PCP course exercise

Beverly Walker (Beverly_Walker@uow.edu.au)
27 Jan 1995 10:37:58 +1100

Dear Bob and others of similar interests,

I have been playing with an exercise in my pcp teaching which I think has
potential both as a teaching tool and as a clinical technique. I haven't
quite brought it off yet so I'd appreciate feedback from others who might try
It follows from Korzybski's general-semantics which Spencer McWilliams
highlighted in his plenary address to the Townsville conference (and to be
included in the forthcoming book of selected papers - plug, plug). Spencer
drew attention to the similarity between Kelly's discussion of the 'language
of hypothesis' (and the problems of statements like 'X is lazy') and
Korzybski's analysis of the problems of usage of the verb 'to be'.
The exercise I have been using is to get students to write an account of
someone they know (and I say it should be someone they like as I want to
avoid too much confrontative self-exploration, given the context in which I
am teaching pcp). They then go through the account underlining each use of
the verb 'to be' and rewrite the account without using it. They then look at
the two accounts and see what differences there are as a result. They find
that the second account gives much more a feel of the possibilities of
I think this exercise would be quite powerful if they took someone they had
difficulty with - but myself I think that would need to be in a
clinical/counseling context to provide the individual with the backup for
revision of what might be core or superordinate constructs.
I've also suggested to students that they might like themselves to go back to
their self-characterisations and see if they use the verb 'to be'
extensively, and what would happen if they re-write it. But once again, too
possibly confrontative for a formal teaching situation.
Anyway, I'd be interested in any feedback about using this exercise.
It also illustrates a major problem Linda Viney and I find in co-teaching a
graduate subject in pcp - that to get a feel for the theory you seem
inevitably to engage fairly powerful forces for some students.