[From Kenny Kitzke (2004.09.05)]
Hello, Jason. First, the CSGNet uses a convention something like the opening
line where we can see at the outset who is writing/replying along with a
date/time identification for archive purposes. It is also helpful to have some
indication for words written by others and referenced in our post as shown in
the second line.
<I am a fumbling clinician and a beginning meditator trying to understand PCT
so please bear with me.>
I am a retired, fumbling organizational management systems consultant and a
beginning counselor for people experiencing pain or hurt (within
themselves---often related to the behavior of other people) and for people desiring to be
more effective leaders. Understanding PCT/HPCT has proven valuable to me in
<We are preparing for a mindfulness-based stress
reduction program and PCT may help us with this. Not these questions
specifically, but the mechanics of the model and so on will help us.>
In no organization where I have consulted has it appeared to be free from
stress. Stress is common as rain. Life itself is similar in this respect. The
more stressful any job in an organization is for an individual, the more
likely it appears that their job performance and self-satisfaction will suffer at
least over the long term.
In a state of severe and sustained stress, an employee may become unable to
function properly. Most organizations sponsor some kind of interventional
stress reduction program to deal with such cases for its employees. You probably
know far more about these programs than I do. I have never used one. I have
never felt that I needed to use one.
I am not aware of how successful they are or the psychological theory that
they are based upon. My assumption is that you think that whatever they are,
they do not always work well and could be more effective? Is your goal to
develop a better method for dealing with stress? If so, could you explain better
what you think is deficient about these current "stress management" programs?
Is it an inadequate understanding of how stress is defined or experienced? Is
it a lack of an effective method to deal with stress that is well-defined and
Is your interest in PCT/HPCT based upon the hope that understanding it might
reveal a more decisive definition of stress in humans and what brings it about
or to find a more successful method of reducing/managing/controlling what one
might consider to be the "inevitable" stress experienced by people/employees?
<My questions now relate to the self.>
In Perceptual Control Theory, the "self" is envisioned as a living and
autonomous organism, a living "control system" which acts/behaves to control its
perceptions. You won't find the word "self" in the PCT vernacular.
<It seems to me that the level of the self-system is largely outside of
awareness for people.>
PCT does address a concept of awareness. And, action/behavior can take place
without awareness. So, that aspect has some similarity.
<Maybe even more than lower levels. This is true?>
In general, this would tend to be true. If you are reading this post while
sitting down, you would probably not have been "aware" of the pressure of the
chair on your butt (at least not until I mentioned it). Yet, it is there and
you are controlling for that sensation the entire time you intend to sit. If
the pressure was not there you would no longer be sitting. You would quickly
become aware of the lack of that pressure as you fall to the floor should you
slip off, or should the chair collapse.
<Possibly related to this it seems evident to me that people are resistant to
acknowledging a lot of the attachments that go into the self-system. For
example, if I identify with a particular tennis player and someone notices
it I might deny that I have modeled my game after him. Or I might deny that
I identify with Hillary Clinton if I am a woman who is trying to mimic or
actualize those qualities. Does this seem true to people?>
Here, some people might resist having their behavior attached to another
person. Some would not. For example, I would not mind at all if someone said,
"Kenny, your serve reminds me of Andy Roddick's!" I would take that as a
compliment with pleasure.
As you learn PCT, I think you would see that PCT explains the behavior in
both instances. The intentions of you and I, our reference perceptions, are
different for such observations about us by others. So, we process the same input
about us behaving like Andy differently, one experiencing a disturbance that
creates error, the other being complimentary feedback that creates pleasure.
PCT offers no criteria for which of these reference perceptions is better or
worse for any person to hold.
<If so, why do we resist acknowledging that we identify with a particular
image or ideal? Is it because part of the sense of self is dependent on a
sense of separation from others and if I expose these identifications to
others I lose some of my sense of self, my sense of being separate? Or, now
it is harder for me to portray those qualities--I become more
self-conscious, other people know what I am about now? Or, do I fear that
when people get a feel for the shape of my self, then they can more easily
put a pin into it? Or, is it that I have 2 competing systems, one has to do
with identifying with this or that--the other with authenticity or "being an
Unfortunately, any of these possibilities can be true or untrue for any
individual at different times and in different circumstances. This is consistent
with viewing people as autonomous and unique living control systems. In PCT,
one would perform the Test for the controlled variable to see what variable is
being controlled at what level. In our current world environment, there are
Muslims who would proclaim their belief system loudly in one circumstance while
preferring to hide it in others. PCT explains both behaviors effectively
without prescribing which is right or wrong in any absolute sense. Does this
<My second question is--maybe this is going for too much--but, I'll try: Is
the self-system the highest level? I don't have the levels down so...>
This is the part of your post that triggered my reply, despite not knowing
much about stress and stress reduction programs/methodologies. I am one
disciple of PCT who believes in a self-awareness level above the standard 11-Level
HPCT hierarchy model.
Sometime around 1999, I developed a paper titled "The Twelfth Level and
Beyond" which dealt with the possibility of such a self-concept level and its
relationship to our behavior as human beings. It is not part of PCT orthodoxy,
<This is a spiritual question in a way. In Zen, the highest level is usually
expressed as pure awareness or Big Mind. This level is usually physically
represented at the very top of the head and is said to transcend thinking.
Is this a level of control in the hierarchy?>
As per my previous comment, the current PCT answer is "no." I am not that
familiar with Zen concepts. As a Christian, however, I am quite familiar with
what the Bible purports about the nature of man. It discusses the nature of
our unique human body, our unique human mind and our unique human spirit, our
innermost being (not necessarily rational like the mind but more "emotional"
dealing with "matters of the heart") which is not found in any other living
It is hardly a surprise to me that a theory which explains the behavior of
bacteria or mice quite well, could be woefully inadequate in explaining the
behavior of human beings who have a nature that is different and more complex than
the lower forms of life. I ask you, do you think stress is a factor in the
life of a cat? Do cats have a self system that can deal with stress? What is
that system? Can studying stress in cats teach us something valuable about
stress in humans? I am curious about how you see such phenomena.
Anyway, I personally find HPCT to be incomplete in describing the nature of
humankind. While I wish I was wise enough to build on HPCT to gain a more
complete understanding of the nature or men and how and why they do what they do,
my contributions have so far been minimal.
<Just a little further: In Zen, the ideal is that you function in the 2
dimensions simultaneously. The personal level--the self-system, cognition
and so on, and Big Mind (or space-consciousness is another term.) You
identify in a sense with both levels. Is it possible to have this kind of
presence or awareness at such a level that it is intermingling with the
whole body-mind complex throughout the day? I think that in Zen they are
suggesting this, they call it different things, but ultimately it can be
called the "integrated-free-functioning-self", that is, a marriage between
this spacious awareness and the ongoing self-system process. Now, this may
be an "ideal" and so on, but is this anything unique to Zen or meditation
disciplines or is this common lot to everyone? Do we function in this way
normally anyway, or are we typically totally identified with our
self-system, and acting-out of it with no awareness of doing so at all.
Meaning, are we commonly limited by our private sense of self?>
It seems evident to me that I have a separate and identifiable body, mind and
spirit nature. They are interrelated in each human. I sense there is a
unique, hard-wired, system that controls each one but these systems are not
independent. While HPCT deals quite well with the body and mind interface, it seems
to me to get rather fuzzy with the interface between our human spirit, our
solely internal cares and woes and longings, and our body and mind. When we
experience the phenomena of "stress" that you seem focused on, is it our body,
mind or spirit or all three that must be considered? What thoughts do you have
about this from Zen or any other philosophy or theory?
<I may be asking the wrong questions here. If you have some better questions,
please give them.>
Well, your questions have led to more questions. But, that is helpful in
learning, or so it seems at times.
<There is an interesting take on this that PCT people might be interested in
on www.bigmind.org, I think that's it. The Zen teacher takes a group of
participants through an exercise calling out different types of sub-selves
common to all of us, and then calling out Big Mind and the integrated
free-functioning self. I'd like to know what you think if you have the time.
Thanks for fielding my questions.>
Sorry, I do not have the time. I am in between two vacation/visits with out
of state children. There is too much to do in too little time. I guess I
feel stressed! IAE, I am glad you stopped by the CSGNet.
Jason Gosnell, MA
Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Bridgeway Center Inc.
Ft. Walton Beach, FL
"In the mind of the beginner there are many possibilities; in the mind of
the expert there are few." Shunryu Suzuki
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