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Creativity cycle
"The Creativity Cycle is one which starts with loosened construction and terminates with tightened and validated construction."  (Kelly, 1955/1991, Vol. 2,  p. 7/1991)

As one would expect in a theory to do with human experiencing and each of us being "a form of motion", Kelly describes three cycles to do with the process of construing. These three cycles describe experiencing, decision making and creativity. The Experience Cycle consists of five phases: anticipation, investment, encounter, confirmation or disconfirmation, and constructive revision. Certainly in personal construct theory's line of reasoning, experience is not composed of encounters alone.

The CPC Cycle (sometimes called the "decision making cycle") consists of first circumspection - one looks as possibilities, then comes preemption when we decide that the grand piano either will or will not go through that door, followed by control when we leap into action and try the door for size. As with the Experience Cycle, the person is actively involved in the CPC chain of events.
We are here focusing on the Creativity Cycle which is concerned, as its name suggests, with creative activity. It describes a process of construing that moves from loose construing to tight construing and back and forth until a person feels something has been "created" that can be test out. Unlike the Experience and CPC Cycles, there is no personal commitment involved here.
"Loosened construction ..sets the stage for creative thinking…The loosening releases facts, long taken as self-evident, from their conceptual moorings. Once so freed, they may be seen in new aspects hitherto unsuspected, and the creative cycle may get underway." (Kelly, 1955/1991; p. 1031/Vol 2 p. 330 )
The primary example of loose construing is in dreaming. Ideas appear to drift around, they are not anchored in reality. We can experience this process when awake, for instance when day-dreaming. Ideas come together that have never been seen in that way before. That process can go on as long as one wants. But suddenly two ideas collide that make us sit up and, thereby, tighten our construing. "What an interesting idea!" "I wonder if that would work?" We may experience several of those occasions before we are convinced that this new idea really would work. We then have to go and test it out. After all, our behaviour is the experiment that always tests out our construing. The Creativity Cycle can be experienced in any context. Students go through many such cycles as they are introduced to totally new ideas and managers sometimes find it useful to work together on re-thinking the way they work. Being exposed to new ideas need not cause problems because, as the Fragmentation Corollary says, we do not have to give up an old idea before entertaining a new one.
Some people may have a problem in being "locked in" to one mode or the other. In that case, neither cannot be creative. The person using mostly tight constructions produces a lot of things but nothing that has not already been created. A person who uses only loose constructions never gets out of the stage of mumbling to himself. He cannot get around to testing out that construction. The creative person must have the ability to move from loosened to tightened construing. Those who prefer to construe the world from a generally tight position may well find loose construing anxiety-making. For with loose construing we lose control of things, we do not know where such construing might lead. Those locked in to loose construing find it very difficult to come to any firm conclusions. The counselling and psychotherapy process is a series of Creativity Cycles as the client explores new ways of dealing with life.
Without creativity our lives would be one monotonous continuum of well-worked out events.

  • Leitner, L. M. & Faidley, A. J. (1999). Creativity in experiential personal construct psychotherapy Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 12¸ 273-286
  • Bohart, A. C. (1999). Intuition and creativity in psychotherapy. Journal of Constructivist Psychology, 12¸ 287-312

Fay Fransella

Establ. 2003
Last update: 15 February 2004