Re: scientific status of PCP, & New 'language/action' paradigm

Tim A. Connor (
Wed, 26 Jun 1996 11:15:53 -0700 (PDT)


Thanks for your response. I want, for now, to continue to comment on the
process of recent interactions on the list--something my training as a
psychotherapist disposes me to--rather than content (I do have a
content-oriented post in the works).

The recent spinoff thread about religion suggests a metaphor that I want
to follow, with the understanding that it is a metaphor, not an evaluation
of your paradigm or of PCP. You seem to have come on to this list with
something of the attitude of a missionary: one who has "got religion" and
is determined to spread the good news to the heathen. Unfortunately, like
many missionaries, you seem to have assumed that there was no need to
understand the native belief systems before beginning to preach. You
asked a few cursory questions about the theoretical framework (paradigm,
if you will) that guides most of us in our inquiries, but apparently were
only interested in picking up enough of a vocabulary to mount an attack.
Your pleas for respectful inquiry have taken on a rather hollow ring; you
exhort us to be open to new ways of viewing the world, but respond to
similar suggestions in your direction by demanding empirical proof
(something you have never offered on behalf of your views) and accusing
us of being dogmatic, unscientific, and unfriendly.

On some lists I've been on, your behavior would have got you flamed into
oblivion (the cyberspace version of missionary stew). Fortunately, this
isn't that kind of list--you were, in my opinion, treated with respect,
your questions were taken seriously, list members made a genuine effort
to understand your positions and to respond constructively, even as some
impatience with your lack of reciprocity in this department mounted. Your
frustration and feeling that you have been ill-treated seems to arise
from the fact that you have made no converts. I can't help but wonder
what you expected. Do you really believe that your "language/action
paradigm" is so compelling that anyone willing to hear it with an open
mind could not help but embrace it? Did you assume that you could sign
on, proclaim the "new paradigm," and have all of us pagans burn our idols
and begin singing hymns? I repeat, this religion image is a metaphor,
but it seems an apt one.

One peculiarity of PCP is its unique definition of "hostility." George
Kelly sought to define this rather pervasive concept, not in terms of its
effect (actual or intended) on the target, but in terms of the processes
of the hostile person. In keeping with the assumptions of his theory, he
saw the hostile person as one who has anticipated certain outcomes of
his/her actions (usually in the interpersonal sphere), and has found
his/her predictions not fulfilled. But instead of reconsidering the
hypotheses that led to inaccurate predictions, the hostile person
attempts to force the data to change to confirm the hypothesis. In
interpersonal terms, this usually means applying force, intimidation, or
guilt to get the other person to behave as they are "supposed" to, and so
validate the hostile person's constructions. Sometimes it even works, in
the short run. When it fails, the next strategy is usually to attribute
the failure to deliberate perverseness on the part of the other, rather
than to consider the possibility that one may have failed to adequately
construe the other's perspective before developing one's
"language/action" hypothesis (I borrow your phrase because I think it
fits well in the spirit of PCP). Your recent posts strike me as hostile
in this sense. You appear to have anticipated a very different response
from us--just what I don't know--and have been disconcerted (experienced
"threat" in PCP terminology) by our failure to accept your teaching on
your terms. You seem to be angry, both at yourself (in calling yourself
"incompetent") and at us ("surly", etc.).

It is perhaps too much to ask you to construe this in terms of an
unfamiliar theory which you consider suspect anyway, so allow me to
interpret it in terms of Maturana's theory. It seems that what you have
been attempting on this list is an "instructive interaction," which is,
according to Maturana, an ontological impossibility. A deeper
familiarity with the structure of _our_ system(s) might allow you to be
more effectively coupled with us on this list, and to generate the kinds
of perturbations that you would find rewarding.



Tim Connor, M.S. "Psychotherapy is not
Pacific University an applied science, it
School of Professional Psychology is a basic science in
2004 Pacific Avenue which the scientists
Forest Grove, OR 97116 USA are the client and his
<> therapist"
--George Kelly