[from Mary Powers 980406]
Bruce Gregory (980404.1027 EST)
Anyone who is trying to write about PCT for the general public certainly has
my best wishes for success. But I can see why trying to do it through
concepts like a ball calling forth a swing have gotten sat on. It's like
starting to explain the phases of the moon by saying they're caused by the
A ball "calling forth" the swing has the same magical attributes as any
"stimulus". It is something doing something to an organism, which then
It is strange to me that this is what you think resonates with non-technical
people. My experience is that while non-tech people do indeed attribute
external causation to much of what they do (look at what you made me do!),
they are also quite convinced of their own purposiveness, and I think would
go for "I swung at the ball" sooner than "the ball called forth my swing".
Another point: you get through talking about the amazing ability of people
at the Landmark Forum to grasp and use Heideggerian concepts, and then seem
to decide that people are all too dumb to get PCT.
Come on! You don't ever have to use a term like "controlled perceptual
variables". People control what they see and hear and feel. They want more
or less. They do what they can to make it just right. Like Goldilocks and
the three bears. Papa, Mama and Baby Bear each had different goals for
hotness and coolness of their porridge. Goldilocks had the same goal as
Baby Bear. His porridge didn't call out her eating behavior; it was simply
the porridge that tasted just right - to her.
When you develop a new skill, most of what you are doing is not learning,
but using what you have a different way. Same body, same muscles. Doing a
new thing means that muscles involved in doing that thing get stronger (I'm
not going to pretend to know what goes on, but for sure there are reference
states for muscles such that they start "building up" when stressed, while a
whole bunch of other physiology goes on called getting in shape - resisting
the various disturbances we call fatigue).
If your goal is a better level of tennis than what you have now, you listen
to the coach (if she is a good coach, she doesn't tell you what a Western
grip is, she takes your hand and aligns the racket in it). Then you try,
and try, and try - until you start to consistently reproduce how your body
feels when you hit the ball well. A lot of the learning is your body
adapting to new demands, to be able to hit the ball well - as above, control
processes that you are not consciously aware of. As for the conscious part,
you want to have your attention at the right level - paying attention to
the ball - not to wanting to be a better player, and ESPECIALLY not to HOW
you are swinging the racket UNLESS you want to make some changes.
(A lot of times when people talk of the virtues of living in present time, I
think they are really talking about having their attention at the right
level). Attention is for changing. If you want to leave something the way
it is, ignore it.
About setting reference levels - or goals, if that seems a more acceptable
lay term (so long as it is clear that all goals are internal. Mt Everest,
for instance. As a goal it isn't out there at all. The goal is inside:
perceiving oneself, anoxic, icy piggies and all, standing somewhere where
everywhere else is down).
Somewhere high up in the goal structure, or HPCT, is a goal that's probably
always been there - something like feeling good. That overworked phrase
"self-esteem". Whatever. If there is a discrepancy there between the
desired state and what is perceived, that system sends outputs down to the
next lower level, which receives those outputs as reference signals - NEW
reference signals. Which means that if perceptions at that level had been
satisfactorily close to the previous reference signals, now they are not:
there is an error, and the systems at that level send outputs down to the
next level, where they are received as new reference signals, again sending
the balance between reference and perception out of whack, and resulting in
outputs ... until the outputs go to muscles which start changing the
environment around to a more satisfactory arrangement as perceived at all
levels. This is how a hierarchical control system goes about the business
of life: a continual rebalancing of the values of reference signals, and the
consequent outputs to realign perceptions with them.
But you are puzzling about something else, I think, when you wonder how to
go about resetting reference levels. Eating, drinking, smoking, sex - I
suspect you are talking about wanting to eat less, drink less, smoke not at
all, and whatever about sex (more, less, different..?). In any event you
seem to be talking about having a reference level for one or more of these
things that is not the reference level you want to have. That to me is
spelled C-O-N-F-L-I-C-T. That is, two higher systems trying to set the
reference for a lower level system at two incompatible values.
How to deal with this, we hypothesize, is the method of levels (MOL). If
your book is in any way geared at helping people deal with this sort of
thing, the best that PCT can do right now is describe how it seems to work.
And there has been considerable discussion on the net lately about that.
I'm written out for now and want to stop anyway because I'm beginning to
feel that all this is so ABC I'm just telling you what you already know and
missing what you are really asking.