Archive for the ‘2’ Category

Perceptions Newsletter No. 26

Monday, January 25th, 2010


A piece by Shelley Roy on change. Shelley is a leading exponent of Perceptual Control Theory.

Shelley Roy on Change

(I know we’re going into Autumn, but the ideas still work just as well!)

Spring is in the Air!

Spring has come to Minnesota at last! Just yesterday, as I looked outside into my backyard I saw a big fat robin, one of the heralds of spring. She was pecking the ground enjoying the first seeds of the season. A warm feeling washed over me as I watched her slow progress across the yard. Then I noticed my yard was full of robins – I counted at least 30 grazing the grass. It was an amazing sight and I took a moment to pause and enjoy nature in all her glory. Seeing a robin is thought to be a sign that new growth is coming in many areas of your life. Imagine what seeing 30 must mean? I guess I’m going to see a lot of changes this year. It’s probably a good thing that change is a subject I’m very familiar with.

One of the most important things I’ve learned about change in my life is that it isn’t going away any time soon. We all experience it throughout our lives, in both small and large ways, from getting a new purse to changing careers and moving across the globe. We all need to learn to be our own personal change-agents. In fact I believe learning to manage change is a critical life skill which is second only to the skill and practice of self-evaluation. Here are 10 helpful hints that I believe can help anyone be his or her own personal change-agent.

  1. View change as an opportunity for growth. Attitude is everything!
  2. Create a support network, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t try to be superwoman! The Beatles had it right – “I’ll get by with a little help from my friends!”
  3. Ask yourself what losses you are perceiving and how might you overcome them. Remember that to grab onto something new, you often must let go of something you are holding on to. There is a gift in every loss; find it and remember it often. As Milt Campbell says “Let your loss be your lesson.”
  4. Remember it’s OK to make a mistake. Carry a personal rewind button around and use it often! As Bill Keane, author of The Family Circus, reminds us: “You can learn from your mistakes, so be sure to make some.”
  5. Give yourself time! Even the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years looking for the Promised Land. Let’s hope it doesn’t take forty years, but remind yourself you need time to reorganize.
  6. Think about your relationships and connections. Ask yourself, what connections will facilitate your emergence from your cocoon as you become a gloriously new butterfly?
  7. Be aware of the context in which you exist. Even the best seeds when planted in fallow ground will not grow. A little water, sunshine and fertilizer go a long way toward helping even the smallest seed to grow.
  8. Think like a systems thinker: think of feedback loops, time and the whole. Systems thinkers understand the synergistic nature of change, which explains why small changes can have a big impact.
  9. Remember what PCT (perceptual control theory) teaches about the change process:
    • You will probably feel out of control.
    • We experience change as a winding path of growth.
    • You may experience opposing feelings like sadness and joy.
    • We humans are extremely adaptable creatures.
    • You will eventually figure it out because that’s how we stay alive.
  10. Celebrate your small successes! Because PCT teaches us that we are designed to see what isn’t working, it is especially essential during change to focus purposefully on what is working in our life.

As I watch spring come to Minnesota and think about change I am always reminded of my favorite AnaÃis Nin quote:“ There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” It is through change that we can live our lives in full bloom!

For more of Shelley’s wisdom, go to her website, or the website for her new book, “A People Primer” which offers a simple way to understand perceptual control theory.

Perceptions Newsletter No. 22

Friday, September 1st, 2006

What Judy Learned in China

In July I attended “The International Conference on Philosophy and Complexity Theory and Perceptual Control Theory”.
Probably your first question is “What the @#%%^^^ is Complexity Theory??? Answer: I never found out exactly… I think it has to do with robotics, as a lot of the Chinese presentations appeared to offer information in that area – but there were others that didn’t – so if anyone knows, that would be nice to find out.

The Conference delegates were mainly Chinese, but there was a significant group from the USA, Canada and of course one lone Aussie. It was held over three days at the South China Normal University in Guangzhou – one of about 12 Universities in that city. Plenary sessions were delivered in the presenter’s language (either Chinese or English) and translated into the other one by an interpreter.

Bill Powers, the originator of Perceptual Control Theory, was one of the main presenters, and was also honoured with an honorary Doctorate from the University – he gave his acceptance speech in Chinese, which was greatly applauded.

So what did I learn? I believe I have a much better understanding of Perceptual Control Theory, especially in the way it is applied in daily life. Constantly I heard the refrain “We control for input”. I finally understood that this means that when we behave (act), we don’t plan what we will do; we focus on what we want to perceive – both what we want to perceive ourselves doing, and what we want to perceive in the environment. Is this important? Sure is … it means that if you are working with another person, you are both control systems, both controlling for input, NOT being controlled by anything! Makes it much easier to understand why it is only possible to give another person information rather than to directly control their behaviour.

I also learned that a reorganisation system is random – reorganisation is creating behaviour when we are out of balance and want to do something different. Bill Powers has developed a computer program simulating the behaviour of E.coli, which can change direction, but only in a random way. It can also sense whether it is moving towards or away from a higher concentration of nutrients. It flips whenever it senses a decrease in nutrients, but can’t control which way it then goes – but if it senses lower nutrients, it flips again very quickly. Using this random process, it reaches its target quite efficiently. (Guess what – it controls for input, and gets it!) (It is more efficient – uses fewer turns - than a human trying to control input the same way – its “flips” happen faster!)

Probably that’s enough for one episode. I won’t forget the sight of Gary Cziko offering representative examples of controlling for input – he behaved as a bicycle, and as a car.

Other attendees, some of whose names you might recognise, were Shelley Brierley, Shelley Roy, Tony Goldston, Glenn Smith, Kenny Kitzke, Lloyd Klinedinst, Bobbie Bollman, Linda and Rick Marken. There were also three teenage boys, sons of the two Shelleys and Glenn. Many of us were also together in Hong Kong before the conference, and went on to Xian to visit the entombed warriors. I left the tour at that point, although others continued on to Beijing.

Report on ACT 2 at St Mary’s

The course was completed on Sunday 26th August. Both the Participants and the Instructors experienced deep learning experiences, especially in working using the Method of Levels as an interviewing process. We found it to be exciting in helping the client find the background thought and find the source of the conflict at the level where it was created. This meant that we worked constantly on the client’s perception of the problem in the present, with early and significant results. We experimented with a different process (which we labelled “speed dating”) described by Tim Carey in an article on the Method of Levels, where the clients talked about their issue and the interviewers moved from one client to the next at intervals. This focused the interviewers’ attention on looking for disruptions, either verbal or non-verbal, and drawing the clients’ attention to the higher level thinking possibly associated with the disruption. We also experimented with using Method of Levels questions within the regular interviewing process, with success.

Don’s work on conflict resolution tied directly into the MOL process, and offered us ways to stay grounded in difficult situations as well as things to be, say and do when confronted by difficult people.

We intend to offer another ACT 2 as soon as demand is evident – at the moment we are thinking of next year, but it could be earlier if enough people ask for the training.

Restitution Script

Here is a script of a “real” interview between a teacher and student – well done, S!!

Morning Don
I thought I would write to tell you that I had a go at Restitution yesterday. A perfect situation occurred! Nicolas had a fight on the playground and came back into class really upset. I asked the Aide to read the class a story whilst I sat in the play area with Nicolas and we talked as we wrote sums up on the board. The conversation went something like this:

S: So Nic, what happened out there? I can see you are a little upset. I’m not out to blame anyone I just want to know what happened. (Stabilising the identity)

N: Yeah, Steven punched me so I punched him back and it is not fair as I had to do a time out

S : Yeah sometimes things don’t seem fair. So it seemed like you wanted to defend yourself
(Validating the intention behind the behaviour)

N: yeap

S: It is important to defend yourself. Would I tell you not to? (Drawing the energy)

N: Nuh

S: But what do we believe at (school) about care and respect for others (Seeking the belief)

N: I know….to keep our hands and feet to ourselves

S: So do you believe in that

N: Yeah but he punched me

S: Yeap and that must have hurt, (Stabilising) but do you believe that we need to be safe?

N: Yeah

S: So do you want to fix the problem? (Seeking Restitution)

N: Yeah I won’t do it again

S: But it has happened, so what can you do about that problem…what about when you see Steven?

N: I could say sorry

S: So will you do that?

N: Yeh

S: How will I know you’ve done that? When could you do that? (Building commitment)

N: At lunchtime

S: So what does that say about you as a person? (Seeking the Ideal Person)

N: That I am a good person?

S: I would say also that you are a responsible and caring person. (Values)

At lunch I happened to be on duty, and Nic had forgotten…I went over and gave him a gentle reminder. He went up to Steven and said sorry. Steven said sorry, and then I asked them. Is there something else you could do for each other to apologise? Could you shake hands? They did and I congratulated them on the way they resolved their conflict. I then gave them 2 bonuses each for their amazing efforts! I will write up the script to help me It was good to get practice and I was lucky that it was a pretty easy one to begin with.

See ya Don. Regards S

Thinkers’ Workshop postponed

The original dates (September 16/17) have crept up on us a bit too fast – so we are going to reschedule to a later date. The content will be mainly Perceptual Control Theory and what it means as we apply it in our own lives or with others.

Book Review: Creating Classrooms Where Teachers Love to Teach and Students Love to Learn

Bob Sornson, Ph.D. Love and Logic Intsitute, Golden, Colarado, 2005.

This is a very readable “How to” book written in a narrative style as it follows the experiences of a small, dedicated group of teachers who are attempting to apply the principles of “Love and Logic” teaching. The key to the success of these methods is in developing and expressing genuine empathy for the students in the teacher’s care. The book describes the nine essential skills for the love and logic teacher:

  1. Neutralising student arguing
  2. Using delayed consequences
  3. Using empathy
  4. Using the recovery process
  5. Developing positive teacher-student relationships
  6. Setting limits with enforceable statements
  7. Using choices to prevent power struggles
  8. Using quick and easy classroom interventions
  9. Guiding students to solve their own problems

There are suggestions of ways teachers can learn these skills to implement in the classroom. Having read the book I find myself wanting to go out and apply my learning in the classroom and to share what I have read with others. This review is an attempt to do so.

How does it link with applied control theory? Well to me the book’s appeal is to that picture of the kind of teacher I would want to be and then offers some suggestions as to how I might move closer to becoming such a teacher. It’s worth the read. It may be available in Australia but you can definitely get it through

Perceptions Newsletter No. 21

Thursday, June 1st, 2006

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.

Perceptions Newsletter No. 20

Wednesday, March 1st, 2006

Shelley Brierley’s Visit

We did an evaluation of Shelley’s visit, and were satisfied that there was nothing left undone – we were sorry that the ACT 2/3 didn’t have enough takers to be viable, but we are offering another opportunity later in the year. All of the courses Shelley conducted received positive comments, and there has been some call for Shelley to return – we hope to arrange this within our schedule.

At the “Blame to Balance 2” seminar, Shelley promised a more detailed copy of her handout on the key components of healthier relationships and here it is:

Key Components of Healthier Relationships
Original by Brierley & Gossen, 1986/Brierley updated 1999

  1. Each person knows what they want/what their limits and beliefs are, and what is important to them and can verbalise these in a situation where there is no external emotional load.
  2. Each person is able to verbalise his or her wants/limits and beliefs, and what is important to them in the current situation.
  3. Each person is able to hear and paraphrase the others’
    wants/limits/beliefs and what is important to them, with the other person.
  4. Each person negotiates how to get some of what they want/need and have their limits respected, what they value honoured with the other person while honouring their own beliefs and respecting their own limits.
  5. If “no” is the answer to # 4, each person is then responsible to figure out a way to be true to who they want to be in relation to their beliefs, outside of this relationship in a manner, which ideally, does not damage this relationship.