[From Rick Marken (950214.1040)]
Lars Christian Smith (950214 12:40 CET) --
Are you conscious of moving between levels?
Yes. There are two aspects to this process. The first aspect of moving
between levels is simply becoming aware of something you are doing as
"something YOU are doing"; one of many possible things you COULD be doing.
The second is realizing "why" you are doing it; what higher level goal is
served by doing it. The second part is generally much harder than the first,
though the first is necessary if the second is to occur.
As I think I've said before, there is nothing mysterious about this process
of "going up a level". It's actually pretty easy to do for simple behaviors.
For example, when you do a tracking task your consciousness is typically
looking at things from the point of view of the control system that is
keeping the cursor on the target. This is what you "care" about; achieving
the goal of keeping the cursor on target. Going up a level would just involve
noticing that "keeping the cursor on the target" is one of many possible
things you could be doing; you could be keeping the cursor at a different
goal position (left of target, right of target, oscillating around target) or
you could be doing something other than tracking entirely (like shopping).
All you have done is become conscious of the operation of a control system IN
YOU -- and you have become conscious of this control system from a point of
view that is NOT that of the control system itself.
The next step in going up a level would be to figure out WHY you have a
control system operating with the goal of keeping the cursor on the target.
PCT suggests this is because you have a higher level control system that is
achieving its goal by having the "tracking" control system keep a cursor on
target. Perhaps this higher level control system is controlling for getting
credit for a psychology experiment so that you pass the intro to psychology
One thing that should be clear now is that "going up a level" is NOT what
most people seem to think of when they talk about "consciousness raising".
"Going up a level" just means that you are seeing your own controlling from a
DIFFERENT (not a more "enlightened") perspective; a perspective that
differs from that of the system doing the controlling. In the method of
levels, "higher" really just means "different".
It seems to be a lot easier to move our consciousness outside of some of the
kinds of controlling we do (like keeping a cursor on a target) than
other kinds (like keeping religious or political variables on target). People
control for being a "catholic" or an "athiest" in the same way that they
control for "cursor on the target" or "cursor 1 inch to left of target". But
most people I've met are much less willing to try to move their consciousness
outside of their controlling of religious and political variables than they
are to move it outside of their controlling of line position variables. In
fact, many people get quite upset when you even suggest that they can look
at certain kinds of controlling as controlling. The annoying implication that
creates the disturbance, of course, is that things like "being a cathlolic"
or "being an athiest" are just arbitrary reference settings of controlled
perceptual variables; they are arbitrary in the sense that other settings
would have been selected if that would have achieved the goals of higher
Do you say to yourself, OK, now I am going to move from the program level to
the principle level, and if that doen't solve it, I am going to move to the
As you can see, I haven't mentioned the names of levels in this discussion
at all. When I try to move between levels -- move my consciousness "outside"
of some controlling I am doing -- I find that trying to name the type of
variable controlled just makes this process difficult or impossible. The
method of levels is most helpful as a way to solve _conflict_; when you do
this, there is really no need to identifiy the TYPE of variable controlled by
the conflicted systems. Indeed, you are well on you way to solving a conflict
once you recognize that you are IN one. In order to notice that you are in
conflict you have to have done the first part of the method of levels; you
have to have gotten "outside" of the conflicted control systems to see THAT
these systems ARE controlling and that they are controlling for incompatible
I have a little tracking demo of conflict that can be used to illustrate how
the method of levels can be used to eliminate internal conflict. If you are
interested, I will describe it for you.