Crucial to Kelly’s theory is the rebellion against the idea that we need to be ‘motivated’ before we do anything. Not for him the Freudian idea that we have unconscious processes or psychic energy that ‘pushes’ us into action. Nor the learning theorists’ idea that we are pulled to act by the stimulus we observe. Kelly said ‘to hell with all that’. You and I are alive and kicking right from the start. Movement is a central aspect of life itself. What we need explain is why we act as we do.

Buried in this idea is, of course, the fact that he gave us back responsibility for our actions. He gave us back free will that is central to Christian teaching and was first taken away from us by Marx and then by Freud.  Kelly says:   “…motivational theories can be divided into two types, push theories and pull theories……(or) pitch fork theories on the one hand and carrot theories on the other”.

He goes on to say: ”Since we prefer to look to the nature of the animal himself, ours is probably best called a jackass theory” (Kelly, 1969 Man’s  construction of his alternatives”.  In B. Maher (ed) Clinical Psychology and Personality: The Selected Papers of George Kelly.  Wiley, p. 81).


Carrot Theory

Pitchfork Theory

Jackass Theory

Don Bannister described learning theorists as treating a person as if they were: "....basically a ping pong ball with a memory"

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