A reply to some well aimed comments

(no name) ((no email))
Fri, 24 Nov 1995 12:22:55 -0500 (EST)

Hello to PCP networkers:

As I had expected, I have had some interesting replies to my message
about using the pseudo-medical term ANOREXIA.
I responded to one of those replies -- posted to me rather than to the
net -- with the message below.
I am posting the message here. I think that my response should give
enough indication of the tenor of the reply to my original message.


My advice to starry-eyed, young intellectuals who MIGHT BE sparing
people from the onus of moral judgments: You might find that through promoting
sound psychological theory you will do far better things than you would
through using pseudo-medical language.

Let me turn the tables about a bit:
Several weeks ago they ran a TV show about a young woman who had been
raped by the football star -- and highlighted the consequences and aftermath of
that incident.
May I say that the young man in the incident was involved in "bad sex
habits?" Would that claim sound any different from saying that people who are
tagged with the ANOREXIA label are involved in "bad eating habits?"
How about if we come up with a Greek label for the young man -- I am
sure that we could. Would that stir up some sympathy for him.

A few weeks ago I read a biography of a rather famous, very talented
person -- a person who was started on his path of fame by his father's
instructions and demand that he meet a very high standard of performance. This
man harbored a life-long animosity to his father -- "strict, demanding, and
overcritical." He gave little recognition that those features of his father's
behavior started him on his super-illustrious career. His biogrtapher, in an
interview with the man, tried to induce him to make a more sympathetic
statement about his father -- whereupon the man persisted in his animosity.
The biographer made a quote -- "We are all the victims of the victims."

In my teaching of Personal Construct Psychology, I regularly referenced
the idea that any of us can be trapped by our own construct system.

The rapist (you may substitute a good Greek sounding term) and the
person who has unacceptable eating habits, in my view, are trapped by their
construct systems.
Just as the person who has unacceptable eating habits believes that she
must meet the social standard of matching the appearance of Kate Moss, the
person with the unacceptable sexual practices holds a construct system which
says that he must have his sexual way with the cheer leader. The person with
the problem eating habits owes his/her construct systems to the constant
barrage of messages about the ideal of skinniness. The person with the problem
sexual behavior owes his construct system to the barrage of messages about the
likes of the Dallas Cowgirls. If people like Demi Moore can attract all kinds
of status seeking males, why shouldn't any other woman aspire to the same
bodily "attractiveness?" If the star of the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team
can return to the playing field after his problem sexual escapade, why
shouldn't the star of Podunck College have his chance at an exciting sexual
By what means should either of these people develop an alternative
construct system?
Does individual "psychotherapy," offered at a high price after the
person has developed the kind of construct system that leads to problem
behavior, provide the most effective relief from entrappment by one's
construct system?

How many PCP people teach "abnormal pscyhology" using the
standard DSM-based textbooks that recite the litany of diseases???
How many PCP people teach personality psychology courses using the
standard "Smith said this, Hickenlooper said that, Migosh said something else,
and I can't take a position because 'the evidence is not yet in?'"

In short -- are we willing to claim a professional responsiblity for
promoting activity which will clarify our professional view of how people come
to be trapped by their own construct systems - and how one might shake one's
self free from those systems -- particularly those systems by which we define
our self roles??

If that sounds a bit like preaching, you might consider that it is no
less PREACHING than is advising me that I am dealing unfairly with the person
who is trapped by a construct system which leads to problem eating.

Jim Mancuso