CONSCIOUSNESS
© C.O. Evans & J. Fudjack

Part 2 - An Application [table of contents]  [previous]  [next]


This section will consist of an analysis that employs our model of consciousness at the stage of construction reached in Part 1. This analysis will serve as an example of how the understanding of consciousness we propose applies to current discussions in consciousness-related fields; in this case, psychotherapy.

Bandler and Grinder propose a model of the therapeutic relationship that would explain and hence make available to others the techniques of such therapists as Milton Erickson. The model borrows its essentials, an analysis of language, from transformational grammar. The therapist is to treat the utterances of clients in therapy as 'surface structure' sentences. In short, the transformational grammarians assume that each sentence has both a 'surface structure' and a 'deep structure', the surface structure being derived from the deep structure by certain transformations.

We are demonstrating how, within the transformational model, each sentence is analysed at two levels of structure corresponding to two consistent kinds of intuition which native speakers have: Surface Structure - in which their intuitions about constituent structure are given a tree structure representation - and Deep Structure - in which their intuitions, about what a complete representation of the logical semantic relations is, are given. Since the model gives two representations for each sentence (Surface Structure and deep Structure), linguists have the job of stating explicitly how these two levels are connected. The way in which they represent this connection is a process of derivation which is a series of transformations. 43

Using as an example the sentence, "The woman bought a truck", the individual words of which can be diagrammed in tree structure to represent the Surface Structure of the sentence, the authors suggest a tree diagram which is a representation of the Deep Structure. It diagrams the words "The woman bought a truck from someone for some money." The Deep Structure in this

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example has been transformed into the Surface Structure by employing "one of the two major classes of transformations", 44 Deletion Transformations. The phrases 'from someone' and 'for some Money' have been deleted.

The therapist is to treat the utterances of clients as Surface Structures in the following way:

One of the common features of the therapeutic encounter is that the therapist tries to find out what the client has come to therapy for, what the client wants to change. In our terms, the therapist is attempting to find out what model of the world the client has. As clients communicate their models of the world, they do it in Surface Structures. These Surface Structures will contain deletions such as those described in the last chapter. The way that the client uses language to communicate his model/representation is subject to the universal processes of human modelling such as deletion. The Surface Structure itself is a representation from which it is derived--the Deep Structure. In the case wherein the linguistic process of deletion has occurred, the resulting verbal description--the Surface Structure--is necessarily missing [sic, a piece] for the therapist. This piece may also be missing from the client's conscious model of the world. If the model of the client's experience has pieces missing, it is impoverished. Impoverished models, as we stated before, imply limited options for behavior. As the missing pieces are recovered, the process of change in that person begins.  45
The above passage leaves the reader with the impression of a client whose impoverished experience has something to do with the linguistic transformations, such as Deletion Transformations, of which transformational grammarians speak. It implies that transformational grammar can be used by a therapist to enrich the client's experience. Let us inspect the passage more thoroughly to see if we can understand what the authors mean in speaking of the client's impoverishment and how this relates to transformational grammar. Let us try to understand in particular what the

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authors mean in speaking about 'the client's model of the world', 'the client's conscious model of the world', and 'the model of the client's experience'. Are these three equivalent? Or is there a complex relationship between the three? Let us also try to specify or give a further characterization of the 'missing piece' of which the authors speak. For the purposes of exposition we will take the Surface Structure sentence in question in the passage to be the sentence "The woman bought a truck", and the sentence "The woman bought a truck from someone for some money" as a fuller or Deep Structure representation of the logical semantic relations of that sentence. We will identify the 'missing piece' in three different ways.

  1. Comparing the Surface Structure sentence "The woman bought a truck" to the sentence "The woman bought a truck from someone for some money" we can see that the Surface Structure sentence is missing the piece 'from someone for some money' by virtue of Deletion Transformation. If we take the missing piece to be 'from someone for some money' we might think of the client's conscious model as the summation of all his Surface Structure sentences, as distinguished from his model, which might be thought of as the summation of all the Deep Structure representations of his sentences. The claim that the client communicates his model of the world in Surface Structures can then be understood to mean that the client's sentence will constitute his conscious model yet indicate or imply the model of the world he has. This is to say that his conscious model is the part of his model of the world of which he is conscious.

  2. We could take the missing piece to be certain information the

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    client has but is suppressing - for instance, the information that the woman bought a truck from John for a hundred dollars. In this case we would identify the missing piece as 'from John for a hundred dollars' rather than 'from someone for some money.' Notice, first, that the use of the sentence "The woman bought a truck" although it does imply that "The woman bought a truck from someone for some money" does not entail that the client know either the identity of the person from whom the truck was bought or the price paid in the transaction. However, it is possible that the client does know that the truck was bought from John for a hundred dollars and in the case in which he does his usage of the Surface Structure sentence "The woman bought a truck" can be construed as a suppression of that information. If we take the missing piece to be 'from John for a hundred dollars' we might think of the client's model as all the information about the world that he possesses and his conscious model as the information he reveals in his communications. But this would lead us to conclude that we all have impoverished models, insofar as we do not possess all the information about the world it is possible to possess, as well as impoverished conscious models, in that we do not communicate all the information about the world we do possess. Do we all suffer, by virtue of this kind of impoverishment, from something that requires therapy? In other words, in what sense is the therapist to be concerned with the fact that a client using the sentence "The woman bought a truck" fails to mention explicitly that she bought the truck from John for a hundred dollars?

  3. Let us step back once more and try to identify the 'missing piece'. In the example we are considering the information which is

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    suppressed in using the sentence "The woman bought a truck" is the identity of the person it is bought from and the price paid. Let us imagine a variety of situations:

    (A) When asked "From whom did the woman buy the truck and for what price?" the client responds "From John for a hundred dollars."

    (B) When asked this question the client does not respond although he is privy to the information that the truck was bought from John for a hundred dollars. We could imagine that the client either draws a blank, not seeming to understand the question, answers "I don't know" or ignores or evades the question.

    This second case is the significant one and we could choose to say that it is this case which concerns the therapist qua therapist. But how in this case are we to understand the terms the authors are using? What is the 'missing piece'? We could say that the missing piece is still 'from John for a hundred dollars.' But is it missing in the same sense in which it is missing from the Surface Structure sentence "The woman bought a truck?" It is clear that we would want to say that it is missing not merely in the sense that it is information which does not appear in the Surface Structure sentence or is suppressed by the use of a particular Surface Structure sentence, but that it is information that is habitually suppressed. It is only at this level of description that we can explain a therapist's interest in the language usage of his client. How are we to understand the terms model and conscious model? Perhaps we could take the client's model to be the summation of all the information he has about the world, and his conscious model to be all the information he has about the world which is not

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    habitually suppressed.

It is our belief that the authors have adopted a model of consciousness, a conception of what it is to be conscious, that hampers their exposition in two ways. First, it does not allow them to explicitly state what is implicit in the third level of description of the client's 'impoverishment' that we have here reached. We shall explain how this is so in the pages ahead. Second, it allows them to conflate the three levels of description we have given with the result that the technical distinction between the Surface and Deep Structure of a sentence assumes a greater significance in their theory than is warranted.

The model of consciousness that the authors assume is of the spotlight variety which merely distinguishes between what is in consciousness for a person at a given time and what is not in consciousness for that person at that time. That this type of model is the one being used by the authors is indicated, for instance, by their discussion of social and individual 'filters' which filter out of experience various elements in the same way that a person's physiological apparatus filters out or is not capable of picking up wavelengths of light, for example, outside of a set range of wavelengths. In this understanding a person is either aware or unaware of a particular and what he is aware of is a function of socially imposed filters, filters peculiar to the individual, and physiological filters. That the authors are using a spotlight model of consciousness is also indicated by the way they use various words such as 'experience'. The authors speak interchangeably of a person's model, map, representation,

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and experience of the world and imply by such usage that experience can be missing various pieces, that as a result of filtering "the model of the client's experience has certain pieces missing."

As an alternative to the spotlight model of consciousness we suggest the model which conceives consciousness as subsidiary awareness/object of attention. We suggest this as an alternative because we believe that despite the authors' tendency to speak of consciousness and experience in terms of the spotlight model the subsidiary awareness/object of attention model is necessary if sense is to be made of what they say about the impoverishment of the client. In our second description of the client we found it necessary to refer to 'suppressed information' and in our third description we made reference to 'habitually suppressed information'. Yet what is it to refer to information which a client possesses yet is suppressed? It is to say of the client that such information is a part of his tacit understanding. We can describe the client as tacitly aware of such information. What we are proposing is that we can see the client as conscious in the sense that at any particular moment he has an object of attention and subsidiary awareness. We can then describe any failure on his part of the type that a therapist would be concerned with in terms of components of his subsidiary awareness which are habitually tacit. If we retain the notions of conscious model and model we could say that in speaking of a person's model of the world we are speaking of a characterization of that person's patterns of contexting -- a characterization of which objects are habitually taken as objects of attention by that person and which elements of his environment are habitually tacit in his experience.

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Instead of speaking of a person's conscious model of the world we could say that certain components of a person's experience may never be a member of the set of objects of attention for that person. Insofar as information or a type of information is never explicit for a client, it might be appropriate to say that his experience is impoverished, if we mean by that that this information is never an object of attention for that person.

We would not be denying, however, that such information was a component of the client's experience. For although a person's experience of the world may be experience which never allows such pieces to become explicit for him, to be entertained as objects of attention, this does not mean that such pieces are missing from experience altogether, as the authors imply. They exist implicitly for him in experience in subsidiary awareness. A person can suffer from a condition in which a tacit component of experience is systematically kept from his attention. Indeed, we understand that change that the authors intend to bring about by the therapeutic techniques they propose as a change in the client's habitual patterns of contexting. We would describe the technique itself as a technique designed to bring the client's attention to parts of his experience habitually tacit, parts characteristically unnoticed by him and thus not in attention.

In essence, what we are saying is that the model of consciousness we propose, consciousness as subsidiary awareness/object of attention, supplies the fundamental description of what it is, in Bandler and Grinder's terminology, for a person to model the world. We have discussed, in general terms, what would make one person's model different from another's and in what sense such a model could be construed as impoverished.

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We believe that the authors' ready assumption of a model of consciousness of the spotlight variety has the interesting consequences of making transformational grammar central to their theory of therapy. They want and need to make a distinction like the one we have made between subsidiary awareness and object of attention. Carswell and Rommetveit, interested in studying the context of messages -- the effect of tacit understandings on the 'perception' or processing of sentences -- argue for "the study of background knowledge of communication settings" in psycholinguistic research. They here cite Chomsky's introduction of the Deep Structure -- Surface Structure distinction as leading in this direction:

Rommetveit has argued (1970), however, that Chomsky's structural analysis [into Deep and Surface Structure] exhibits an expansion of scope [of the field of linguistics] as it proceeds from the surface structure toward deeper strata and verges on involving complex patterns of communication. The deep structures of the language game may possibly become more and more visible as we expand our analysis of the utterance from its abstract synthetic form, via its content [meaning], toward the patterns of communication in which it is embedded. 46
So it is not strange that Bandler and Grinder, wanting to propose a certain theory about therapy yet hampered by a spotlight model of consciousness and the restrictions this model places on their use of vocabulary, should resort to the terminology of tranformational grammar, adopting the distinction between Surface and Deep Structure. The Surface Structure of a sentence could be understood to function as an object of attention and to say that a sentence has a Deep Structure would be to say that language users would share certain tacit logical semantic assumptions about that object of attention. But it is easy to reify these assumptions in characterizing them as a Deep Structure which the sentence has, ignoring that they are

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actually assumptions the language user has in attending to the Surface Structure sentence and hence part of the experience of that person, albeit experience he is subsidiarily or implicitly aware of.

In our discussion of the notion of a 'missing piece' we tried to indicate the limit of the usefulness of employing the actual technical distinction between the Surface Structure and Deep Structure of a sentence. Let us locate what these limits are in a slightly different way, see to what extent their theory suffers from the use of the technical vocabulary of transformational grammar, and indicate the options our alternative opens up.

We have pointed out that a client's use of a sentence like "The woman bought a truck", properly designated as a Surface Structure, does not entail knowledge on the part of the person using the sentence about the identity of the person from whom the truck was bought or the price paid. We have also pointed out that although the client using the sentence in question may not have such knowledge, insofar as he is using language correctly he can be assumed to understand that the truck was bought from someone for some money. This assumption can be made by appealing to what the transformational grammarians tell us -- to be specific, they tell us in this case that native speakers have consistent intuitions about what a complete representation of the logical semantic relations of the sentence "The woman bought a truck" is and that a representation of the logical semantic relations of this sentence is given by the sentence "The woman bought a truck from someone for some money." Although transformational grammar can tell us that the client using the sentence "The woman bought

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a truck" understands that the woman bought a truck from someone for some money it cannot tell us that the client understands that the woman bought a truck from John for a hundred dollars. But in employing the technique suggested by Bandler and Grinder the therapist must assume that there is a possibility that the client means even more than that the woman bought a truck from someone for some money by using the sentence "The woman bought a truck". Otherwise, what sense does it make to speak of Surface Structures as indicating missing information or pieces? But to what can the therapist appeal to justify his understanding that a Surface Structure sentence like "The woman bought a truck", or, for that matter, a Deep Structure sentence like "The woman bought a truck from someone for some money" can be used by a client with the understanding that the woman bought a truck from John for a hundred dollars? Only some such reference as to the tacit understandings of the client using the sentence will suffice to explain how the uttered sentence "The woman bought a truck" is connected for the client with some unspoken or hypothesized sentence "The woman bought a truck from John for a hundred dollars".

As a matter of fact the client could use the sentence "The woman bought a truck" with the tacit understanding that the woman was his wife, that she needed the truck because the children wanted ... etc. The point is that the connection between the sentence "The woman bought a truck" and the tacit understanding that the woman bought a truck from John for a hundred dollars is no more privileged a connection, is not of a different type or higher status, than the connection between the sentence and the wider ranging tacit understanding a client might have in using the sentence. We are not

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maintaining that it is not useful for a therapist to inspect a client's sentences with transformational grammar in mind for the purposes of ascertaining clues as to the tacit understandings of the client or suggesting questions that would bring such understandings to the attention of the client. We are objecting to the role that transformational grammar is playing in the theoretical justification of the practical procedures suggested.

That this is a significant objection will become more apparent in the following if, at this point, we entertain the question "To what extent is the therapist, according to Bandler and Grinder, to depend strictly upon such an analysis of sentences based upon the theories of transformational grammar?" It is clear that Bandler and Grinder propose a kind of analysis of sentences that is an extrapolation from this strictly transformational kind of analysis. An example of this kind of analysis is provided in what the authors call 'checking for the five senses'. It amounts to inspecting the sentences of the client to see if mention is made of information received through all the client's sensory apparatus. In the case that such mention is not made the therapist is warranted in concluding that certain sensory information received by the client is being suppressed. Such an analysis of the client's sentences is an extension from the kind which we can call transformational analysis proper, the kind in which the example sentence "The woman bought a truck" is seen as implying "The woman bought a truck from someone for some money". The kind of analysis exemplified by 'checking for the five senses' is intended to integrate into the proposed model for therapy techniques based on all the subtle understandings therapists,

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as human experiencers, have of what it is to be conscious and experience the world -- to feel, perceive, sense, etc. It is an attempt to incorporate into their theory of therapy an analogue to the 'intuitions' the transformational grammarians tell us that we have as language users of what a complete representation of logical semantic relations is.

We have, as human beings, 'intuition' about what it is like to be conscious experiencers. We know, for instance, that if our sensory apparatus is not malfunctioning we receive information through five senses. We are warranted in concluding, then, that if we do not mention the information gleaned by one or more of the senses in our sentences we have suppressed that information and may even have failed to be explicitly aware of the existence of that information. The check for the five senses that the therapist is to make on the client's sentences is clearly only an extrapolation from transformational analysis proper since the therapist appeals, in making such a check, to his intuitive understandings about what it is like to be human, intuitions about which the transformational grammarian as such is not concerned. But we have pointed out that the use to which even a transformational analysis proper is being put necessitates some reference to the tacit understandings of the client if that use is to be theoretically justified. And we can say, similarly, that to check a client's sentences to see if explicit mention is made of information gathered by all the senses is justified by a reference to the client's subsidiary awareness. This reference is made when we speak, as we must in such a case, of the client's habitually unnoticed sensations.

It is misleading to think of the check for the senses as founded on

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or derived from the transformational analysis proper although we can give the same description of the use each is being put to: both the check for the senses and the transformational analysis proper are ways of inspecting a client's sentences for the purpose of ascertaining clues as to the character of the tacit components of the client's experience. Yet the authors, in introducing a special kind of relationship between the client's experience and Deep Structure that is identical to the relationship between Deep Structure and Surface Structure, obscure and confuse matters.

...each of us as native speakers of our language have consistent intuitions as to what are the full linguistic representation -- the Deep Structures -- of each sentence or Surface Structure we hear. As therapists, we can come to know exactly what is missing from the client's Surface Structure by comparing it to the Deep Structure from which we know it is derived. Thus, by asking for what is missing, we begin the process of recovering and expanding the client's model -- the process of change.

We will call the Deep Structure the reference structure for the sentence, or Surface Structure, which we hear from our clients. It is the reference structure in the sense that the Deep Structure is the source from which the Surface Structure sentence is derived. The Deep Structure is the fullest linguistic representation of the world, but it is not the world itself. The Deep Structure itself is derived from a fuller and richer source. The reference structure for the Deep Structure is the sum total of all the client's experiences of the world. 47

Just as the Deep Structure is the 'reference structure' for the Surface Structure, the authors are telling us, the client's experience is the reference structure for the Deep Structure. Let us first notice that such a description assumes that a client's sentences can be clearly distinguished from those things called his experiences, when in fact it is not trivial, as we shall indicate, that sentences are experienced.

Secondly, let us recall that the sentence, "The woman bought a truck",

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can be considered a Surface Structure sentence whose complete logical semantic relations, Deep Structure, can be represented by the sentence "The woman bought a truck from someone for some money". The first sentence implies, to any native speaker of English, the second. In what sense does the sentence representing Deep Structure, "The woman bought a truck from someone for some money" imply anything about the experience of the client using that sentence? The authors take too literally the metaphor expressed by the words 'derived from' in speaking of the Deep Structure being the source from which the Surface Structure is derived. We mean by saying that the sentence "The woman bought a truck" is derived from the sentence "The woman bought a truck from someone for some money" only that the latter sentence entails the former, whereas the client's claim that "The woman bought a truck" (or, its equivalent, "The woman bought a truck from someone for some money") can be thought of as derived from his experience in the sense that he uses that sentence to express the fact that he witnessed, for instance, his wife buying the truck from John for a hundred dollars. To speak of the client's experience as being in relation to his sentences just as the Deep Structure of a sentence is to the Surface Structure is a metaphor that permeates the authors' formulation of their theory and prejudices their account of therapy in the following way. The authors state,

While we have not yet developed an explicit structure for the range of human experience, we have some suggestions about what some of the necessary components of that reference structure will be. In addition to the check for the five senses we have found it useful to employ a set of categories developed by Virginia Satir in her dynamic work in family systems and communication postures. Satir organizes the reference structure into three major components:
  1. The context -- what is happening in the world (i.e., in the client's representation of the world);

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  2. The client's feelings about what is happening in the world (as represented);

  3. The client's perceptions of what others are feeling about what is happening in the world (as represented). 48

The authors' admission to not having developed 'an explicit structure for the range of human experience' is an admission of having only a vague understanding of how to incorporate into their theory for therapy the concepts used in describing the range of human experience. Citing Satir and mentioning the concepts of context, feeling, and perception indicates that they are aware of the necessity to integrate into their theory such concepts. Yet introducing the awkward and metaphorical notion of a 'reference structure for Deep Structure' frees them to ignore the problems such an integration would entail by allowing them to adopt by virtue of the analogy between 'reference structure for Deep Structure' and 'Deep Structure as reference structure for Surface Structure' all of the terminology appropriate to the relationship between Deep and Surface Structure in talking about the relationships between sentences and experience. They are allowed in this way, for instance, to speak of sensory information which is not represented in a client's sentences as deleted sensations'. Indeed, they say,

We suggest that the same set of specific concepts and mechanisms [that guided us in recovering the Deep Structure for the Surface Structure] will continue to guide us in recovering the reference structure for the Deep Structure. 49
As an alternative to their appeal to the theoretical notion of 'reference structure for Deep Structure' we offer the model of consciousness presented earlier in this work. We have already put this model to use in the discussion of Bandler and Grinder's work in the descriptions we offered which

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suggested that the information missing from the explicit content of a client's communications could be seen as tacitly understood, implicit, or as information about components of the experienced context in the subsidiary awareness of the client. For consciousness, under the description of it we propose -- as bifurcated into attention and subsidiary awareness -- can entertain an object of attention while being subsidiarily aware of the setting or context for that object. The attentive model of consciousness is an attempt to integrate various of the concepts that are used in describing human experience. It is important to recognize such concepts as 'context', 'feeling' and 'perception' ought to be employed without discriminating between levels of structure in the manner proposed by Bandler and Grinder. For assigning them to a special 'level', as if these concepts were not legitimate ones in a discussion of the relationship between Surface Structure and Deep Structure, precludes thoroughly integrating these various components of experience in a model of consciousness or consciousness-related model, as is the model of therapy we have been considering. To make this point more intuitively obvious we will consider one last passage from Bandler and Grinder:

...when you ask questions like, "How do you feel about that?" (whatever that might be) you are, in fact, asking your client for a fuller representation (than even Deep Structure) of your client's experience of the world. And what you are doing by asking this particular question is asking for what you know is a necessary component of the client's reference structure. 50

Without rehashing all we have said in presenting our model of consciousness we should like to point out that it is our understanding that in asking a question like "How do you feel about that?" you are asking for a description of the context the person experiences in attending to the object of attention

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in question ('that'). And in the sense that you are asking for the client to explicitly describe that context, which entails his bringing it, or some part of it, to attention, you are requesting a 'fuller representation' than he has previously offered. In asking for a description of the context the person experienced you are asking more of the person than that he fill in information omitted by the use of a Surface Structure sentence although such information is part of his tacit understanding, information about part of his experienced context. You are not, however, asking for a description of a component of some other level of structure, you are asking for a wider description of his experienced context than would be supplied were he to respond by offering a Deep Structure correlate to a Surface Structure sentence. It is easy to be mislead into thinking that in asking "How do you feel about that?" you are asking for a description of a thing called a feeling which, unlike things called sentences, must thus be located as a component of a different level of structure. But consider the kind of response we take as appropriate to the question "How do you feel about that?" We do not expect a description of the feeing to qualify it by a list of adjectives, for instance, in the same way as one might detail a description of a physical object by adding that it is 'furry', 'lopsided' or whatever. A feeling of the type in question is not a 'thing' at all. And a description of such a feeling would offer a more detailed account of the context experienced in attending to the object and this is because, in our terminology, subsidiary awareness of context is experienced by the mode of feeling.

A further explanation of what it means to say that subsidiary awareness

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is experienced by the mode of feeling is supplied if we recollect that the analysis of sentences the authors call 'checking for the five senses' presupposes the notion of sensory information acquired but not explicit as an object of attention for the person and hence not 'represented' in his communications. This possibility, which the authors have in mind in speaking about 'deleted sensations', can be described as a subsidiary awareness of the environment. And it is not difficult to conceive of these unnoticed sensations as affecting a person's underlying feeling state: the way he feels about an object in his environment he is attending to. It may be useful to point out that in referring in this way to consciousness in terms of both an object of attention and the way one feels about that object in attending to it we are here describing the, so to speak, primary ability of consciousness to attend to a particular object of attention while 'keeping the whole in mind'. In the context of this remark it could be said that it is one's underlying feeling that frees our attention, allowing it to shift from object to object, by being a representative in consciousness of the whole of which these objects are parts. In representing the whole it also functions as a corrective to our attention, which is to say that the way we feel about various objects of attention will determine how, when, and whether we entertain them as objects of attention. And hence how, when, or whether we resist entertaining them.

The description we have been giving indicates how a concept of resistance would relate to a nexus of others, including attention, context, and feeling. The conspicuous lack of such a discussion of a concept of resistance by Bandler and Grinder is regrettable in itself but also has the serious

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consequences of representing the client's problem to be one of having an 'impoverished mode', a sin of ignorance, so to speak. Consequently the authors' transformational model per se fails to prescribe methods by which the therapist can recover, or bring to the client's attention, the habitually tacit components of his experience other than the method of eliciting the missing information by direct questioning. Even in the cases in which an indirect procedure is suggested, the methods cannot be construed as explained by the transformational model per se.

The description we have given of the therapeutic technique proposed by Bandler and Grinder was in terms of directing the client's attention to habitually tacit components of his experience. And this description suggests the sense in which this technique is similar to the ones employed by Milton Erickson. Haley, in the course of exploring in detail the connection between Erickson's hypnotic techniques and his seemingly unrelated therapeutic techniques says,

Not only does his experience as a hypnotist give him a willingness to take charge, to give directives, and to control what happens, but like many hypnotists, he has been a specialist in controlling the conscious awareness of subjects. He tends to conceptualize a person in two parts, and he controls the flow of unconscious ideas to conscious awareness. 51
If we slightly modify this description by understanding 'conscious awareness' to mean attention and 'unconscious ideas' to mean habitually tacit components of subsidiary awareness we have a description of Erickson's technique also in terms of directing a client's attention to habitually tacit components of subsidiary awareness. Yet Erickson seems to exhibit a greater intuitive

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appreciation of the resistance people have for new patterns of contexting and new objects of attention. Insofar as the Bandler and Grinder exposition does not concern itself with an attempt to conceptually related resistance to the concepts of feeling, context, etc., it fails to supply an account of the techniques Erickson uses in overcoming such resistance. Inspection of actual case descriptions of Erickson's therapies, so vividly presented in Haley's book, allows us to make a further general description of Erickson's techniques in our terminology. By effecting subtle changes in the tacit components of a client's experience Erickson has been able to trigger a sequence of deflections of the client's attention that results in putting the client into previously unexperienced contexts which consequently encourage him to focus on objects of attention previously precluded by his habitual patterns of contexting. The shifts produced in the client's context, the changes in the tacit components of his experience, are effected in a variety of ways by Erickson. These shifts are part of a procedure which produces an artfully yet intricately constructed sequence of new contexts that subsidize new objects of attention which become parts of yet newer contexts, a sequence designed to culminate in putting the client in the position to notice what he would have initially resisted entertaining if brought to his attention.

We use one of Erickson's cases to illustrate our point, a case which fits the attentive model so perfectly that it can be looked upon as a paradigm case. We quote in full from Haley's presentation.

In another quite similar case, Erickson dealt with husband and wife together. He resolved a long-term marital conflict by a simple instruction that forced a change because of the nature of the situation.

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This husband and wife had been running a restaurant business together for many years and they were in a constant quarrel about the management of it. The wife insisted that the husband should manage it, and he protested that she never let him do it. As he put it, "Yes, she keeps telling me I should run the restaurant. All the time she is running it she tells me I should do it. I'm the bus boy, I'm the janitor, I scrub the floors. She nags at me about the buying, she nags at me about the book-keeping, she nags at me because the floor needs scrubbing. I really should hire someone to scrub the floor, but my wife can't wait until somebody comes in and applies for the job. So I wind up doing it myself, and then there's no need to hire someone to do it."

The wife took the reasonable position that she wanted her husband to take care of the restaurant because she would rather be at home. She had sewing she wished to do. And she would like to serve her husband at least one home-cooked meal a day with special foods he liked. Her husband replied, "That's what she says. You can hear it, I can hear it. But she'll be in the restaurant tomorrow morning.!"

I learned that they locked up the restaurant in the evening at about ten o'clock, and they opened at seven in the morning. I began to deal with the problem by asking the wife who should carry the keys to the restaurant. She said, "We both carry the keys. I always get there first and open up while he's parking the car."

I pointed out to her that she ought to see to it that her husband got there half an hour before she did. They had only one car, but the restaurant was just a few blocks from their home. She could walk there a half hour later. When we agreed to this arrangement, it solved the conflict.'

Discussing this couple with some colleagues, Erickson put the matter as simply as that. Having the woman arrive a half hour later than her husband resolved the problem. Since this solution seemed more obvious to him than to his audience, he went on to explain.

'When the husband arrived a half hour before his wife, he carried the keys. He opened the door. He unlocked everything. He set up the restaurant for the day. When his wife arrived, she was completely out of step and way behind. So many things had been set in motion by him, and he was managing them

Or course, when she remained behind at home that half hour in the morning, it left her with the breakfast dishes and the housework to do before she left. And if she could be a half hour late, she could be thirty-five minutes late. In fact, what she hadn't recognized when she agreed to the arrangement was that she could be forty minutes or even an hour late. In this way, she discovered that her husband could get along at the restaurant without her. Her husband, in turn, was dis-

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covering that he could manage the restaurant.

Once the wife yielded on that half hour in the morning, then she yielded on going home early in the evening and preparing a bedtime snack for him. This meant he took over the task of getting the restaurant in shape for the night and closing up.

The wife also was learning to manage the house, which was a more important activity to her. In their final arrangement she stayed home, but she was available for the cashier's desk or some other position if an employee was sick or on vacation. At other times she didn't need to be at the restaurant, and she wasn't.

When discussing the case, a colleague pointed out that this wasn't the individual problem of the wife; the husband had been busy inviting his wife to take charge in the restaurant, and it was therefore a game in which both people were involved. Erickson agreed but said that helping the husband discover his involvement was not necessarily relevant to bring about a change. As he put it, "I couldn't feel I would get anywhere by telling the husband he was inviting his wife to manage him into mopping the floor, and so on. He wouldn't have understood that. But he did begin to understand that he was in charge of the place for a whole half hour. And he was perfectly comfortable being in charge."

Often it is difficult to get a wife to make a change of this kind and stick to it, particularly when she is a woman who likes to manage. Commenting upon this, Erickson pointed out that the wife was willing to accept the idea and follow through on it because of the way it was put. She was asked to see to it that her husband arrived a half hour earlier than she did. She was put in charge of the arrangement and so was willing to accept it. 52

Our model would have us single out the reports of feelings of which the text of the case gives record. The husband mentions his when he says, "She nags at me about the buying, she nags at me about the bookkeeping, she nags at me because the floor needs scrubbing." The model makes us notice that the husband is not only displaying the way he feels towards his wife, but in so doing he is also displaying the way he contexts his relationship with her. The wife alludes to her feelings when she indicates that she would rather be at home. Finally, Erickson mentions his own when he remarked to colleagues,

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"I couldn't feel I would get anywhere by telling the husband he was inviting his wife to manage him into mopping the floor and so on." By expressing his implicit understanding of the situation in terms of the way he felt towards the husband, Erickson exhibits a connection between feeling and contexting which is precisely the one the attentive model makes explicit.

We also notice that although these references make it clear that feelings play a part in the couple's relationship, Erickson at no point draws their attention to their feelings. We may characterize his technique on this occasion by saying that he effects a change in the way they could feel towards each other by making a change in the way they context their relationship, rather than attempting to change the way they context their relationship by trying to make them feel differently towards each other. In the therapeutic encounter the feelings of the couple towards each other are allowed to remain in subsidiary awareness.

Instead Erickson singles out a component of subsidiary awareness which was to be found in the experience of both wife and husband, namely the fact that they both carried around with them the keys to their family business, the restaurant. Now the model requires us to classify the couple's awareness of the keys as subsidiary to the extent that they are metal objects that are carried around on one's person and cause certain sensations which are experienced subsidiarily. Sometimes, indeed, the awareness of the keys is made focal, as when they are in the process of being used to open doors, etc., but then they are soon returned to subsidiary awareness. The model invites us to relate the contexting function of the subsidiarily felt sensation of the keys with the manner in which they come

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into focality when they do for each of the parties who use them. Insofar as the keys come into focality in a different manner for wife and husband they are operating in subsidiary awareness with different contexting functions. For the wife the keys are a component of subsidiary awareness which context her relationship to her husband in a pattern of dominance, and they create the reverse context for the husband.

However, Erickson shows his real brilliance as a therapist by carefully drawing no further attention to the keys. Had he failed to exercise this caution the keys would have been unmasked as symbolic of the marital conflict, and alterations of arrangements involving the keys would not have worked. Thus Erickson brought the keys into focality as objects of attention only long enough to discover that they were components of subsidiary awareness of both of the partners. He then contrived to alter the contexting function of this component of their respective subsidiary awarenesses without again removing it from subsidiary awareness (by drawing attention to it). Instead, Erickson directed the couple's attention to a plan to have the husband get to work thirty minutes before his wife. The couple could not make this change without changing their relationship to the keys, while at the same time this change was all effected at the level of subsidiary awareness.

By getting the husband to open the restaurant Erickson succeeded in altering the contexting function of the keys in subsidiary awareness of both wife and husband. This shows itself in the manner in which the keys now came into focality as objects of attention for the couple. "He carried the keys. He opened the door. He unlocked everything." The keys had come to have for the husband the contexting function they used to have for

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the wife. At the same time, in the case of the wife they had lost their previous contexting function, and gained a new one which enabled her to context her husband as the one in charge of the restaurant. The upshot of the change Erickson made was that the couple's feelings about their life situations and their feelings towards each other were changed by changing the contexting function of a component which was common to the respective subsidiary awarenesses of both of them. "In this way, she discovered that her husband could get along at the restaurant without her. Her husband, in turn, was discovering that he could manage the restaurant." Thus a small change made to a component of subsidiary awareness brought about a major change in the couple's patterns of contexting, and this in turn brought major changes to their lives which added up to a resolution of their marital conflict.

We would also point out that this case of Erickson's does not lend support to the sort of analysis Bandler and Grinder offer in terms of deducing Deep Structure from the Surface Structure of patients' sentences. Information about the keys is directly, although subtly, elicited from the couple by Erickson. (He asks them who should carry the keys, keeping their thoughts away from the actualities in respect of the keys.) But his information-use of such a sentence as "We both carry the keys. I always get there first and open up while he's parking the car" is not the use of it as a Surface Structure from which a Deep Structure can be derived. We believe that an explanation of his technique in terms of the distinction between the Surface and Deep Structures of sentences, being a simplification of the

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infinite complexities exhibited in Erickson's technique, will not suffice.

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Footnotes

43. R. Bandler and J. Grinder, The structure of magic, vol. 1 (Palo Alto: Science and Behavior Books,1975), p.28.
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44. Ibid., p.31.
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45. Ibid., p.40.
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46. E.A. Carswell and R. Rommetviet, Social contexts of messages (New York:Academic Press,1871), p.5.
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47. R. Bandler and J. Grinder. op.cit., p.157.
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48. Ibid., p.160.
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49. Ibid., p.158.
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50. Ibid., p.160.
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51. J. Haley, Uncommon therapy (New York:Ballantine Books,1973), p.19. A further explanation of what it means to say that Erickson conceptualizes a person in two parts is given by Haley in Advanced techniques of hypnosis and therapy: selected papers of Milton H. Erickson, M.D. (New York:Grune & Stratton, 1967), p.456.

Erickson's comments about "unconscious awareness" become reasonable from this view. To have an interchange with another person through an "unconscious" means of communication, we must at some level be cognizant of what we are doing or we could not correct ourselves or receive the other person's communication and respond to it. Yet this process can go on without any conscious awareness of what we are doing. Therefore there must be, at least, two levels of "awareness" when we are interchanging two levels, at least, of communication.
The reference to 'levels of communication' will receive more attention in the third section of this work in a discussion of Bateson's concept of meta-message, and the 'unconscious'. We quote the above passage, with its mention of two levels of awareness, 'conscious awareness' and 'unconscious ideas' in terms of object of attention and subsidiary awareness.
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52. J. Haley, Uncommon therapy, op.cit., p.192.
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