Applications: criticisms

[from Mary Powers 950827]

To Ed and David:

I want to try to explain something about why Bill (and I think
Rick) feel so strongly about certain aspects of applications of

While of course they believe PCT is right, and want it tried out
on the real world, they are in some conflict about it. There are
applications and applications - you think of applications in
terms of school children and patients and prisoners. Meanwhile,
applications in terms of rigorous testing of the theory in
experimental situations, the only applications that give the
theory any hope of being (eventually) accepted by the scientific
community, are still very few, and still very hard to believe.
You can't imagine the turmoil and suspense when Bill got to the
point of modelling the performance of rats using some of the data
Bruce Abbott sent him. Was this going to work, or was the whole
thing a pipe dream? You might think he'd be pretty confident of
the outcome by now. Not so. You may remember when Tom Bourbon
ran his 5 year old model of himself on a tracking experiment at
the meeting last year. Was he sure how it would come out? Not
at all, despite the evidence of hundreds of tracking experiments
over the years. In both cases, the model worked like a charm,
but it's still hard to believe, especially when it is so hard to
convince their peers in the scientific community. Until other
scientists do other experiments, using PCT, there is always the
doubt, the possibility that there is some fatal flaw they haven't
thought of.

The point here is that you act so sure of PCT, when Bill and Rick
and Tom are far _less_ sure! It just doesn't sit very well that
you think it's so perfect and that you know all about how to use
it when the people developing the science of it tremble in their
boots every time they challenge it, and when so much basic
science needs to be done.

Next point:

A few people have taken up control theory, from reading Bill's
stuff, and reading stuff written about Bill's stuff, and appplied
it in personality theory, social psychology, and so on. The
results have been uniformly disastrous. In every case, they have
"integrated" control theory into what they already know and
believe, and think they are applying it when they are not. Other
psychologists have read their stuff, and rightly criticized and
dismissed it as being nothing new, dressed up in trendy language.
So the reaction to PCT is "we already know all we need to know of
that, and there's nothing much to it." Differentiating PCT from
the rest of the psychological literature on "control theory" and
"self-regulation" is practically impossible. Closer to home,
isn't this the effect Glasser has had? There are hundreds of
Reality Therapists who think they know control theory, and how
many really do?

Can you understand that, having had this happen over and over
again, your writings and descriptions of procedures are not about
to be swallowed whole, but are as much subject to scrutiny as
anything said by Lord or Carver or any other so-called control
theorist? Nobody gets a pass for good attendance. If you say
you're talking PCT, and there's any doubt, you are going to get
called on it. Rightly or wrongly, what you _say_ is what matters
- no one can get inside your head and see how well you really
understand it.

There are things Ed had written and said, and things David has
said, that Bill and Rick have criticized. Throughout this rather
painful thread, all these doubtful statements have been pulled
apart, and analyzed, and defended, and expanded on. If we can
get beyond the hurt feelings for a minute, hasn't this been
useful? Isn't it important, Ed, for you to clarify your
approach, which you believe to be pure PCT, so that other PCTers
can agree (or not) that it is? None of this would have come up
except for some doubt in people's minds about exactly what you
were saying about what you are doing. A lot of it was all too
reminiscent of the botch that has been made of PCT by other
people, as described above. However, as the thread has gone on,
you have expressed your ideas and procedures more clearly, and
there is much more agreement than there was before. If this gets
into your next book, you will get PCT across to your readers much
more accurately and clearly.

And David too. Your later discussions about your patient are
much more clear than the initial ones, which were pretty straight
non-PCT case history stuff. I think now you are seeing him and
his parents as control systems, and before you weren't. As for
Bill "making you feel guilty" like a Jewish grandma - want to
take that one back and think it over a bit?

Mary P.