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Unread February 6th, 2005, 06:57 PM
Paolo Migone Paolo Migone is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Parma, Italy
Posts: 1
Default Re: "Integrating control-mastery theory & research with other theoretical perspectives"

I agree that the concept of plan in Control-Mastery Theory is central. But I see it in a somewhat different way from other colleagues, who seem to see this problem from a more clinical point of view. For example, they may stress the tactfulness or appropriateness of interpreting to a patient, who is conflicted about different plans or wishes, the “true” plan (or a given plan that the analyst believes to be true). After all, the same problem applies when a traditional analyst makes an interpretation of unconscious material: the questions are not only when and how to interpret, but what to interpret, how can we be sure that our interpretation is right (we should know that interpretations never represent a prejudicial “truth”, but only hypotheses to be discussed and verified together with the patient, and this applies also to plans).
I would see the problem in another way, namely form a theoretical viewpoint. In fact, it seems to me that what we have to explain is why a patient should have a motivation to test the therapist (and/or other important figures in his life). The concept of test of course relies on the concept of plan: without a plan there would be no test. Why should someone test someone else if there wouldn’t be anything to be tested? I test someone because I want to see if my plan is right or wrong (and the plan stem from unconscious beliefs, I mean that plan and beliefs are related).
Now, a question arises here, which is the central question about the concept of plan. In traditional psychoanalysis there is the idea that people are conflicted by their own nature. Conflicts do not arise from experience, but preexist. External events add to that, shaping preexisting conflicts, for example make them worse if these events are traumatic. Examples of innate conflicts are incestuous drives, deaths instinct (more or less projected on the outside), and so on. Instead, in Self Psychology (and also in Humanistic Psychology, e.g., in Rogers) inner conflicts are seen as derived only from the outside, from traumatic experiences (i.e., traumatic to adaptive, “good” plans of the Self). The therapist’s task is simply to allow the growth of the Self (i.e., the pursuit of his plans) through the provision of a facilitating environment (or, if you want, “corrective experiences”). This view seems supported by recent infant research. Also some relational theories state the same theme: inner conflicts (or “bad objects”, bad plans, we could say) are internalizations, shadows, of bad experiences.

It seem to me that Control-Mastery Theory adheres to the latter view, i.e., posits the existence -- deep down, in the deep unconscious -- only of social, positive, adaptive plans. These are the plans that the therapist must identify and facilitate if they are inhibited by traumatic experiences that are responsible of pathogenic beliefs.

But again, even if we assume that this idea of the existence of inborn adaptive plans is correct, why should a patient be motivated to test the therapist? A patient, born with healthy and adaptive plans, might create new, maladaptive plans due to traumatic experiences, and that’s it. He might follow these bad plans and never feel the need to test the therapist in order to change them. He might not hope -- contrary to what Control-Mastery Theory tells us -- that the therapist passes these tests, because he does not have this “wise unconscious wish”, being lost forever, destroyed by bad experiences, or at least he might be seriously conflicted or confused about what is good or bad for himself.

How do we know if it is true that the patient tests the therapist in the hope that he passes his tests? One way to find out is with empirical research, but some have argued that it might be not easy to implement a research design that is able to give a clear cut answer.

I would like to suggest an idea based solely on theoretical grounds. As Liotti and myself have argued in our paper on Control-Mastery Theory published in issue no. 6/1998 of The International Journal of Psychoanalysis (“Psychoanalysis and cognitive-evolutionary psychology: an attempt at integration”, see web site, conscious or unconscious testing on the part of the patient may occur only if we assume the existence, within the patient, of a set of inborn plans, a hierarchy of plans (the top of the hierarchy corresponds to what we might call instincts, and lower plans could be quite complex and detailed) that are evolutionary based and have adaptive functions. We used the concept of TOTE by Miller, Galanter & Pribram (1960), where TOTE is an acronym of Test-Operate-Test-Exit. The Test is a comparison or matching process. The entities that are matched in a Test are (a) the perceptual categorization of the environment in a given moment, and (b) the so-called "Image" of the plan. It seems to me that without the hypothesis of the existence of this (conscious or unconscious) “Image” within the patient (such as an idea of an adaptive goal, a plan, for example an optimal relationship, etc.) a test could not be activated. And this inner "Image" has an evolutionary basis. This is one of the reasons why, very likely, only adaptive plans exist in the individual, because during evolution inborn maladaptive plans shouldn't have been selected out (think of the death instinct, for example).

I thank you for your attention

Paolo Migone, M.D.
Co-editor, Psicoterapia e Scienze Umane
Via Palestro, 14
43100 Parma, Italy
Tel./Fax +(39) 0521-960595
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