Perceptions Newsletter No. 21

Book Review: “Fearless Living”, by Rhonda Britten

2001, Hodder Headline, Sydney

Review by Max McFadden

(The Editor will add comments on how the information fits with PCT.)

This book is Rhonda’s story of how she overcomes fear, limitation and traumatic events in her family, and their effects on her life.

Theme: Rhonda writes about The Wheel of Fear and The Wheel of Freedom, how you know when you are on either one, and how to get on to The Wheel of Freedom by deciding the sort of person you want to be.

ED: Runkel, in “People as Living Things”, discusses Degrees of Freedom as an essential component of good management – of our selves and others. The more degrees of freedom we have, the more choices we are able to make, the more likely we are to be able to bring our lives into dynamic balance.

How to stay on The Wheel of Freedom is just as important. Various fearbuster exercises help us to go on being who we want to be, and the support of someone or significant other people can help us to stay in control (Chapters 1-5).

The sort of behaviour, and the motivation we adopt, and our attitude or philosophy of life, (or view of the world), helps us to adopt alternative, effective behaviours in order to stay on the Wheel of Freedom. By having no false expectations, no excuses, no complaining, and not beating ourselves up, we can follow her fearless path.

ED: In PCT, the area over which we have control is our perspective! Which references we pick to control for, and the level at which we perceive information, are the elements that can make the difference between in- and out-of-balance.

Some interesting and arresting sections in the book:
In Chapter 6, Rhonda deals with her false expectations of Daniel, whom she was going to marry, and how she faced the emotional setback when he deserted her.

In Chapter 7, Rhonda deals with Kara’s excuse for not following her own dream because of her circumstances, blaming her past failures or missed opportunities, helping her claim her essential nature by forgiving herself as well as others.

ED: This reminds me of the sayings of two of our well-known Instructors: Barnes Boffey says “Get out of the victim role” and Shelley Brierley says “Move from the Victim on the Cycle of Blame to the Co-operator on the Circle of Strength.”

In Chapter 8, do you use evidence of your past mistakes or omissions or failures as the means of complaining about what has happened? Rhonda says replace “Why?” with “How?” as a means to becoming accountable and to take action.

ED: Diane Gossen asks us to think of a mistake as a mis- take! Take 1, take 2 … looking for the positive want behind the mis-taken behaviour as a way to gain strength for positive action.

Chapter 9, “Not Beating Yourself Up”, addresses learning to defeat guilt, by asserting your self worth and by finding your own path, through an understanding of your own process of learning and handling life’s tasks.

Finally, Chapter 10 leads on to “Gratitudes”, which is a valuable philosophy of life adopted by Rhonda as a means of learning to take chances, and of using the assets which she possesses within herself and also those offered by the support and friendship of others.

Another philosophy she champions is “Do the thing you fear” as part of developing courage to stick your neck out, because it is one way to learn new skills.

A Dip into Runkel - On Effectiveness

Philip J. Runkel, People as Living Things – The Psychology of Perceptual Control. Living Control Systems Publishing, Howard CA 2003.

( - a great site - well worth visiting! Includes lots of material on Method Of Levels.)

Before we begin – Runkel is a long-time associate of William Powers, and this books is a B-I-G one, offering not only the scientific theory, but also thoughts on the application of PCT.

These excerpts are towards the end of the book, on the effectiveness of organizations – based on the assertion of the importance of degrees of freedom and an account of the U.S. Government’s efforts to effect school reform in the 1960’s and 70’s by funding many innovative programs.

School reform. (p.432)

“Despite their [the government’s] efforts, they rarely found a scheme, an innovation, a program, a recipe that worked (more or less) in more than a few installations – sometimes in not more than one. When an innovation did seem to be spreading, it didn’t last long; schools gave it up after a year or two…..

“After a series of failures, the government people funded a series of investigations into the failures, with the idea that they might find what made them fail. Then, they thought, their future projects could avoid those mistakes. You will recognise this as another instance of linear thinking…. Remove the obstruction and all will be well. …”

Effectiveness (p.434)

“When people speak of the effectiveness of a plan, procedure, policy, or other program or principle, they always have some purpose in mind, though not always at the front of their minds. What seems effective to one person need not seem so to another when their purposes are not explicit….

“It does not help much therefore to adopt a purpose that may be meat to one person but poison to another….

“One can, however, adopt a sort of metapurpose; one can adopt the purpose of safeguarding the different purposes of individuals. I like what Hackman (1985, p.128) and Aoki (1984) said about effectiveness. They wrote these three criteria with work organizations in mind. They propose that we call an organization effective when:

  1. The productive output of the [individual, group or organization] exceeds the minimum standards of quantity and quality of the people who receive, review or use the output.
  2. The process of carrying out the work enhances the capability of the [individual, group or organization] to do competent work in the future.
  3. The work experience contributes to the growth and personal satisfactions of the persons who do the work.
  4. To those, I like to add my interpretation of Aoli’s fourth criterion:
  5. Individuals have confidence that the work they do is helping to make their community, society and even the world a good place to live – for themselves, their grandchildren and the people among whom their grandchildren will live.

“… I offer the four viewpoints listed above merely as an aid to getting away from the widespread view of effectiveness as return on investment , units produced per person-hour, percentage of students scoring above the national average on a standardised test, and the like. They do, however, fit the PCT view that effectiveness is in the eye of the individual beholder, and cherishing those four kinds of effectiveness will help, not hinder, individuals to control their own individually perceived variables. …

“Finally, we should remain wary of the temptation to think linearly – that something causes effectiveness in an S-R manner. I will let Karl Weick (1979, p.86) remind us:
Most managers get into trouble because they forget to think in circles … Managerial problems persist because managers continue to believe that there are such things as unilateral causation, independent and dependent variables, origins, and terminations. Examples are everywhere: leadership style affects productivity, parents socialise children, stimuli affect responses, desires affect actions. Those assertions are wrong because each of them demonstrably operates in the opposite direction: productivity affects leadership style …, children socialise parents…, responses affect stimuli…, means affect ends…, actions affect desires… In every one of these examples causation is circular, not linear. And the same thing holds true for most organisational events.”

Hackman, J. Richard (1985). Doing research that makes a difference. In E.E. Lawler III and Assoc. Doing Research that is Useful for Theory and Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Aoki, Ted T (1984) Interests, knowledge and evaluation: Alternative curriculum evaluation orientations. In T.T. Aoki (Ed.) Curriculum Evaluation in a New Key. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: Dept of Secondary Education, Faculty of Education, University of Alberta.
Weick, Karl E. (1979). Social Psychology of Organising (2nd Ed.) Reading MA: Addison-Wesley.

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