face" that appears regularly and makes nice noises and
makes me comfortable is different from all those other "faces".
Because these early discriminations are about those who care for the
they very often relate to dependency
Sometimes these preverbal
between events in early life never get verbal labels attached to them.
grow up such preverbal constructs can cause us problems. They may come
play when we meet a stranger who provokes a gut reaction that "tell us"
we do not like this person. Or they may cause more serious problems in
life such as when a young child comes to construe herself as not loveable. To the child this may not
be a problem but "just how things are". But in adulthood it can be.
For instance, there are women who say that they can never maintain a
relationship with a man. All seems to go well for a time but eventually
relationship breaks down. The woman who is unlovable
is just unable to change this core
view of herself. So she turns to that
sometimes destructive way of construing - she becomes hostile in Kelly's sense. For instance, the
theme throughout her stories of these relationships is one in which,
she becomes over-possessive and simply drives the man out of her life.
proved she is right - she is indeed unlovable.
Kelly linked preverbal construing to psychosomatic problems. For
small child may have noted that whenever he had a stomach complaint his
was particularly caring of him. No verbal labels here, but in adult
whenever he feels in need of care, his stomach give problems -
perhaps leading to a stomach ulcer.
The term "acting out" is used by
several theoretical systems to describe a person's behaviour which is
relate to processes not available to consciousness. In Kelly's theory,
one do with preverbal construing that has no verbal labels except
it? The counsellor or therapist has to try to understand the construing
lies behind the "acting out" behaviour.
A point needs to be made here about
not distinguishing clearly between those construct discriminations that
created before the development of language (preverbal) and those that
created later in life and just do not get words attached to them.
(1981), for instance, discusses this point and suggests this latter
construing might be better named tacit construing.
- Neimeyer, R. A.
structure and meaningfulness of tacit construing. In H. Bonarius, R.
& S. Rosenberg (eds) Personal
Construct Psychology: Recent Advances in Theory and Practice. London: