home | about/terms | contact | index | site map

related materials

adams' equity theory

career/work change template

clean language

change management

emergent knowledge

emotional intelligence (EQ)

erikson's life-stage theory

herzberg's motivational theory

kubler-ross five stages of grief

maslow's hierarchy of needs

mcclelland's motivational theory

mcgregor's xy theory

personality theories, models and types

psychological contract theory

stress and stress management

tuckman forming storming model

See main subjects index for more materials, ideas and resources.

fisher's process of personal change - revised 2012

John Fisher's personal transition curve - the stages of personal change - and introduction to personal construct psychology

Originally presented at the Tenth International Personal Construct Congress, Berlin, 1999, and subsequently developed in his work on constructivist theory in relation to service provision organisations at Leicester University, England, John Fisher's model of personal change - The Personal Transition Curve - revised again in Nov 2012 - is an excellent analysis of how individuals deal with personal change. This model is an extremely useful reference for individuals dealing with personal change and for managers and organizations helping staff to deal with personal change. The technical content of this article is written by John Fisher and published with his permission. John Fisher's various Process of Transition diagrams are available on this website's free online resources section, and on this page in the Fisher diagrams section, or go direct to the most recent versions:

John Fisher's Process of Transition Diagram (pdf) - revised/redesigned Nov 2012 (colour/color version - with Complacency stage)

John Fisher's Process of Transition Diagram (ppt) slide - revised/redesigned Nov 2012 - (colour/color version with Complacency stage)

John Fisher's Process of Transition Diagram (pdf) - revised Jun 2012 (original mono format)

For historical/developmental/reference purposes, previous versions of John's diagrams will remain available on this website, notably J Fisher's original Process of Transition diagram and his later 2003 diagram, (both pdf). The 2003 narrative also remains on this webpage for the same reasons.

In past years the awareness and popularity of John Fisher's Personal Transition model has spread far and wide. I am grateful to several people who have translated his diagram into other languages, to be shared on this website, for example:

A French version of John Fisher's 2003 Process of Transition diagram (pdf) is available, with thanks to the Canadian International Development Agency for the translation.

Also a Spanish version of John Fisher's 2003 Process of Transition diagram (pdf), with thanks to Marcelo Rivadeneira.

 

Separately, and related to John Fisher's theory, below also see the introduction to Personal Construct Psychology, written by John Fisher and Dr David Savage, and reprinted here with permission, which is gratefully acknowledged.

 

Here follows an explanation of the stages contained in John Fisher's 2012 Process of Transition model and diagram. (For historical and developmental reference purposes, Fisher's earlier 2003 narrative , which previously featured prominently on this webpage, is offered below to accompany Fisher's earlier 2003 Process of Transition diagram.

john fisher's personal transition curve - 2012 - the stages

anxiety

The awareness that events lie outside one's range of understanding or control. I believe the problem here is that individuals are unable to adequately picture the future. They do not have enough information to allow them to anticipate behaving in a different way within the new organisation. They are unsure how to adequately construe acting in the new work and social situations. There is also the possibility for what McCoy (1977) defined as 'bewilderment' here; which she defined as an awareness of an imminent, comprehensive change in our non-core structure. How we then deal with this dictates how we progress through the rest of the curve and the extent of the impact on our core sense of self.

happiness

The awareness that ones viewpoint is recognised and shared by others. The impact of this is twofold. At the basic level there is a feeling of relief that something is going to change and not continue as before. Whether the past is perceived positively or negatively, there is still a feeling of anticipation and possibly excitement at the possibility of improvement. On another level, there is the satisfaction of knowing that some of your thoughts about the old system were correct (generally no matter how well we like the status quo there is something that is unsatisfactory about it) and that something is going to be done about. In the phase we generally expect the best and anticipate a bright future, placing our own construct system onto the change and seeing ourselves succeeding. One of the dangers in this phase is that of the inappropriate psychological contract. We may perceive more to the change, or believe we will get more from the change than is actually the case. The organisation needs to manage this phase and ensure unrealistic expectations are managed and redefined in the organisations terms without alienating the individual.

The happiness phase is one of the more interesting phases and may be (almost) passed through without knowing. In this phase it is the 'Thank Goodness, something is happening at last!' feeling coupled with the knowledge that we may be able to have an impact, or take control, of our destiny and that if we are lucky/involved/contribute things can only get better. If we can start interventions at this stage we can minimise the impact of the rest of the curve and virtually flatten the curve. By involving, informing, getting 'buy in' at this time we can help people move through the process.  

fear

the awareness of an imminent incidental change in one's core behavioural system. People will need to act in a different manner and this will have an impact on both their self-perception and on how others externally see them. However, in the main, they see little change in their normal interactions and believe they will be operating in much the same way, merely choosing a more appropriate, but new, action.

According to Frances (1999), Fear and Threat are the two key emotions that will cause us to resist change.

threat

the awareness of an imminent comprehensive change in one's core behavioural structures. Here people perceive a major change on what they believe to be their core identity or sense of self. The realisation that change that will have a fundamental impact on who we are, how we see ourselves and what is key in our personality to us as individuals. This is the shock of suddenly discovering you're not who you thought you were! It is a radical alteration to our future choices and other people's perception of them as individuals. Their old choices are no longer ones that will work. In many ways this is 'road to Damascus' type of life-changing experience, one that has the potential to 'shake you to the core!'. In this phase, people are unsure as to how they will be able to act/react in what is, potentially, a totally new and alien environment - one where the 'old rules' no longer apply and there are no 'new' ones established as yet.

guilt

An awareness of a dislodgement of our self from our core self perception. We are not who we thought we were! Once the individual begins exploring their self-perception, how they acted/reacted in the past and looking at alternative interpretations they begin to re-define their sense of self. This, generally, involves identifying what are their core beliefs and how closely they have been to meeting them. Recognition of the inappropriateness of their previous actions and the implications for them as people can cause guilt as they realise the impact of their behaviour. Another of the emotions that may have an impact here is that of 'Shame', in Kellyian terms this is the awareness of a negative change in someone else's opinion of you from what you think it should be. The recognition of this shift in our own and other peoples opinion then leads into the next stage.

depression

The awareness that our past actions, behaviours and beliefs are incompatible with our core construct of our identity. The belief that our past actions mean we're not a very nice person after all! This phase is characterised by a general lack of motivation and confusion. Individuals are uncertain as to what the future holds and how they can fit into the future 'world'. Their representations are inappropriate and the resultant undermining of their core sense of self leaves them adrift with no sense of identity and no clear vision of how to operate.

gradual acceptance

Here we begin to make sense of our environment and of our place within the change. In effect we are beginning to get some validation of our thoughts and actions and can see that where we are going is right. We are at the start of managing our control over the change, make sense of the 'what' and 'why' and seeing some successes in how we interact - there is 'a light at the end of the tunnel!' This links in with an increasing level of Self-confidence, which in Kellyian terms is defined as an awareness of the goodness of fit of the self in one's core role structure - i.e., we feel good that we are doing the right things in the right way.

moving forward

In this stage we are starting to exert more control, make more things happen in a positive sense and are getting our sense of self back. We know who we are again and are starting to feel comfortable that we are acting in line with our convictions, beliefs, etc. and making the right choices. In this phase we are, again, experimenting within our environment more actively and effectively.

disillusionment

The awareness that your values, beliefs and goals are incompatible with those of the organisation. The pitfalls associated with this phase are that the employee becomes unmotivated, unfocused and increasingly dissatisfied and gradually withdraws their labour, either mentally (by just 'going through the motions', doing the bare minimum, actively undermining the change by criticising/complaining) or physically by resigning. From personal experience I can say I've left a company where I found myself becoming increasingly disillusioned with them. My values and theirs were no longer matched and I felt the gulf too big to accommodate whilst still staying true to my construct system.

hostility

The continued effort to validate social predictions that have already proved to be a failure. The problem here is that individual's continue to operate processes that have repeatedly failed to achieve a successful outcome and are no longer part of the new process or are surplus to the new way of working. The new processes are ignored at best and actively undermined at worst.

denial

This stage is defined by a lack of acceptance of any change and denies that there will be any impact on the individual. People keep acting as if the change has not happened, using old practices and processes and ignoring evidence or information contrary to their belief systems. In many ways when we are faced with a problem, or situation, we don't want, or one that we believe is too challenging to our sense of self we 'constrict' or narrow our range of construction. In this way we eliminate the problem from our awareness. The 'head in the sand' syndrome - if I can't see it, or acknowledge it then it doesn't exist!

anger

I have come to recognise over time that there seems to be some anger associated with moving through the transition curve, especially in the earlier stages as we start to recognise the wider implications of change. This is not always present as it seems to be depending on the amount of control people feel they have over the overall process and the focus of the anger changes over time. In the first instance, for those where change is 'forced' on them, the anger appears to be directed outward at other people. They are 'blamed' for the situation and for causing stress to the individual etc. However, as time progresses and the implications grow greater for the individual the anger moves inwards and there is a danger that this drives us into the 'Guilt' and 'Depression' stages. We become angry at ourselves for not knowing better and/or allowing the situation to escalate outside our control.

complacency

It has also been suggested that there is also actually a final (initial stage?) of Complacency (King 2007). Here people have survived the change, rationalised the events, incorporated them into their new construct system and got used to the new reality. This is where we feel that we have, once again, moved into our 'comfort zone' and that we will not encounter any event that is either outside our construct system (or world view) or that we can't incorporate into it with ease. We know the right decisions and can predict future events with a high degree of certainty. They are subsequently laid back, not really interested in what's going on around them and coasting through the job almost oblivious to what is actually happening around them. They are, again, operating well within their comfort zone and in some respects can't see what all the fuss has been about. Even though the process may have been quite traumatic for them at the time!

so what?.. (a brief summary of the 2012 transition theory)

It can be seen from the transition curve that it is important for an individual to understand the impact that the change will have on their own personal construct systems; and for them to be able to work through the implications for their self perception. Any change, no matter how small, has the potential to impact on an individual and may generate conflict between existing values and beliefs and anticipated altered ones.

To help people move through the transition effectively we need to understand their perception of the past, present and future. What is their past experience of change and how has it impacted on them?, how did they cope? Also what will they be losing as part of the change and what will they be gaining?

Therefore the goal of the 'manager'/change agent is to help make the transition as effective and painless as possible. By providing education, information, support, etc. we can help people transition through the curve and emerge on the other side.

One of the dangers for individuals is that once we are caught up in the emotion of the change we may miss the signs (e.g., of threat, anxiety, etc) in ourselves and others. This could cause us to react by, or adopt a coping strategy of, complaining to anyone who will listen, and probably anyone who won't! Or we attempt to make things as they were (which also increase our stress levels as a result) and actively resist any attempts to change us.

I would argue that we transit through all stages (although the old caveat of some of these stages may be extremely quickly traversed and not consciously recognisable applies). In the main we will progress through all the phases in a linear or sequential way (although we may move in either direction as circumstances change throughout. Each stage builds on the last stage and incorporates any learning (positive and negative) from our experience.

So we can see that our perception of the situation could be escalating in 'severity' of impact and importance to our sense of self as we go through the phases. We descend into the trough of depression via a small impact on our sense of self (anxiety), speed up through a greater realisation of impact and meaning (fear, threat) and then comes the realisation that (potentially) our core sense of self has been impacted and our 'self belief system' undermined to a large extent (guilt, depression) which contradicts who we thought we were.

Now if someone is going through multiple transitions at the same time; these could have a cumulative impact on them as individuals. As people could being going through all the different transitions almost simultaneously - it then becomes a case of more and more 'evidence' all of which is supporting previous negative a rapidly dropping self confidence and increasingly negative self image which just compounds the problem. We end up similar to the 'frozen rabbit in the headlights not knowing which way to turn'!.

As with any personal transformation, there are no clear boundaries to any of these stages. It is more of a gradual realisation that things have subtly changed. On a personal note my mother had a major stroke some years ago that has left her incapacitated down one side; over the succeeding years I've noticed that our benchmark of how we see her has gradually lowered over time - the 'highs' are lower and the good days less good - but, as in many walks of life, they become the new norm.

With your teams, it is more a case of helping people through the process as effectively as possible. Also as each person will experience transition through the curve at slightly different speeds (and, as I mentioned earlier, we may be at different places on different curves - depending on just what is happening to us at the time).

Much of the speed of transition will depend on the individual's self perception, locus of control, and other past experiences, and how these all combine to create their anticipation of future events. The more positive you see the outcome, the more control you have (or believe you have) over both the process and the final result the less difficult and negative a journey you have.

 

John Fisher, Process of Personal Transition, 2012.

 


For historical and developmental reference purposes here is:

John Fisher's Process of Personal Transition - 2003 narrative to accompany the 2003 diagram

anxiety

The awareness that events lie outside one's range of understanding or control. I believe the problem here is that individuals are unable to adequately picture the future. They do not have enough information to allow them to anticipate behaving in a different way within the new organization. They are unsure how to adequately construe acting in the new work and social situations.

happiness

The awareness that one's viewpoint is recognised and shared by others. The impact of this is two-fold. At the basic level there is a feeling of relief that something is going to change, and not continue as before. Whether the past is perceived positively or negatively, there is still a feeling of anticipation, and possibly excitement, at the prospect of improvement. On another level, there is the satisfaction of knowing that some of your thoughts about the old system were correct (generally no matter how well we like the status quo, there is something that is unsatisfactory about it) and that something is going to be done about it. In this phase we generally expect the best and anticipate a bright future, placing our own construct system onto the change and seeing ourselves succeeding. One of the dangers in this phase is that of the inappropriate psychological contract. We may perceive more to the change, or believe we will get more from the change than is actually the case. The organization needs to manage this phase and ensure unrealistic expectations are managed and redefined in the organizations terms, without alienating the individual.

fear

The awareness of an imminent incidental change in one's core behavioural system. People will need to act in a different manner and this will have an impact on both their self-perception and on how others externally see them. However, in the main, they see little change in their normal interactions and believe they will be operating in much the same way, merely choosing a more appropriate, but new, action.

threat

The awareness of an imminent comprehensive change in one's core behavioural structures. Here clients perceive a major lifestyle change, one that will radically alter their future choices and other people's perception of them. They are unsure as to how they will be able to act/react in what is, potentially, a totally new and alien environment - one where the 'old rules' no longer apply and there are no 'new' ones established as yet.

guilt

Awareness of dislodgement of self from one's core self perception. Once the individual begins exploring their self-perception, how they acted/reacted in the past and looking at alternative interpretations they begin to re-define their sense of self. This, generally, involves identifying what are their core beliefs and how closely they have been to meeting them. Recognition of the inappropriateness of their previous actions and the implications for them as people can cause guilt as they realise the impact of their behaviour.

depression

This phase is characterised by a general lack of motivation and confusion. Individuals are uncertain as to what the future holds and how they can fit into the future 'world'. Their representations are inappropriate and the resultant undermining of their core sense of self leaves them adrift with no sense of identity and no clear vision of how to operate.

disillusionment

The awareness that your values, beliefs and goals are incompatible with those of the organization. The pitfalls associated with this phase are that the employee becomes unmotivated, unfocused and increasingly dissatisfied and gradually withdraws their labour, either mentally (by just 'going through the motions', doing the bare minimum, actively undermining the change by criticising/complaining) or physically by resigning.

hostility

Continued effort to validate social predictions that have already proved to be a failure. The problem here is that individual's continue to operate processes that have repeatedly failed to achieve a successful outcome and are no longer part of the new process or are surplus to the new way of working. The new processes are ignored at best and actively undermined at worst.

denial

This stage is defined by a lack of acceptance of any change and denies that there will be any impact on the individual. People keep acting as if the change has not happened, using old practices and processes and ignoring evidence or information contrary to their belief systems.

It can be seen from the transition curve that it is important for an individual to understand the impact that the change will have on their own personal construct systems; and for them to be able to work through the implications for their self perception. Any change, no matter how small, has the potential to impact on an individual and may generate conflict between existing values and beliefs and anticipated altered ones.

One danger for the individual, team and organization occurs when an individual persists in operating a set of practices that have been consistently shown to fail (or result in an undesirable consequence) in the past and that do not help extend and elaborate their world-view. Another danger area is that of denial where people maintain operating as they always have denying that there is any change at all. Both of these can have detrimental impact on an organization trying to change the culture and focus of its people.

John M Fisher 2000 updated 2003 ('disillusionment' stage added to the 2000 model/narrative).


 

References: The Person In Society: Challenges To A Constructivist Theory, Geissen, Psychosozial-Verlag, and George Kelly's Personal Construct Psychology Theories.

See John Fisher's Process of Transition diagrams in the Fisher Diagrams section below, or in the free online training resources section, or go direct to to the most recent version of John Fisher's 2012 Process of Transition Diagram (pdf).

Also remaining available for reference and study purposes are J Fisher's original 2000 Process of Transition diagram and his updated 2003 diagram.

Many more diagrams relating to personal change, development and management, including Fisher's, are available on the free resources section.

See also Gloria May's Adaptation of John Fisher's Transition Curve for Smoking Habit Discussion (diagram PDF).

 

additional references

In detailing John Fisher's Transition Curve here it is appropriate to acknowledge the quite separate and independent work of Ralph Lewis and Chris Parker, who described a change concept also called 'Transition Curve' in their paper 'Beyond The Peter Principle - Managing Successful Transitions', published in the Journal of European Industrial Training, 1981. The Lewis-Parker 'Transition Curve' model approaches personal change from a different perspective to the Fisher model, and is represented in a seven stage graph, based on original work by Adams, Hayes and Hopson in their 1976 book Transition, Understanding and Managing Personal Change. The Lewis-Parker 'Transition Curve' seven stages are summarised as follows:

  1. Immobilisation - Shock. Overwhelmed mismatch: expectations v reality.
  2. Denial of Change - Temporary retreat. False competence.
  3. Incompetence - Awareness and frustration.
  4. Acceptance of Reality - 'Letting go'.
  5. Testing - New ways to deal with new reality.
  6. Search for Meaning - Internalisation and seeking to understand.
  7. Integration - Incorporation of meanings within behaviours.

The Lewis-Parker 'Transition Curve' contains interesting parallels at certain stages with the 'Conscious Competence' learning model, which is another helpful perspective for understanding change and personal development.

 

john fisher's personal change model - questions and answers

Here are some helpful questions and answers which John Fisher provided in 2006 regarding his personal change 'Transition Curve' model (2003) which is described above and featured on the diagrams linked from this page. Please consider that these comments were made before the development of John Fisher's 2012 version of the model, and so there may be some overlap with the 2012 narrative.

1) How do we recognize what phases we are in?

Part of the problem is that we do not recognise which element of the curve we may be in. The goal of the 'manager'/change agent is to help make the transition as effective and painless as possible. By providing education, information, support, etc. we can help people transition through the curve and emerge on the other side. One of the dangers is that once we are caught up in the emotion of the change we may miss the signs of threat, anxiety, etc. and 'react'/cope by complaining or attempting to make things as they were (and also increase our stress levels as a result).

2) Does everyone go through all the 9 phases, or will there be people who will say, begin their personal transition from the depression stage instead of the anxiety stage?

I would argue that we transit through all stages (although the old caveat of some of these stages may be extremely quickly traversed and not consciously recognisable applies). In the main the theory proposed a linear transition and each stage builds on the last so we can see our perception escalating in 'severity'/importance as we go into the trough of depression via a small impact on our sense of self (anxiety) through a greater realisation of impact/meaning (fear, threat) and then an understanding that (potentially) our core sense of self has been impacted and our 'self belief system' undermined to an extent (guilt, depression). Now if someone is going through multiple transitions at the same time these could have a cumulative impact and people could go through the initial stages almost simultaneously - it then becomes a case of more 'evidence'/information supporting previous negative self image and compounding the impression.

3) Is it possible that some people might skip some phases, as in, after the anxiety phase, they go on to the fear phase, instead of the happiness phase?

The happiness phase is one of the more interesting phases and may be (almost) passed through without knowing. In this phase it is the "Thank Goodness, something is happening at last!" feeling coupled with the knowledge that we may be able to have an impact, or take control, of our destiny and that if we are lucky/involved/contribute things can only get better. If we can start interventions at this stage we can minimise the impact of the rest of the curve and virtually flatten the curve. By involving, informing, getting 'buy in' at this time we can help people move through the process.

4) Do the phases take place in the particular order that you have published?

I have not undertaken any structured experimental research per se, however anecdotal and 'participant observation' would imply that this is a fairly robust model. It is also partially based on Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's bereavement concept (five stages of grief model) which has widespread acceptance. However...

5) How does the transition take place? For instance, suppose I know that I am in the anxiety phase. So when does it transit into the next one, that is, the happiness phase?

As with question 1, it is more a case of helping people through the process as effectively as possible. Also each person will experience transition through the curve at slightly different speeds (and we may be at different places on different curves - depending on just what is happening to us at the time). As above, much of the speed of transition will depend on the individual's self perception, locus of control, and other past experiences, and how these all combine to create their anticipation of future events. Much of the transition is done subconsciously. It may not be initially noticeable and only becomes clear if we look back and reflect on our situation. If we do adopt an introspective approach and recognise where we are in the process, our reaction will depend on our personal style of interacting with our environment and how 'proactive' we feel we can be at seeking out support, or leaving the organisation, as appropriate. Obviously should we feel disempowered this may well cause us to descend further down the slide into a deeper depression; reinforced by our perceived helplessness and all the implications associated with that.

John Fisher 2006

 

personal construct psychology - an introduction

Personal Construct Psychology (PCP), (or Personal Construct Theory - PCT) is a concept pioneered by George Kelly. Personal Construct Psychology theory proposes that we must understand how the other person sees their world and what meaning they attribute to things in order to effectively communicate and connect with them. Personal Construct Psychology theory is extremely relevant to developing personal emotional maturity and self-awareness in self and others, and for understanding behaviour in others, and as such the concepts of Personal Construct Psychology augment and support many of the behavioural models and methodologies explained on this website.

Personal Construct Psychology theory provides a very useful and accessible additional perspective to the world and how we relate to it.

This article was written by John Fisher and Dr David Savage. It first appeared in Fisher and Savage (eds), 1999, Beyond Experimentation Into Meaning, EPCA Publications, Farnborough. Permission to reprint this article here is gratefully acknowledged.

Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) is a psychology that places the individual at its central focal point. It is based on understanding the individual from within their own world view - that is by understanding how they see the world not how we interpret their picture of the world. We all interact with the world from a unique perspective - our own, this interaction is built up of all our past and potential future experiences and dictates how we approach situations.

Psychological theory, generally, purports that we observe other people's behaviours and actions and place our own interpretations on them, attributing meaning based on our own past (childhood) experiences. Personal Construct Psychology is a more liberating theory, allowing the individual to develop and grow throughout their life constantly observing, assimilating, developing actions/reactions, experimenting and testing beliefs. Kelly (1955/1991) used the phrase 'man the scientist' (sic) to explain how we interact with our world.

Due to the constantly changing nature of our nature we are not 'the victim of our biography' and have the choice (although sometimes it may not appear as such) to adopt a new way of interacting.

How we interact with others is the result of our past experiences and an assessment of the current situation which is then mapped onto possible alternative courses of action, we then chose that course of action which we think will best suit our needs. Kelly (1955/91) proposed that we are all scientists - by this he meant that we are constantly experimenting with our world, generating hypothesis about what will happen, acting, and testing the resulting outcome against our prediction. It can be seen from this that our behaviours are not static. We do not become 'the adult' during childhood, nor are we forever condemned to sail the seven seas like the Flying Dutchman making the same mistakes.

Personal Construct Psychology is a very free and empowering psychology. We are not seen as victims of circumstance, we have the power to change and grow. We are only limited in our vision of ourselves and our future by our own internal 'blinkers' - these limit the possible futures we can see for ourselves and hence restrict our ability to develop. One of the fundamental tenets of PCP is that of 'Constructive Alternativism'. In simple terms this means that there are as many different interpretations of any situation and possible future outcomes as we can think of - how many different uses can you think of for a paper clip?

Our collection of experience's and actions form the basis of our mental map (or logic bubble) of the world. In PCP terms the working tools of our mental map are known as 'Constructs'. A construct is simply a way of differentiating between objects. Each construct can be equated to a line connecting two points. These two points, or poles, each have a (different) label identifying the opposite extremes of the construct. Based on our perceptions of other people's behaviour we can then place them somewhere on the scale between the two poles and hence build our mental map of the world. We also place ourselves along these same dimensions and use them as a guide to choosing not only our behaviours but also our friends etc. As a result of our experimenting we are constantly assessing our constructs for their level of 'fit' in our world. This results in either a validation of the construct or an invalidation of (and hence potential change to) our constructs. Problems occur when we consistently try to use invalidated constructs in our interactions.

For example we might define people by the way they act in company and decide that some people are 'extravert' and others 'introvert', other constructs may be physical, e.g. tall or small, fat or thin. Objects can fall into more than one category so we can have small, thin extroverted people. Within Klienian psychology one example of a construct would be 'Good Breast/Bad Breast'. One point here, the opposite of 'introvert' may not be extravert for some people; it could be loud or aggressive. Hence just because we associate one with another doesn't mean everybody does. This is why we need some understanding of other people's construct system to be able to effectively communicate with them.

To be able to interact with each other we need to have some understanding of how the other person perceives their world. What do they mean when they call someone 'extroverted'?, are they the life and soul of the party? or are they loud and over bearing? How we, and they, treat the extrovert depends on whether it is viewed it as a positive or negative character trait.

Kelly defined his theory in a formal structured way by devising what he called his 'fundamental postulate' - basically a posh term for the statement which underpins the whole of Personal Construct Psychology. A further eleven corollaries (or clarifying statements) were also developed which extended the theory and added more elaboration to how the theory impacts and is used. These eleven have over time been expanded and added to as the range of the theory has been developed (e.g. see Dallos 1991, Procter 1981, Balnaves and Caputi 1993). In fairness it must be said that these additions have not been universally acclaimed and many people only recognise the original eleven.

You may have got the impression that Personal Construct Psychology is very individual focused - which it is - and that it has nothing to offer in terms of group development. The principles of Personal Construct Psychology can be applied to individuals, groups and culture with equal ease. Various books and papers have been published exploring the nomothetic aspects of Personal Construct Psychology (e.g. Balnaves and Caputi 1993, Kalekin-Fishman and Walker 1996).

 

the fundamental postulate and the eleven corollaries

The Fundamental Postulate states that "A person's processes are psychologically 'channellised' by the ways in which they anticipate events". My interpretation of this is that our expectations dictate our choice of action.

The Construction corollary - "A person anticipates events by construing their replication". Again I interpret this as meaning that we approach the future by looking at similar past experiences and basing our actions on those previous events.

The Experience corollary - "A person's construct system varies as they successively construe the replication of events". I take this to imply that our construct system is in a state of constant change based on our experiences.

The Individuality corollary - "People differ from each other in their construction of events". We all see things differently.

The Choice corollary - "People choose for themselves that alternative in a dichotomised construct through which they anticipate the greater possibility for the elaboration of their system". Therefore, in my opinion, we choose that alternative which gives us the best chance of extending (and confirming) our construct system.

The Sociality corollary - "To the extent that one person construes the construction process of another, they may play a role in a social process involving the other person". If we understand where someone is coming from we can interact with them in a productive meaningful manner.

The Commonality corollary - "To the extent that one person employs a construction of experience which is similar to that employed by another, their processes are psychologically similar to of the other person". i.e. Great minds think alike.

The Organisational corollary - "Each person characteristically evolves, for their convenience in anticipating events, a construction system embracing ordinal relationships between constructs". This I take to mean that we create a hierarchical construct system.

The Dichotomy corollary - "A person's construction system is composed of a finite number of dichotomous constructs". ('Dichotomous' in this sense means divided and potentially opposing and contradictory.)

The Range corollary - "A construct is convenient for the anticipation of a finite range of events only". Some constructs are applicable to certain things and not others e.g., a car may be 'fast, sporty and sexy' but an apple may not be.

The Modulation corollary - "The variation in a person's construction system is limited by the permeability of the constructs within whose range of convenience the variants lie". By this I understand that our construct system is only as flexible as we allow it to be. If our constructs are 'open to suggestion' then so will we.

The Fragmentation corollary - "A person may successively employ a variety of construction systems which are inferentially incompatible with each other". In other words we can hold contradictory constructs at the same time.

 

constructs in use

Constructs form the building blocks of our 'personality' and as such come in various shapes and sizes. From the Organisation corollary it follows that some constructs are more important than others. The most important constructs are those which are 'core' to our sense of being. These are very resistant to change and include things like moral code, religious beliefs etc. and cause significant psychological impact if they are threatened in any way. The other constructs are called 'peripheral' constructs and a change to them does not have the same impact. It also follows that some constructs will actually subsume other constructs as we move up the hierarchy.

Categories of constructs come in three types. There are 'pre-emptive' constructs, these are constructs which are applied in an all or nothing way. If this is a ball then it is nothing else but a ball - very black and white type of thinking. The second type is 'constellatory' constructs. These constructs are the stereotyping constructs - if this is a ball then it must be round, made of leather and used in football matches. Constructs in this category bring a lot of ancillary baggage with them (be it right or wrong). The last type of construct category is 'propositional'. This one carries no implications or additional labels and is the most open form of construct. It should be noted that constructs do not have to have 'words' attached to them. We can, and do, have constructs which were either formed before we could speak or which has a non verbal symbol identifying it. Something like the 'gut feeling' or 'it feels right' would be a non verbal construct. Kelly originally called these 'preverbal' constructs, but in line with others (notably Tom Ravenette 1997) I prefer the term non verbal.

Constructs, themselves, can be either Loose or Tight. A loose construct is one which may or may not lead to the same behaviour every time. Obviously this can make life difficult for others as they will be unable to predict the construer's actions consistently. A tight construct on the other hand always leads to the same behaviour. These people are those with regular habits and firmly held views. Our creativity is helped by moving from loose to tight constructs. We start off with loose constructs, trying things out for size, seeing what works and what doesn't, as we move towards the new we tighten up our construing, narrowing down our experimentation and so we begin making clearer associations and developing more clearly the 'new'. One way of loosening our constructs is via play and imagination. By using play as an experiment we can (safely) try out new things.

The CPC cycle directs our method of choosing. The CPC cycle consists of Circumspection, Pre-emption and Control. This is basically a form of 'Review, Plan, Do'. Initially we review the alternatives open to us (circumspection), narrow down the choice to one and devise a plan of action (pre-empt), finally you exercise control and do something. The cycle continues as every action leads to both a review of the success of that action as well as opening new choices.

One of the criticisms levelled at Personal Construct Psychology (unfairly in my view) is that it does not deal with emotions. This myth has been effectively address by others (e.g. Fransella 1995, McCoy 1977). Kelly uses different terms to deal with emotions. He sees emotions as transitional stages. For example threat is defined as 'the awareness of an imminent comprehensive change in one's core structure', fear is an incidental change in one's core constructs. One example of threat can be seen in the way which people of different belief systems are treated by the dominant religion - the persecution of the Cathars during the middle ages because they threatened the societal structure. One feels guilt when one has done something which is contrary to ones core constructs. Someone who sees themselves as 'an honest upright citizen' would feel guilt if caught in some dishonest act (even unwittingly). Happiness and joy are seen as support to peripheral and core constructs. Think about how happy you feel when you do something right or are complimented on something.

 

tools and techniques

Personal Construct Psychology has a wide variety of tools and techniques at its disposal. Probably the most widely used is the Repertory Grid. This is a method of eliciting constructs by asking participants to compare three elements (objects, things, etc.,) and state how two are similar and different from the third. Answers are recorded in a matrix, which can then be analysed to produce a construct map. This has been used for research into a wide range of issues from business problems to psychotherapeutic interventions (some examples of the latter can be found in various chapters within this book). The Rep Grid (as it is known) has a wide following and can be used without any other PCP theory (and has been!). There are many variations of Rep Grids including those looking at resistance to change as well as implications grids and problem solving (for a more comprehensive review of grids I would suggest Beail 1985, Fransella and Bannister 1997, Stewart & Stewart 1981).

The Rep Grid can be compared to a 'hard measure', eliciting, as it does, quantifiable data. There are, however a lot of softer, more 'touchy feely' construct elicitation techniques available. One of the more popular is the 'Self Characterisation'. In this the client has to write a character sketch of themselves in the third person and from a sympathetic viewpoint. This can then be assessed for recurring themes and constructs, these can be discussed with the individual concerned.

Once constructs have been elicited their hierarchy and interlinking can be found by 'laddering' and 'pyramiding'. The former takes one upwards towards the highest core constructs whilst the latter provides a detailed map of a person's lower level construct map in any particular area. By asking questions like "which is more important a or b?" and then asking 'why?' questions one can ladder quite quickly and easily.

Pyramiding, on the other hand, requires questions like "what kind of person does y?", "How does that/they differ from x?", this process allows the client to narrow down their definitions and arrive at the lower level constructs. This exercise does require a reasonable sized piece of paper to record all the answers and provide a sensible construct map.

One powerful tool for understanding why people are not willing to change is the ABC technique (Tschudi 1977). Here A is the desired change with constructs B1 and B2 elicited. B1 being the disadvantages about the present state and B2 the advantages about moving to the new state. However it is possible (if not probable) that the current situation has some advantages which may outweigh the disadvantages. Therefore C1 are constructs which show the negative side of moving whilst C2 are the positive aspects of staying the same. But, by looking at the pay-offs for not changing we can identify the barriers and put measures in place to overcome them (if necessary).

Kelly also proposed a form of dramatherapy for use with clients. In his version, which he called 'Fixed Role Therapy', in conjunction with the client he drew up a new persona (including a new name and history) and encouraged the client to act as if they were this new person. This allowed the client to 'try out' new ways of looking at the world in a safe environment (if it didn't work they just became themselves again). Hypnotherapy has also been used to loosen (and tighten) constructs.

 

personal construct theory - conclusion

I hope that this brief introduction to Personal Construct Psychology has shown some of the breadth and depth of PCP. Far from being a static, restrictive psychology that only perceives people as having finished growing at the end of childhood or merely reacting to external stimulation, it is an extremely liberating and eclectic psychology. Ownership of one's future is placed in the hands of the individual concerned.

 

personal construct psychology theory references

Balnaves M. & Caputi P., 1993, Corporate Constructs; To what Extent are Personal Constructs Personal?, International Journal of Personal Construct Psychology, 6, 2 p119 - 138

Beail N. (ed), 1985, Repertory Grid technique and Personal Constructs, Croom Helm

Dallos R. (1991), Family Belief Systems, Therapy and Change, Open University Press, Milton Keynes

Fransella F. (1995), George Kelly, Sage, London

Fransella F. and Bannister D. (1977), A Manual for Repertory Grid Technique, Academic Press, London

Kalekin-Fishman D. & Walker B. (eds) 1996, The Construction of Group Realities: Culture, Society, and Personal Construct Theory, Krieger, Malabar

Kelly G.A. (1955/1991), The Psychology of Personal Constructs, Routledge, London

McCoy M. M. (1977), A Reconstruction of Emotion, in Bannister D (ed), Issues and Approaches in Personal Construct Theory, Academic Press, London

Procter H. (1981), Family Construct Psychology, in Walrond-Skinner S (ed), Family Therapy and Approaches, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London

Ravenette T (1977), Selected papers: Personal construct Psychology and the practice of an Educational psychologist, EPCA Publications, Farnborough

Stewart V. & Stewart A. (1981), Business Applications of Repertory Grid Technique, McGraw Hill,

Tschudi F. (1977), Loaded and Honest Questions, in Bannister D (ed), New Perspectives in Personal Construct Theory, Academic Press, London

 

john fisher biography

John's early career was with the Royal Air Force as a technician, from which he moved into simulation engineering and project management consultancy. During the 1990's John achieved a first class honours degree in Psychology from the Open University and an MSc in Occupational Psychology at Leicester University. John's work is underpinned by the psychological framework known as Personal Construct Psychology (PCP), (or Personal Construct Theory - PCT), as pioneered by George Kelly. This proposes that we must understand how the other person sees their world and what meaning they attribute to things in order to effectively communicate and connect with them. John has organised conferences on PCT, presented papers and co-edited two collections of conference papers as well as having various articles and papers published in conference proceedings and journals. John's current areas of interest are change management and culture/acculturalisation. He later worked with the Xchanging HR Services organization specialising in training design and delivery. John is qualified in MBTI, OPQ and Emotional Intelligence personality tools, NLP and counselling, and is a past winner of the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals award for innovative training deployment. If you'd like any further information about John's work, particularly with reference to his Personal Transition Concept, and the Personal Construct Theory, you can email John at: john.m.fisher@blueyonder.co.uk

 

john fisher's process of transition - diagrams

John Fisher's Process of Transition Diagram (pdf) - revised Nov 2012 (colour/color version - with Complacency stage)

John Fisher's Process of Transition Diagram (ppt) slide - revised Nov 2012 (colour/color version - with Complacency stage)

John Fisher's Process of Transition Diagram (pdf) - revised Jun 2012 (original mono format)

John Fisher's 2012 Process of Personal Transition diagram - (ppt file)

John Fisher's 2003 Process of Personal Transition diagram - (ppt file)

John Fisher's 2003 Process of Transition diagram (pdf)

John Fisher's original 2000 Process of Transition diagram (pdf)

French version of John Fisher's 2003 Process of Transition diagram (pdf) - thanks to the Canadian International Development Agency for the translation.

Spanish version of John Fisher's 2003 Process of Transition diagram (pdf) - with thanks to Marcelo Rivadeneira for the translation.

TokPisin (for Papua New Guinea) version of John Fisher's 2003 Process of Transition diagram (pdf) - with thanks to Sharne Black of Ozi-K Ltd Papua New Guinea

 

If you create a translated version in another language of John Fisher's Process of Transition diagrams I would welcome a copy (doc or ppt or pdf file) to share on this website. You may add your name to the attribution for having made the translation, using the the format: "Translated by [your name/organization - year of translation]".

Please send a translated version. Thank you.

 


see also


browse categories


The use of this material is free provided copyright (see below) is acknowledged and reference or link is made to the www.businessballs.com website. This material may not be sold, or published in any form. Disclaimer: Reliance on information, material, advice, or other linked or recommended resources, received from Alan Chapman, shall be at your sole risk, and Alan Chapman assumes no responsibility for any errors, omissions, or damages arising. Users of this website are encouraged to confirm information received with other sources, and to seek local qualified advice if embarking on any actions that could carry personal or organisational liabilities. Managing people and relationships are sensitive activities; the free material and advice available via this website do not provide all necessary safeguards and checks. Please retain this notice on all copies.

© John Fisher Personal Transition Curve concept and content 2000-13; Fisher & Savage Personal Construct Psychology article 1999; edit and contextual material Alan Chapman 2000-2013.