Abnormal Development

In Kelly's view, psychologically healthy people validate their personal constructs against their experiences with the real world. They are like competent scientists who test reasonable hypotheses, accept the results without denial or distortion, and then

In interpersonal relationships, not only do people observe the behavior of the other person, but they also interpret what that behavior means to that person.

552 Part V Learning Theories willingly alter their theories to match available data. Healthy individuals not only anticipate events but are also able to make satisfactory adjustments when things do not turn out as they expected.

Unhealthy people, on the other hand, stubbornly cling to outdated personal constructs, fearmg validation of any new constructs that would upset their present comfortable view of the world. Such people are similar to incompetent scientists who test unreasonable hypotheses, reject or distort legitimate results, and refuse to amend or abandon old theories that are no longer useful. Kelly (1955) defined a disorder as "any personal construction which is used repeatedly in spite of consistent invalidation" (p. 831).

A person's construction system exists in the present—not the past or future. Psychological disorders, therefore, also exist hi the present; they are caused neither by childhood experiences nor by future events. Because construction systems are personal, Kelly objected to traditional classifications of abnormalities. Ushig the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) of the American Psychiatric Association (2002) to label a person is likely to result hi misconstruing that person's unique constructions.

Psychologically unhealthy people, like everyone else, possess a complex construction system. Their personal constructs, however, often fail the test of permeability in one of two ways: They may be too impermeable or they may be too flexible. In the first instance, new experiences do not penetrate the construction system, so the person fails to adjust to the real world. For example, an abused child may construe intimacy with parents as bad and solitude as good. Psychological disorders result when the child's construction system rigidly denies the value of any hithnate relationship and clings to the notion that either withdrawal or attack is a preferred mode of solving interpersonal problems. Another example is a man seriously dependent on alcohol who refuses to see himself as addicted to alcohol even as Ins drinking escalates and his job and marriage dishitegrate (Burrell, 2002).

On the other hand, a construction system that is too loose or flexible leads to disorganization, an inconsistent pattern of behavior, and a transient set of values. Such an individual is too easily "shaken by the hnpact of unexpected minor daily events" (Kelly, 1955, p. 80).

Although Kelly did not use traditional labels in describing psychopathology, he did identify four common elements hi most human disturbance: tlneat, fear, anxiety, and guilt.

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Anxiety and Depression 101

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