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"A suspended element is omitted from the context of a construct as a result of revision of the client's construct system." 
Suspension is one of the diagnostic constructs relating to relatively low levels of cognitive awareness. The others at low levels of cognitive awareness are preverbal and submergence. These three represent the personal construct understanding of unconscious construing.
Kelly suggests that suspension can be related to "forgetting" and "repression" in other psychological theoretical systems. When a person reconstrues, as we do a lot of the time, it is possible for an element that previously formed part of the previous construing system to become "detached" when a new (reconstrued) way of looking at things happens. Kelly talks of an idea "being mislaid because the person has no place to file it". But it still exists and may return to memory when further reconstruing takes place.
It has been argued that personal constructs can also be suspended when one attempts to subsume another person's construing system (Fransella, 2003). At one level this occurs when we attempt to look at the world through another's eyes - as, for instance, stated in the Sociality Corollary. But there are circumstances when it is important to "truly" listen to another person. "True" listening cannot happen if it is filtered through the listener's personal construing system. The only way we can, even for a short time, really step inside another's shoes is when we are able to suspend our own superordinate, value-laden constructs. That is essential when, for instance, carrying out laddering with someone. One needs to "climb" the person's ladder along with them if one is to glimpse how they are seeing things. That person's ideas must not be filtered through one's own superordinate constructs.

  • Fransella, F. (2003) Some skills and tools for personal construct practitioners. International Handbook of Personal Construct Psychology. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons.

Fay Fransella

Establ. 2003
Last update: 15 February 2004