Angel abuse

[From: Bruce Nevin (Wed 93121 12:04:12 EST)]

At issue here is the role of imagined perceptions in successful
perceptual control. The imagination connection is not new. "Filling in"
missing perceptions according to expectation is something we have
discussed extensively before. No change to PCT is proposed, only a
different aspect of human behavior to which to apply PCT, and some first
ideas as to how to apply it. The reasons for resistance to this are
quite unclear to me. Bill says the data aren't real, without responding
to my offer to cite sources and search for clinical case descriptions
rather than a fictional rendition. (I'd rather not have to do that.)
Rick accepts the data but only in a simplified form, and appears to be
resisting a claim about social control that I am not making.

( Bill Powers (931130.1545 MST) ) --

The "data" you're arguing about is a STORY, made up by an author. It is
not an observation about what real people did or felt, but a caricature
created from one person's experience and imagination, with a heavy
emphasis on imagination. Would real people act and react in these
limited, stereotyped, and extreme ways? Why not argue about what kind of
control system Mary Poppins used to fly with an umbrella?

The short answer, provided previously, is, yes, this does happen with
real people. There are some artificialities in Travers' re-presentation,
but the pattern of communication is real.

An a bit more involved answer is that ordinarily it "doesn't happen."
The reason it "doesn't happen" is due to selective awareness in a very
interesting way. Perhaps reorganization is not the only outcome of
conflict. Unless you consider ignoring as one of the possible products
of reorganization. That could be, I suppose. Except that when one side
of the conflict is ignored, the conflict persists. What changes is
mainly in the social ramifications when conflict within one person is
interdependent with corresponding conflict within another person.

Usually, such incongruities of communication are not sequential in the
same mode of communication (verbal, in the Travers story). Instead, they
are concurrent in parallel modes of communication. A standard example
from the literature is the parent who says to the child "I love you, come
here and give me a hug" verbally, while the eyes, gestures, and posture
("body language") express fear or dislike. The message expressed in the
overt verbal channel is the socially sanctioned one consistent with the
parent's controlled perception of being a good parent--what the parent
perceives that a good parent "should" feel and do. The parent is
experiencing conflict between this aim and one or more other aims.
Almost always, there is very limited awareness if any of these
conflicting aims. We will see in a moment how that restriction of
awareness might have come about.

The child responding to both messages concurrently might approach with
some hesitance and give a stiff kind of hug without expression of warmth
and affection, and the next move might be that of Granny in the Feiffer
cartoon -- "that's not a REAL hug, give me a real hug now!", all the
while the conflict with fear or whatever evident in the eyes, the angling
of the unresilient torso awkwardly away from the child's body. The
parent smiles with unsmiling eyes and the social interactions go on from
there, as though there had been no inconsistency, no conflict. As when
one overlooks or politely ignores a faux pas or a hiccup or an awkwardly
evident bandaid, the child acts as though the inconsistency were not

(Alan Funt was the director of Candid Camera. In Funt's film "What do
you say to a naked lady?", an attractive young woman steps from elevator
wearing only a hat, shoes, a strategically held purse, and a smile, and
asks the lone man standing there directions to a certain office. Some of
the people answer her question with only a momentary boggle, acting as if
nothing were peculiar about the situation. One man gets extremely
worried and tries to wrap his raincoat around her. Only one refers
overtly to the obvious: "Pretty outfit you've got there.")

If it were one time only, or on sporadic occasions, the child's
experience with the parent might still be rememberable, though probably
not so memorable as Funt's young lady (no followup on how the men
remembered the event next day or next week--but presumably they were let
in on the game at some point). An example of one time or sporadic
occurrence might be if the parent were concealing something and was
afraid the child might discover it, or even if the parent had to pee and
for some reason that occasioned the appropriate sort of conflict in the
parent. But in a parent-child relationship of the sort described here
(which does actually occur, Bill), the conflict is unrelieved and is
repeatedly expressed in communications between parent and child.

The usual response is for the child to become unaware of one of the two
conflicting messages--to ignore it. But this does not relieve the child
of the conflict. It only relieves the child of being socially
accountable for the disavowed communication. Also, as a consequence, the
conflict is not resolvable by the child going up a level. (It is
fruitless to go up a level if you admit awareness of only one side of the
conflict. Though the method of levels could be helpful in becoming aware
of disavowed perceptions.) A third consequence is that the child is
preferentially unaware or less aware of communication in the disavowed
channel. This includes the child's own expressions in the disavowed mode
of communication. For the child does continue to control the relevant
perceptions for the very sorts of communication that are disavowed. In
this way, the child learns to restrict awareness of conflicting aims,
just as the parent has. The person conscious of controlled
self-perceptions as having a demeanor of warmth and affection but unaware
of the hurtful barbs hidden in words spoken, for example, as well as the
parent described above with the converse arrangement of awareness and

The trouble with stories is that the author can manipulate the
actors in any way at all.

Why would she make up just that peculiar story if it is so unrealistic?

She has made the communication pattern more accessible by making all
parts of it verbal, which, as I have said, is much less common than
concurrent bimodal communication paradox. There is a degree of
artificiality in that. Examples of the more common kind of incongruence
in communication abound in literature. And in life. You will recall
that I offered to go dig out some case histories for examples. Should I?

If those were real people, someone would have been murdered by now.

Well, real murders do occur. But if Annie or Fannie were to murder
someone, I believe it would probably be someone else, not Mrs. Corrie.
They are controlling their perceptions of their intra-familial relations
successfully, after all. And they don't know any other.

( Rick Marken (931130.1500) ) --

Rick, I too was explaining Annie's conflict from a PCT perspective.

The conflict works the same way whether or not Annie
understands PCT and whether or not she is deluded.

If this is a response to what I said, then you are claiming that one's
perception of the significance of some other perception does not enter
into conflict. If the woman and man in Funt's film were in a nudist
colony, there would be no conflict. If Annie knew PCT and was no longer
deluded that she could control her mother's emotional states and vice
versa, there would be no conflict. The conflict WOULD work the same if
it were present, but there would be no conflict.

Manipulation can be sustained (for some period) as
long as the manipulator has some idea of one of the variables that
is being controlled by the manipulee (witness operant conditioning,
where there is manipulation without complicity on the part of
the manipulee).

With complicity, manipulation can be sustained as long as the complicity
is sustained. Without complicity, it can be sustained only, as you say,
for a limited period. Operant conditioning involves overwhelming use of
force (i.e. food deprivation). Probably there was some overwhelming use
of force by Mrs. Corrie at some earlier times. Rare is the child who has
not experienced that. But there is none in her interaction with Annie.

What avowedly crazy people do can be instructive about everyday craziness
of people. Here is what I think would happen if Annie were enlightened
about PCT and taught to go up a level. Mrs. Corrie would continue to be
in her own conflict. I expect that if Annie somehow managed to evade the
trap (not an easy thing!) she might see her mother suddenly appear to
change from being a powerful, witchlike (if diminutive) figure with a
withering glare to being a weak, trembling old woman, weeping and
fearful. But Annie's complicity is in helping her mother to sustain a
self perception as a strong and secure woman, a bulwark of strength for
her weak daughters. This perception of her mother as weak, tearful, etc.
is not unfamiliar, though Mrs. Corrie tries to hide it. These have been
the times when she has locked herself in her room leaving the girls to
fend for themselves. "Mother is not well today." "Oh, it is so good
that she has you girls to carry on for her here in the shop." If a
neighbor or parson insists on paying a call, she pushes away the memories
and imaginings that have preoccupied her, arranges her appearance into a
semblance of mere illness for the duration of the visit. But seldom does
anyone care to call. She hasn't friends, really. Doesn't seem to need
them, somehow. And I'm not really comfortable being with her, I don't
know about you.

I'm making all this up, of course. But this description applies, with
only changes of detail, to actual situations. I will continue to use it
to illustrate principles.

One or, perhaps, both of the goals that are part of Annie's intrapersonal
conflict might also be a goal involved in the interpersonal conflict
between Annie and her mom -- but this "connection" is not necessary.

The point is that Mrs. Corrie and her daughters do "share" their
internally conflicted goals in an interconnected kind of way. That is
what constitutes a communication pattern.

You are limiting consideration to lower-level perceptions.

Nope -- conflicts can occur at any level of the hierarchy.

I didn't say that PCT limits conflicts to lower levels. I said that in
your characterizations of the problem you were considering only
controlled perceptions such as grasping gingerbread and placing it in the
hands of visiting children. I said that you were ignoring controlled
perceptions such as "giving gingerbread to children visiting with our
friend Mary is expected" and "giving gingerbread requires mother's
direction"; such as "mother needs us to take the initiative and run the
shop" (perhaps she has just been "ill") and "taking the initiative is an
affront to mother, an assertion that she is weak, an allusion to her
recent `illness,' which we are pretending did not happen."

if one system (in Annie) wants its perception of the mom-child
relationship to be "warm" and another system (in mom) wants nearly
the same perceptual variable to be "cold" then there is interpersonal
conflict. Or if one system in Annie wants to give the gingerbread to
the kids and another system (also in Annie) doesn't then there is
intrapersonal conflict.

            Mom Annie

I am strong I am weak I am weak I am strong

Annie needs Annie must take I must wait I must take
direction initiative for direction initiative

Annie and Mom must maintain complementarity in order to maintain their
mother-daughter relationship as they control their perception of it.
Mom's mood swings are largely unpredictable. Even while maintaining the
appearance of strength, Mrs. Corrie knows that she is really weak and
vulnerable and perceives the outward appearances as a pretense;
correspondingly for Annie. The intrapersonal conflicts never go away,
and the means for controlling the perceptions that are in conflict
involve interpersonal conflict. This is simplified in the extreme, but
gives a schematic kind of idea of the interconnectedness I mean.

An example that may be more familiar. Dad has high standards of what it
is to be a man and a father. However, he is not so accomplished at
finding means for attaining those standards in practice. Others may
perceive him as having a big ego. He maintains an appearance of
optimism, confidence, competence. A drink or two now and then helps.
Sometimes more. Especially after a lousy day--Gawd, I need a drink! He
comes home drunk. Perceiving himself as a failure. Maybe he tears some
things up because he perceives them as displaying his failures. Maybe he
beats the kids, the wife. He passes out. Everyone tiptoes around. Sons
know what the high ideals for manhood are, they've been expressed often
enough, but they haven't a clue how actually to attain them. They
pretend a lot, to avoid Dad's wrath at them for being failures and
showing him up as a failed father. The wife takes over a redoubled load
of responsibility. She needs, gets help from the older daughters. She
should nurse him, puff up his ego again so he can face the world as a
breadearner. (She can't outdo him in that respect, that would be another
proof of his failure.) But by now she's exhausted and fed up. Oldest
daughter helps. She takes over the job of pretending that all the bad
crap never happened, never happens. Dad is the best dad in the world.
He's wonderful. She becomes a kind of surrogate wife, more like what his
wife should be dammit. She's achieving the perfection of womanhood, a
high ideal, without the slightest clue how actually to achieve it since
it's all in imagination in both of them. Imagination and selective
unawareness. (There may be incest too, it does happen in this way in
alcoholic families. Another thing to pretend never happened.) After a
time, Dad pulls himself together and makes his way into the world of work
again. Kids grow up having high ideals, perhaps unrealistic, never
having learned much of means for attaining them.

This is where a surprising number of people live. PCT could be of help.

try to get hold of Kent McClellend's write-ups of his wonderful
spreadsheet simulations of conflict.

Kent (or anyone), how do I get hold of these? I also asked a year or two
ago how to get your spreadsheet models, Rick, but got no answer. I even
have a copy of 1-2-3 now, and don't have to try to convert to Lucid
(which Lucid promises will work).