Self concept and collective control

[From Bruce Nevin (20200531.07:45)]

I understand that conventional psychotherapists are much concerned with identifying what they call defense mechanisms, conceptualized as defending the ego–in PCT, to control a systems concept perception of self one defends it from disturbances. MoL doesn’t seek out particular controlled perceptions, but if control of such perceptions generates conflict the MoL process is likely to disclose them.

Even if ‘defenses’ have no prominent place in PCT psychotherapy (MoL), it may be useful to figure out what psychoanalytic clients may be controlling when their analysts perceive defense mechanisms at work.

Control of self-concept has been studied by verbally contradicting what the experimenters imagined (with reason) that the subjects believed to be true (or untrue) about themselves.

Words such as honesty, friendliness, mastery, and courage may be used for such self-attributes, and words such as lying, hostility, incompetence, freeloading, cheating, and cowardice. It is clear to me that these are collectively controlled perceptions. (If that’s controversial, I encourage an interesting and worthwhile discussion.) Consider friendliness, for example. To control a perception that one is friendly requires control of a number of perceptions, including a perception that others perceive you as being friendly. A direct contradiction of this attribute is a disturbance, as demonstrated in the above research.

These are socially important attributes, that is, other’s perceptions of these attributes in your behavior are important inputs for their control of cooperation and conflict involving you, and therefore your control of these self-perceptions is critically important for your social, business, and career success, which in turn is essential for a self-concept as a successful person. The ramifications are endless.

So how does this become a Freudian defense mechanism?

A couple of decades ago, the social psychologist Roy Baumeister and others reframed the conventional psychoanalytic concepts of defense mechanisms in a way that seems to transfer well to PCT.

Here is the relevant passage in the Wikipedia article “Psychological projection”:

Research supports the existence of a false-consensus effect whereby humans have a broad tendency to believe that others are similar to themselves, and thus “project” their personal traits onto others. This applies to good traits as well as bad traits and is not a defense mechanism for denying the existence of the trait within the self.[36]>>Instead, Newman, Duff, and Baumeister (1997) proposed a new model of defensive projection. In this view, repressors try to suppress thoughts of their undesirable traits, and these efforts make those trait categories highly accessible—so that they are then used all the more often when forming impressions of others. The projection is then only a by-product of the real defensive mechanism.[37]>>36. Baumeister, Roy F.; Dale, Karen; Sommer, Kristin L. (1998). “Freudian Defense Mechanisms and Empirical Findings in Modern Social Psychology: Reaction Formation, Projection, Displacement, Undoing, Isolation, Sublimation, and Denial”. Journal of Personality. 66 (6): 1090–92. doi:10.1111/1467-6494.00043>>37. Newman, L. S., Duff, K. J., & Baumeister, R. F. (1997). A new look at defensive projection: Thought suppression, accessibility, and biased person perception. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72(5), 980–1001.
I have not read the references cited at 36 and 37, but here is the abstract for the latter:

It has long been assumed that people perceive in others qualities that they wish to deny in themselves, but empirical evidence for defensive projection is limited and controversial. A new model of projection is presented in this article. People might try to actively suppress thoughts about the possibility that they have undesirable personality traits, but it was hypothesized that this response to threat ultimately causes thoughts about the unwanted traits to become chronically accessible. As a result, those trait concepts will be used to interpret others’ behavior. Studies 1–4 showed that those people who both avoid thinking about having threatening personality traits and deny possessing them (repressors) also readily infer those traits from others’ behavior. Studies 5–6 provided experimental support for the model. Unfavorable traits were attributed to participants, who, when they were asked or predisposed to not think about the traits, subsequently projected them onto someone else.

Real-time perceptions of your behavioral outputs as others perceive them (based on their statements or inferred from their participation with you in collective control) can be a disturbance to control of self-concept perceptions.

Suppose a person controls a self-perception of mastery of a complex subject matter–conventional Cognitive™ psychology, for example. Because of its complexity, because it changes in an open-ended way, because its complexity contains contradictions, due to things like emergence of new discoveries and proposals, integration with and intrusions from other systems concepts, exigencies of teaching to newcomers and populations, and inherently due to its incompleteness, such a subject matter can never be completely mastered. Perceptions of how others are or have been esteemed for their mastery or critiqued for their lapses establish in a student’s mind perceptual input functions and reference values for participating in collective control of these perceptions. Perceptions of how others perceive one’s own mastery (perhaps by overt statements, as in the above-mentioned experiments, but there are many ways to perceive the judgements and attitudes of others) may disturb control of one’s self-perception of mastery, and one way to resist such disturbances is to deny them (as above). But just as these are complex perceptions, there are many ways to resist disturbance to collectively controlled perceptions that are important inputs for control of self-concept. In addition to explicit denial and refutation, one may claim that another or others are the source of disturbance to the collectively controlled perceptions.

Most disputes within a field arise from its complexity and open-endedness, through emergence of new discoveries and proposals, integration with and intrusions from other systems concepts, exigencies of teaching to newcomers and populations, and the like. Resolution seems to follow the path observed in MoL, that is, by each of the contestants shifting attention from the specific contradictions between their concepts as expressed to a level above that, a level of perceptions which apparently can only be controlled by means of that specific lower level of control; and then shifting again to a yet higher level to control perceptions of the field as a whole, especially its development and success as a collectively controlled systems concept; and from that level perceiving also the position taken by the opponent, and the perceptions that he or she is controlling by those means.

If these ideas stand up to our collective control of PCT, we may be able to elaborate from them some practical guidance for dealing with scientific conflict in a responsible way.

Discourse proposed that a couple of threads from 1995 are related to this. They would no doubt be differently and more fully expressed today. Such is the growth and development of the field. FWIW, here they are: