Addiction, Control, Leaving

[From Rick Marken (951218.0900)]

Greg Wierzbicki (951216.0915 EST) --

Stanton Peele_The Meaning of Addiction (1985)_suggests that 'Addiction may
occur with any potent experience...[the key being]...its persistence in the
face of harmful consequences for the individual' (pp25-26).

In the context of addiction, a "potent experience" is probably the sudden
reduction in error in one or more control systems. Many drugs seem to have
this effect; such drugs quickly give apparent control (no error = in control)
that might otherwise take years of reorganization (learning) to achieve. So
taking a drug is a way of controlling. Unfortunately, drugs have effects that
are a disturbance to other control systems; alcohol, for example, can produce
a horrible hangover, among other things.

So an addiction to a drug involves a conflict; you want to take the drug
becuase it gives you apparent control of some variables but you don't want to
take the drug because you lose control of other variables. If the
consequences of taking the drug were all good (and the side effects were
all benign) you would keep taking it and there would be no sense of
addiction. The sense of addiction is, I think, the sense of being in
conflict; of having part of you (one control system) wanting to take the
drug while another part of you (another control system -- the one that makes
you feel like an addict) doesn't.

So, if we are always and inescapably attempting to achieve control, then
several significant questions are deserving of attention. First, what is is
we are controlling for...really?

I think this is THE most significant question of all. I think it is clear
that each person controls MANY different perceptual variables; I think there
is great overlap in the kinds of variables people control. Identifying
controlled variables is the central goal of a science of perceptual control

Second, what are the means we are employing to achieve control?

Ultimately, the means we use are variations in muscle tension. When I built
model airplaces as a kid I did it by varying the tensions of muscles in my
fingers, arms, etc. We also use artifacts (like glue) to control; but there
artifacts are themselves a result of people varying muscle tensions -- adding
chemicals to other chemicals, etc.

I think we use "actions" (variations in muscle tensions, for example) to
influence, via the environment (including human artifacts therein) what we
perceive (the state of the model airplane, for example). We also use other
living control systems to control perceptions. When I asked my mom to drive
me to the hobby store I was using another living control system's ability to
control what I could not yet control (the car) to produce a perception (a jar
of paint) that I wanted to have.

And third, how effectively are we achieving our desirred outcome?

It varies. We control some perceptions extremely skillfully; we control
others quite poorly -- especially those that involve other people.

It seems to me that ineffective organization occurs whenever the first
question reveals intrinsic conflict, and/or whenever the second question
reveals external conlict over means which are chosen to control our intrinsic
needs, and/or whenever the third question reveals that our behaviors are less
than optimal in their ability to achieve/maintain control.

I agree completely. You really HAVE been reading the control theory
literature. Very nicely put.

Ed Ford (Dec. 17, 95) --

I've also decided for many reasons, some of which will remain in my heart,
that I'll probably leave this net.

This will be a big loss. I'm sorry that this is your decision. The work you
are doing wth PCT is very important and it would be nice to keep talking
about your work in order to see how PCT can inform more humane approaches to

For some time on this net, I've tried to explain my ideas and how they
interrelate with PCT. With the exception of some private posts, I've
received mostly critical reactions about what I'm doing

Unfortunately, most reactions on the net are responses to disturbance. There
are sometimes reactions to sudden error reduction (like "Wow, what a great
post") but most of what goes on on the net is clearly disturbance resistance.
But just because something someone says is a disturbance to someone else
doesn't mean that what was said was "wrong". The ultimate arbiter of
"correctness" on CSG-L should be the degree of match between the PCT model
and real behavior. That is why your contribution is so valuable; we need to
know what is actually happening out there in the real world when we start
dealing with people as though they were what they are -- living control

I know that there have been disagreements about how you _describe_ the PCT
approach to dealing with kids, but I don't think anyone (myself included) has
claimed that you are a) not actually applying PCT principles in your work or
2) not getting great results.

It is great to celebrate one another's work; but it is also good (I think) to
be willing to expose that work to critical scrutiny. Bill Powers (among
others) has publicly criticized many things I've said on the net -- and he's
criticized my research work too. Usually Bill's criticism is right; sometimes
it's wrong. I don't like getting criticized any more than anyone; but after
the initial anger I try to go up a level; then I realize that my higher goal
is not to be _right_ but to _understand_. So I try to take the criticism to
heart and see if there is something to it and I try to learn from it. This is
a VERY hard thing for a hierarchical control system (like me) to do -- but
the rewards (in terms of understanding) can be substantial.

The decision is yours, of course, Ed, but my strong preference would be that
you stay on the net, if only to keep us honest about what's going on out
there in the real world.