[Blake Ashley (2015, 10/14, at 8:32 Arizona Time)]
I would like to articulate my understanding of what PCT has to say about awareness, with perhaps some extensions of my own, and a bit about how this relates to the practice of mindfulness. This is to some extent an oblique response to Bruce Nevin's kind welcome to me [20150917:17:10 PT].
As I understand it, awareness is not needed for any control loop to function. However, awareness can move freely among them, shining selectively on one, several or perhaps all of them. This awareness can be moved intentionally or drawn by a disturbance to perception.
When awareness is focused on one particular set of control loops and ignoring others, we would be conscious of the former and unconscious of the later.
Bill postulated that awareness is needed for the reorganization function to operate.
The foregoing is my understanding of what PCT says about awareness. Now please permit me to suggest a couple possible extensions.
In addition to the parts of the control system upon which the light of awareness is presently shining ( the conscious), and the other parts of the hierarchy being ignored by the light of awareness but which COULD be illuminated by awareness (the unconscious), there are parts of the control system that seem to be beyond the reach of awareness. Let's call this the subconscious. Feel free to correct my terminology if I am treading an old trail.
One example of a part of the control system that is not accessible to direct awareness is memory. The vast storehouse of memories that feed imagination and dreaming, and provide reference perceptions, seems to be off limits to direct awareness. Not having direct access to "the stacks", it seems that we must ask the special collections librarian to fetch the memories for us. And, as I approach my 60th birthday, it is painfully obvious to me that the librarian will take their sweet time about it. Sometimes the result is instantaneous. Sometimes the result never arrives. At other times, the librarian shows up out of the blue twenty minutes after I made the request and plops the memory in my lap. None of this retrieval process seems to be accessible to direct awareness, so I relegate it to the subconscious.
Another example of a part of the control system that is not accessible to awareness is the "settings" of the feedback loop. The sensitivity of a given loop to a discrepancy between an actual perception and a reference perception is an important variable in the function of the control loop but does not seem to be directly accessed by awareness. I cannot, as I sit here at my desk, bring awareness to just how sensitive I am to the pain of a dental drill, although I can send for some associated memories and might, if I dwell on them, elicit an analogous physiological response. Another important variable I cannot bring into direct awareness is the strength of the impetus to act to correct a given error signal (is there a correct technical term for this "strength of response" setting?), although I can sense the level of urgency as a body sensation when a particular error signal is ringing.
As I understand it, both the sensitivity to deviation from the reference perception and the strength of response to an error signal are parameters subject to reorganization. Yet, they do not appear to be subject to direct awareness. So the awareness needed for reorganization need not encompass the actual parameter subject to reorganization.
One reason this is important when trying to understand mindfulness in PCT terms is the almost universal experience of mindfulness practitioners who, after a few months of practice, will claim that events that used to irritate them now have no effect. For example, the neighbor dogs barking used to cause irritation, but it no longer does. In PCT terms, this could mean one of several things: the sensitivity setting has been turned down, the strength of response to the error signal has been turned down, or the reference perception has been changed to allow for the change in perception created by the environmental disturbance.
This effect seems to be unconscious or subconscious, since the practitioner does not typically notice the change until after it has happened. It seems to creep up on them slowly and then one day the change just pop into awareness.
And the effect seems to be somewhat general. For example, the practitioner not only notices that the barking dog does not generate irritation, but neither does the train delay on the way to work, or the formerly annoying in-law, and so on. This seems to argue against a change in reference perception, since that would be specific, and instead argues for a change in a "master" setting for sensitivity or strength of response to error signal. This will be of particular importance for other aspects of the mindfulness.
Thanks for listening to some musings. This is really just the tip of an iceberg I have only begun to explore. I am very excited about the possibility of using PCT to explain mindfulness.