Jay Efran, who studied under George Kelly and Julian Rotter at The Ohio State University and went on to develop context-centered psychotherapy, has been honored with a marble bust at the National Museum of Psychology in Akron, Ohio.
“Over a 50+ year career, Dr. Efran has been a thorn in the side of professional psychology,” said the museum’s executive director, David R. Baker, in a statement released to the press. “We wanted to publicly honor him for utilizing radical constructivism and its seminal notion of structure determinism to so brilliantly perturb the status quo–albeit under the demonstrably false assumption that doing so might force the discipline of psychology to reorganize itself in more generative configurations. Ha! Put that in your structure and determine it!”
When contacted at his home in Philadelphia and told of the honor, Jay was flattered but not especially enthusiastic. “I had heard they were planning to do this and I wasn’t particularly excited about it. Awards aren’t personal, you know. They’re really more a reflection on those giving them than those receiving them.”
Asked why, given his lack of enthusiasm about the award, he didn’t turn it down, Efran cocked his head slightly and replied briskly, “I decided to go along with it because–as every context-centered psychotherapist knows–what we resist persists!”
Colleagues in the field had a variety of reactions when told of Efran’s bust being installed in the museum.
“What an extraordinary accomplishment,” gushed Efran co-author Mitchell Greene. When shown a photo of the bust and asked to comment, Greene’s expression shifted dramatically and there was a lengthy pause before he replied “Well um, how interesting. Not exactly up to Roman standards, but it’s the thought that counts.”
Not everyone was as circumspect about the quality of the bust.
“Ha! I think it’s wonderful!” cheered renowned personal construct psychologist Franz Epting, who went to graduate school with Efran back in the 1960s. “I never realized before how much Jay looks like Ulysses S. Grant! The resemblance is uncanny!”
Though most people in the constructivist community responded positively, a few were critical of the bust being installed in the museum.
“Talk about reification of constructs!” huffed Bill Warren when reached at his retirement villa in Australia. “George Kelly said that people are forever in process. However, statues are inevitably static creations, therefore I’m against them. Now get out of my way because I’m off to the pub to watch me some rugby.”
Prominent critic of constructivism, Barbara Held, used the opportunity to score points.
“How ironic that an antirealist like Efran is being honored with something about as epistemologically real as it gets: a garish bust of his noggin!” snapped Held when asked to comment during a visit to the museum where she was among the first to view the bust. “Does Efran even accept the statue as ontologically real? If not, he and his fellow antirealists need to get back to reality!”
After commenting, Held took out a black Sharpie and attempted to draw a phrenology map on the side of the bust, but was prevented from doing so by museum security.
Asked to place having a bust of his head displayed in a museum into context, Efran responded “I usually love being asked about context, but I can honestly say that when it comes to this God-forsaken artistic monstrosity that is supposed to represent my head, suddenly discussing context annoys the hell out of me.” Trying to salvage his answer, Efran added “Having a hideous bust of your head put in a museum doesn’t matter, but it also doesn’t matter that it doesn’t matter. So there’s that.”
The official unveiling of “Efran in Repose” at the National Museum of Psychology is scheduled for October 10.
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