method of levels; conflicting goals

[Hans Blom, 950828]

(Bill Powers (950827.1145 MDT)) to (David Goldstein (952708))

Although I agree with much of the content of what you are saying, I
would use a different terminology. In an example, you describe the
"method of levels" as follows:

If the patient says "My mother likes my father better than me," you
don't mutter "yippee" and head for the Oedipal conflict. You just
say, "What else can you tell me about that?" or "Any thoughts about
that?" In the method of levels, you don't know what's going to come
next, and don't much care. If there are self-image problems
involved, the boy will sooner or later come right out and tell you
about them: "I guess I shouldn't be feeling that way about my
parents," or whatever. Then you ask "Why not?"

I would describe such an exchange as "exploring the patient's model",
a necessary procedure if you want to understand the way in which the
patient perceives (has modelled) the world and his own behavior. The
NLP literature gives much insight into how to systematically get to
know a model, but Socrates' questioning method and Freud's free
association method already did much the same.

The ONLY point of the method of levels is to get the person to adopt
as high a level of viewpoint as possible. What happens as a result
of doing that is out of your hands.

Maybe not, or not completely, if you focus your attention on WHAT THE
PATIENT PERCEIVES. You might find out about inconsistencies in the
patient's model: "now you say X, but just a few minutes ago you said
NOT-X". Internal models frequently have inconsistencies, but, strange
enough, once the patient is aware of an inconsistency, it will be
reorganized away, Consciously known inconsistencies are not easily
tolerated; (it is as if) the internal model has a need to be consis-
tent. By pointing inconsistencies out to the patient, you will often
start a reorganization process with two possible outcomes: either one
of the conflicting beliefs will be dropped (correcting the model) or
a reconciliation between the beliefs will be found, such that both
will be true but in different circumstances (refining or specializing
the model). In my experience, the latter outcome is much more likely.

Sometimes such reorganizations arise spontaneously. They often leave
a deep impression of significance. Let me give you an example from my
own experience. Some ten years ago -- but I remember it still quite
well -- when I was about to write another part of my PhD thesis, I
surprised myself when I heard myself muttering "No, I won't!". I
don't remember whether I vocalized the words or whether it was just a
thought coming into consciousness. I froze and started to trace where
the internal voice/thought came from, and discovered another, more
buried (preconscious?) voice that said "Get to your work, boy!",
obviously an ancient fatherly admonition, probably many times
repeated over the years when I was still in high school. Upon further
investigation/introspection, I discovered that both voices/thoughts
were always there simultaneously, and that their simultaneous
presence always blocked me from both fully relaxing and working as
hard as I could. When I worked hard it was with some rebellious
distaste, because one voice said I shouldn't, and when I relaxed, it
was with some feelings of guilt because the other voice said that I
should work. The solution also presented itself immediately: both
voices had useful advice, but they shouldn't be there simultaneously.
So immediately I "promised" the "no" voice that it was right, but
that I could not honor it right now -- it would get its turn later,
and then fully. As a result, maybe for the first time in years, I was
able to fully ENJOY doing my work. And the result of that "promise"
to myself has stuck: when I relax now, I can do it totally; and when
I work, I work, "without second thoughts".

It seems to me that the "method of levels" focusses too much on
finding the ONE primary goal above the conflicting sub-goals. The
above case is something different: disentangling goals that cannot be
fulfilled AT THE SAME TIME.