Finding complexity: The freedom of awareness.

Today you will see a lot of anger, revile, disgust, and the markers of pain and shame around you. I hope to offer you not soothing but complexity. There are no easy answers.

This is what I see and feel.

We are a world that exists without awareness. Our collective learning histories almost assure it. We raise children in front of televisions watching ‘real’ relationships that are not real. Gaining connection with people and stories that are not our own. Film and art are excellent steps towards depth in perspective taking – they are not substitutes.

We need each other. We are connected to the fiber of perception. Our words are not sticks and stones – they are sticky and powerful tools. Who you are, who you believe others to be, how you think the world works – this is a verbal construction.

At its best it is a multi-layered web that allows in the world and quick decision making. At it’s worst, it is a stiff blindfold that filters your awareness, connections, and actual experience of the world.

Here’s the thing. We naturally become more and more wrapped in our verbal world. You will feel and hear more and more about everything until you’re gone. This is our shared gift and pain.

In a world that leaves us connecting more through machines, through ticker tape, bumper stickers – we have only the verbal.

If you understand what this means – you may feel an urge to disconnect to reduce the power of the verbal. You may want to buy a yurt and move to a secluded beach. (I get it, me too.)

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This reinforces the system. You do not change a system by leaving it.

Let go of the shame. Let go of the fear. Let go of the blame. It is our nature that got us here. The path through is not to deny our nature or wall it off as some symbol to be reviled.

It is ourselves we must understand, not some ‘enemy.’

If you pick up the fusion – take a breath – put it down. If you pick it up again – put it down again. How do we move forward?

We move forward in complexity.

We hold our values lightly.

Yes, you read that right.

A value, at its core, is a rule. A belief that signals and ties into your coherence models. A construction linked tightly to the “self”. When we hold too tightly to our values, our “self,” our “other,” our “world” cause us to be unaware. We believe that we, or someone else, or the world – is some way. We miss the important differences. We miss the very salve that would heal the tear in our coherence.

Notice what I am doing now. Do you feel the hovering of my verbal world just above the pain? Can you see that there is distance and purposeful dipping back to pain?

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I know what it is to value so fully that you blind yourself.

Do not believe in the need for connection, love, peace, or anything so fully that you blind yourself to the path. Do not want such that you see only the symbol.

It is not simple – It is not easy – It is still worth it.  

Do you see that we all know why this post is here- but I have not said it? Why? Aren’t we supposed to approach pain – to not avoid?

That is a rule.

Do not cling to rules without understanding. Even to very ‘good’ rules about not clinging to rules. Instead, step back to awareness.

Understand the rhythms of your mind, the connectedness of your social world, understand that even rigidity and avoidance are sometimes functional.

Understand the rules and your experience – use the verbal context 

– it may be the only one you can control in the moment.

With that – I will show you one way in which I find complexity when the world seems too simple and painful.

Finding Complexity

It is our nature that most experiences start out as shallow symbols. Imagine yourself meeting a person for the first time. Your awareness will automatically click towards categorization.

Is this person like me? Unlike me? How should I act? How will they act?

Now imagine thinking of this person the next day. What is there?

Anything that has latched so quickly is a symbol. You hold onto that symbol through the ultimate shared coherence network – language.screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-5-58-37-am

You know nothing of this person’s depth, history, and complexity – and yet your mind says it does.

It’s alright. We wouldn’t walk into the world without the safety of these symbols to organize the unpredictability and variety we see around us.

Now, imagine that you meet this person again. You spend time with them. You let walls down. You become friends, or even lovers. Years go by – you laugh with them. You cry with them. You share dreams and pain.


Is this person now their name? Are they “in group” or “out group”?

They are neither. 

They are more. This is complexity.

Now – this is not the end. With all complexity comes ups and downs. Happiness does not come without sadness. Safety does not come without knowing fear.

This is where we use awareness to pull us together.

Use the power of the symbolic -awareness of the function of rules – to pull you to the adaptive awareness.

Choose your symbols for complexity – or know what and how to evoke it to a symbol. Trust me here. (Remember the ACT – where are your keys exercise?) Symbols pull more than pain. Feel that wedding ring on your finger? Feel the cross on your neck?

If it is more than a symbol – if you have built rich memories around it.

Then it the symbol is simply an Sd for discriminating complexity tied to an object by a rule through coordination.

How do you choose a symbol? You probably already have them. Notice what reminds you of what matters. Then remember to richness of your experience with this symbol. Congrats- coordination. Classical conditioning of cued complexity.

This is one of my calls to complexity –


The Ensō is a Buddhist symbol for absolute enlightenment, the universe, strength, elegance, minimalism, and the void.

For me, Ensō is it the “I,” the “YOU,” and a symbol of complexity spanning out through temporal, interpersonal, and spatial relations.

It is created in a single stroke – symbolizing the moment at which mind and body come to center to create. It is a symbol of the beauty of imperfection in growth.

For totality. For center. For awareness of it all.


Your automatic reaction may be some coordination frame with superstition.

Complexity is nearly the opposite of superstition. Superstition is a rule built on chance association – that is then used to avoid or approach.

Superstition, raw emotion, or distance –  is what symbols and rules become when they grow to far from their roots.

This is why the peace sign drives nothing in our generation. We did not create it out of pain and a need for unity. It is now hollow a symbol.

Complexity is the true opposite of fusion. Yet, complexity can be attached to symbol so that the power of fusion moves complexity, through coordination.

Complexity can then be the symbolic evoke of mindful awareness.

Notice: You cannot combat raw emotion or insensitive rule with the verbal. You are bound to increase fusion. We are stubborn and automatic creatures though. We expect to evoke through fight what can only be gained in experience.

Save your ‘fight’ for building complexity and understanding the contingencies that drive function and dysfunction.

Experience (i.e., complexity) is the seat of non-reactivity and non-attachment.

It is not by evoking the opposite (whether it be shame, fear, anger, joy, values, rules) we move anyone towards any path. It is the path of non-reactance and awareness. The path that allows us to skillfully help ourselves and others track.


Ask yourself -what did humans do when the world was not so complex and devoid of direct contingency contact?

Why did we teach arts and music? Why did we write poetry? Why did we dance and sing together? Why did we share resources? Why did natural selection so favor language (and the large skull needed for it) that we are born helpless and in need of care?

We are complexity.

We are more than verbal. We are touch. We are connection.

We are love, philosophy, science, dance, and art.

We are the shapers of a world  – for better or worse.

Choose to connect to what is underneath.

I get a little heady. So, track that I mean “click here”

If we are capable of this then how did we get here?

What do we see if we take Skinner’s “What’s wrong with the Western World?” and examine how we spend our lives? Why are we depressed? Disconnected? Anxious? Unsatisfied?


Credit: Bansky

Why are the systems generations died to create left to ruin now?

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We are still following and using rules – we rarely notice if they work.  

We are built for connection. We lose connection and awareness through adaptive peaks created by the very things that allowed us to connect. 

We construct our world through rules. We spend less time together. We spend less time experiencing and more time watching. We ‘learn’ from books alone. We under fund art, science, literature and we test for providing the preferred “answer.” We are teaching that the only answer is rigidity. We reward children because we want them to feel good about themselves – stop. Think. Do you want your child to feel rewarded in this moment or to know that they are above the ups and downs?

That they are more. Give them the gift of awareness. 

We are surrounded by complex systems and we no longer understand how or why they were created.

Look at your fellow man today and when you see fear, rigidity, hate, sadness, egotism… pull yourself to awareness. Whether by symbol, interpersonal mindfulness, or layers of context sensitivity.

You will be moved to stop the pain, to fight the pain, to leave, to change, or revile against what has happened. Many of you will feel the desire to fight.

Notice what you are fighting for.

Are you fighting for connection? For safety? For freedom?

Is it important enough to treat this with awareness and openness?

Then find the tools to build bridges instead of walls, weapons, and raised voices.


Pull to that space just above the pain where complexity and awareness reside.

Allow yourself the space to take care of yourself and those you love.

When you are ready – Let’s build a bridge.

RFT: A behavioral conceptualization of voice hearing

I’ve been overloaded lately, hence the extended absence, but a part of my own self-care is to read great work.

I’ve just read a manuscript by McEnteggart, Barnes-Holmes, Dillon, Egger, and Oliver (2016) in Trauma & Dissociation that definitely fits the description. Let me just say, it’s a potential game-changer. Definitely worth a read. 

Enteggart et al. reconceptualize voice hearing behaviorally. This, again, is one of those publications that could be a game changer if it tests out empirically. ‘Hallucinations’ are one of those things that our field does not generally deal well with. Most clinicians refer out for medication and do some basic work to help the individual cope. We essentially medicate symptoms and cede to big pharma.

I will say that there has been some other really impressive work in this area by third-wave clinicians which should also be recognized. Bach & Hayes (2002) demonstrated acceptance-based strategies as effective in reducing rehospitalization for individuals with psychosis. Veiga-Martinez, Perez-Alvarez, & Garcia-Montes, 2008 did a case study on acceptance of auditory hallucinations. And, Vilardaga, Levin, and others have done relevant work on deictics, empathy, anhedonia. The work of this group also utilizes Ecological Momentary Assessment and Ecological Momentary Intervention (read making everything more feasible via mobile phone) that is methodologically elegant while addressing issues specifically relevant to this population.

Additionally, there is some relevant work in progress by several groups spread across the world on BPD. Michel Reyes and others are looking at the treatment order/treatment targets/process for BPD and there seems to be a convergence in what is happening in these areas.

Just as a refresher, deictics include I-YOU, HERE-THERE, and spatial relations that form the establish the core of our perception of the world. If you’re interested in this area, see also a whole host of fascinating work by Louise McHugh The Self and Perspective Taking.

I’ve also written some on self-other organization and derealization/depersonalization from an RFT perspective in my blog.

Enteggart, Barnes-Holmes, Dillon, Egger, and Oliver (2016) represents a complete behavioral conceptualization of voice hearing that I’ve seen by far. Their review of literature describes the behavioral conceptualization from traumatic learning history to voice hearing. They explicitly address how what can appear as pathological processes, can in fact, be normal processes responding to an abnormal environment.

Trauma and particular types of trauma are likely to create the experience of hearing voices as learning history is what establishes our sense of self. The way that we, others, the world react to us becomes part of how we construct our world, straight down to our perceptual experience (based on RFT). The “I” perspective is what learning history arrives through; however, as discussed in Enteggart et al. in many types of traumatic learning histories that perspective may be too heavily influenced by the perspective of another. Meaning, a frequent part of abuse is for someone to take control of another psychologically and/or physically, to impose different views onto the person of what is true/harmful/acceptable than the individual might arrive at on their own.

This may blur the ‘self,’ and based on RFT, blurring the ‘self’ may blur relations tied to the self (i.e., perception of sensory experience, perception of time, understanding of the other, the world, etc.) As you can imagine, this is some pretty hefty stuff.

What is key here is that if this conceptualization stands up to empirical testing, we need to change the way we treat voice hearing. Efforts that treat the symptom are most likely going to reinforce blurred self-other relations. Envision a clinician telling a client what the voices are and aren’t – that may lead to some change in symptoms, but it is also reinforcing, from an RFT perspective, an externally determined reality.

This is why it’s important for us to understand processes we treat. What seems perfectly logical and, in the short run, may even lead to symptom reduction can reinforce the very problem we seek to address. McEnteggart et al. discuss treating the experience of voices with work on self-other relations, an entirely different model.

What it also pulls, for me, is the value of RFT to innovation and integration. Because when we think in behavior-behavior relations and take a true functional-analytic perspective we understand that findings in one area may, and even should, apply in other areas. When we look at behavior and its function we can move past the limits of construct based statistics, measures, and talk to those in other areas – learning, innovating, and improving this world.






RFT: Let me show you something beautiful.

Stop over thinking RFT and feel it.

I would say that sometimes it takes a different perspective to look at the tools we are given and see them quite differently. We, the second and third generation ACTers, FAPers, and rising CFTers… we are reveling, rejecting, remixing, and refining the elegance of technical masterpieces.

So, here is one of my remixes. I don’t like connecting with RFT in examples of coin size, driving, or equations about how cats = “cats” and … =Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 11.03.28 PM

Okay, he’s cute. I’ll give you that… but he’s still a cat.

RFT is the rhythm of human thought and feeling. Just because the Internet is officially full of cats. doesn’t mean that our conceptualizations of human thought and language should be. (No offense to the cat lovers or Schrode’ [inside joke]}

So what is more human? Art.

Here’s a different way of connecting with frames. Take a moment to look at this picture. Notice.

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Feel your eyes pulled to the highest point? The background falling away into fuzziness. There’s a feeling of being pulled upward higher. It’s a visual hierarchical. This is what connecting with values, belonging, purpose… does to your sense of the world. You tune into the higher point and the rest falls away into the distance.

Now look at this picture.

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Notice how the pieces fall away and the whole pops forth. You notice the togetherness, the uniformity of what is actually separate pieces. When we feel in coordination with something we move towards it, we identify with it, we become in some way a reflection of the the other. (This is also a bit hierarchical, but “frames” are always functional concepts so let’s stick with what ‘works’.)

Now look at this picture.

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Maybe you could technically ‘see’ that this is tree bark but that’s not likely to be what you were paying attention to. Context sensitivity is like zooming in. You see the details. You experience and you might be hyper sensitive to change in the context (e.g. a giant lady bug landing in the middle of this might jolt your attention more so if you’re up this close).

Now look at this picture.

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This is coherence. See how your mind likes the fitting together of randomness into pattern? It’s naturally reinforcing. People don’t like messes.

Now look at this:

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This is a bit like the concept of adaptive peaks. Sometimes we can miss the forest, sunrise, and distance when we’re focusing on making wishes on the dandelions we can see in the immediate path.

This is a shorter post but I’m curious as to how people will experience these rather abstract artsy metaphors. If you like them, let me know and I’ll do more posts with art and music to reflect RFT concepts.




Opportunities In OBM: Addressing Conflict, Creativity, And Motivation With RFT

See this publication at

Published Sept 8th, 2016 –

By Angela J. Cathey, M.A.

Guest Author

Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) is booming and poised to grow exponentially. There are several fairly recent advancements in the behavior analysis of symbolic thought (RFT; Hayes, Barnes-Holmes, Roche, 2001) and technology (e.g., Natural Language Processing, NLP and Machine Learning, ML; Nadkarni, Ohno-Machado, & Chapman, 2011) that can help improve the reach of behavior analysts in OBM.

Relational Frame Theory

Relational Frame Theory (RFT; Hayes, Barnes-Holmes, & Roche, 2001) describes, among other things, how language consists of stimuli hooked in relation to ‘external’, and ‘internal’ stimuli. These relations demonstrate known properties and characteristics based on the way stimuli are related and number of times they are related. Humans, under many circumstances, demonstrate a tendency to become more heavily influenced by contingencies hooked to their verbal/symbolic context (Hayes, 1989) than their external environment. For example, given “rules” about what to expect in novel situations humans will often become insensitive to detecting solutions that do not fit the rule provided.

Understanding the influence of verbal relating allows us to understand and influence a variety of more complex behaviors within OBM contexts (Hayes, Bunting, Herbst, Bond, & Barnes-Holmes, 2006; Roche, Barnes-Holmes, Stewart, & O’Hora, 2002; Stewart, Barnes-Holmes, Bond, & Hayes, 2006). These patterns of relating to inner experience are evident in external behaviors like verbal behavior (e.g., ‘languaging’).

The Role of Natural Language Processing (NLP)

Recent research from functional contextual behavior analysts has recognized the utility of tracking relations in verbal behavior (Atkins & Styles, 2016; Collins, Chawla, Hsu, Grow, Otto, & Marlatt, 2009). However, most of this has not utilized Natural Language Processing (NLP; not to be confused with Neurolinguistic Programming). NLP refers to entire bodies of well-developed research and technologies developed in the fields of business over the last thirty years. NLP has long been used to gain knowledge in business settings as a method of examining customer relations (CRM) and tracking of other key performance indicators. This and other areas of research have long since demonstrated the utility of tracking verbal relating in prediction of behavior. These technologies have been under-recognized and utilized within the field of psychology as they were expensive and required special technological skill to apply. This is changing as companies like my own, Enso Contextual Behavioral Innovations, take on the task of shaping natural language processing to the needs of behavior analysts in a variety of settings.

What can RFT and NLP provide to behavior analysts in OBM?

Verbal relating is ever present in our world and research on RFT and therapies that have been built from it provide guidance for behavioral interventions that may be used to influence behavior. Detection of verbal relations (e.g., in writing, email, verbal conversational content, Facebook posts, etc.) using NLP can provide insight to behavior analysts about the contingencies controlling behavior that they may not otherwise be able to observe directly. This knowledge can then be used to intervene or to track the effect of other OBM interventions in verbal relations. As many businesses are accustomed to the use of NLP to understand customer relations they are generally accepting of such technologies. Here I will discuss the application of these two technologies to the OBM environment in regard to conflict, creativity, and motivation.

Verbal relating and conflict

Industrial/organizational research has consistently supported the importance of psychological safety (Edmondson, 1999) in supporting communication patterns that promote productivity, creativity, and even employee mental health. Psychological safety is thought to arise from establishing patterns of communication and behavior in the organizational environment that promote open and safe engagement with difficult issues. The examination of verbal relating through a RFT perspective can assist the behavioral OBM specialist in assessing the psychological safety of an OBM environment and providing interventions that promote adaptive communication.

Alignment in Verbal Relating

Verbal behavior between two or more individuals that becomes more similar linguistically (e.g., in tone or meaning) or realigns quickly after misalignment has been known to predict better relational outcomes (Dewulf, Gray, Putnam, Lewicki, Aarts, Bouwen, & Woerkum, 2009; Drake & Donohue, 1996; Richardson, Taylor, Snook, & Bennell, 2014). RFT conceptualizations of social behavior and group identification (e.g., deictic, hierarchical, and coordination/distinction framing) fit behavioral interventions and speak to creating collaborative environments (Quinones, Hayes, & Hayes, 2000). NLP research also indicates that these patterns are detectable and relate to meaningful outcomes (Wasson, 2016). OBM specialists can utilize this knowledge and intervene based on the specific relations noted to promote productive communication patterns.

Awareness in Self and Other Relating

Awareness of contingencies that drive self-or-other behavior supports more effective communication behaviors. This kind of awareness can be detected in verbal relating as well (Atkins & Styles, 2016; Collins, et al. 2009). Natural language processing research has also addressed measuring these processes (Pennebaker, Mehl, & Neiderhoffer, 2003). This knowledge together with basic RFT can be used to shape interventions that promote adaptive self and other awareness in the OBM environment.

Flexibility in Self and Other Relating

Flexibility in goal approach and group identification has been indicated as important to social and self-related outcomes (English & Chen, 2011; Lei, Waller, Hagen, & Kaplan, 2016; Luan, Rico, Xie, Zhang, 2016; Kashdan, 2010; Moran, 2015). This can also be detected in verbal behavior using NLP (Atkins & Styles 2016; Rentscher, Rohrbaugh, Shoham, & Mehl, 2013). The RFT informed OBM specialist utilize this information to shape interventions.


Creativity in problem solving and in general in OBM contexts can be a significant asset to businesses. This area too can be a difficult to measure and influence without the consideration of verbal relating. Creativity can be viewed as recombining ideas in new ways and noticing new ways of seeing the old. Awareness, as described above, is a component of creativity as well as flexibility in verbal behavior (e.g., metaphorical; Hayes, Barnes-Holmes, Roche, 2001) and even comedic strategy. NLP can also detect these types of verbal relations (Shutova, 2010).


Motivation can also be a challenge that costs significant resources or results in significant gains in the modern work environment. Behavior analysts (Skinner, 1986) have long since recognized issues that lead to poor motivation. RFT speaks to the importance of values and social identification in motivation (Foody, Barnes-Holmes, Barnes-Holmes, & Luciano, 2013), and NLP can again track this identification with sources of motivation and adaptive flexibility in these relations (Atkins & Styles, 2016).

Thus, OBM stands to gain significant knowledge and reach through the integration of RFT to practice and NLP as a method of tracking interventions. Though these technologies may initially appear intimidating, the use of an RFT consultant and use of a behaviorally informed NLP specialist can help take your OBM interventions to a new levels of effectiveness. For more information on the integration of RFT with other behavioral theory see Barnes-Holmes, Barnes-Holmes, & Cullinan (2000).


Atkins, P. W. B., & Styles, R. G. (2016). Measuring the self and rules in what people say: Exploring whether self-discrimination predicts long-term well-being. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 5(2), 71-126.

Barnes-Holmes, D., Barnes-Holmes, Y., & Cullinan, V. (2000). Relational frame theory and Skinner’s verbal behavior: A possible synthesis. Behavior Analysis, 23(1), 69-84.

Collins, S. E., Chawla, N., Hsu, S. H., Grow, J., Otto, J., M., & Marlatt, G. A. (2009). Language-based measures of mindfulness: Initial validity and clinical utility. Psychology of Addictive Behavior, 23(4), 743-749.

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transformation of stimulus functions. The Behavior Analyst, 23(2), 239-254.

Drake, L. E., & Donohue, W. A. (1996). Communicative frame theory in conflict and resolution. Communicative Research, 23(3), 297-322.

Dewulf, A., Gray, B., Putnam, L., Lewicki, R., Aarts, N., Bouwen, R., & Woerkum, C. (2009). Disentangling approaches to framing in conflict and negotiation
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Edmondson, A. (1999). Psychological safety and learning behavior in work teams.
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English, T. & Chen, S. (2011). Self-concept consistency and culture: Differential impact of two forms of consistency. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 1-12.

Foody, M., Barnes-Holmes, Y., Barnes-Holmes, D., & Luciano, C. (2013). An empirical investigation of hierarchical versus distinction relations in self-based ACT exercise. International Journal of Psychology & Psychological Therapy, 13(3), 373-388.

Hayes, S. C. (1989). Rule governed behavior: Cognition, contingencies, and instructional control. New York: Plenum Press.

Hayes, S. C., Barnes-Holmes, D., & Roche, B. (2001). Relational frame theory: A post-Skinnerian account of human language and cognition. New York: Kluwer Academic.

Hayes, S. C., Bunting, K., Herbst, S., Bond, F. W., & Barnes-Holmes, D. (2006).
Expanding the scope of organizational behavioral management: Relational frame theory and the experimental analysis of complex behavior. Journal of Organizational Management , 26(1/2), 1-23.

Kashdan, T. (2010). Psychological flexibility as a fundamental aspect of health. A Clinical Psychology Review, 20(7), 865-878.

Lei, Z., Waller, M. J., Hagen, J., & Kaplan, S. (2016). Team adaptiveness in dynamic contexts: Contextualizing the roles of interaction patterns and in-process planning.Group & Organizational Management, 4(4), 491-525.

Luan, K., Rico, R., Xie, X.-Y., & Zhang, G. (2016). Collective identification and external learning. Small Groups Research, 47(4), 384-405.

Moran, D. J. (2015). Acceptance and commitment training in the workplace. Current Opinion in Psychology, 2, 26-31.

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partner pronoun use and demand-withdraw interaction in couples with health problems. Journal of Family Psychology, 27(5), 691-701.

Richardson, B. H., Taylor, P. J., Snook, B. & Bennell, C. (2014). Language style
matching and police interrogation outcomes. Law and Human Behavior, 38(4), 1-

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Quinones, R., Hayes, L., & Hayes, S. C., (2000). On the benefits of collaboration: Consumer psychology, behavioral economics and relational frame theory. Managerial and Decision Economics, 21(3-4), 159-165.

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Stewart, I., Barnes-Holmes, D., Barnes-Holmes, Y., Bond, F., & Hayes, S. C. (2006). Relational frame theory and industrial/organizational psychology. Journal of Organizational Management, 26 (1-2), 55-90.

RFT: Meaning and meaninglessness.

This is my voice. If you are here listening, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

If you’ve been here before you know that I have a passion for RFT and science. I have spoken about my love of Rubik’s cubes, measurement, and quantum physics.

Let me show you how I began to walk this path. It will be difficult to share.

Parts of my life have been a bit too much like a Chuck Pallinuik book. Nothing making much sense or being reliable, but the unreliability. Chaos breeds a different type of focus, if you survive it.

Those that do find a way to survive, like I did, give purpose and find meaning in their deepest pains. RFT is the framework beyond most. If you have a purpose, it’s highly likely it can help you get there. If you don’t, it can help you find it.

Experiential contact has a way of making you aware, metaphorical has a way of gently guiding, and hierarchicals they give you a direction. They are the light at the end of the tunnel when life unceremoniously leaves you searching in the dark.

So, RFT is my swiss army knife of functionality and sense making.

Gone are my days of reading Kafka, Dostoyevsky, Dante’, Camus, and Pallinuik in pain, so I can briefly touch a hierarchical that brings existential crisis skipping only steps behind it. Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 9.16.00 PM

Why? Because stories of giant beetles don’t do much for real world application. They are abstracted metaphorical frame networks that leave you with little to ‘do’.

Yes, yes, there is meaning there but I find myself a little defused and over connected with that creepy beetle.

All of these things show us through metaphor, twisting and winding, a framework. And yet, what can I do with a kafka-esque framework but believe it?

Sticky coherence that doesn’t apply well to reality is a framework for blindness through rule governed insensitivity. If a rule blocks your sensitivity, a network of rules is a blindfold.

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As a scientist… that part of philosophy always pissed me off. So, I am like Sisypus? Pushing my rock up hill? Great. I can feel it, now what? Stop?

Obviously you’ve never met gravity.

You got a problem? RFT-it.

If it is something to do with people, thinking, or anything thinking people made… chances are RFT can tell you something meaningful about it.

It is a framework that is infinitely build-able, testable… no, not testable in the way of this “framing” is occurring in this particular moment. I’ll leave that to the basic researchers. My world is in application.

I came here to fix things. So, let’s get down to business people. The world has been waiting for us to walk the same direction. Let’s use a swiss army knife to strap these airy construct theories together and start moving some real change.

That. would. be. meaningful. That would be aware. That, could change the world.

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Copyright 2016 © Angela Cathey. All Rights Reserved.

RFT: The guerilla guide to pro-social change

Welcome to Frame Club. A Guerilla guide to pro-social change with RFT.

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The world is full of simple repetitive messaging. Everything is a bumper sticker. “Party A is evil, party B is good” and…. shootings, discrimination, and ignorance follow.

Life and people aren’t bumper stickers. 

The repetitive simple messaging we’re privy to means that we’re deriving copies of copies of copies. That’s not good.  We’re also used to this and insensitive at times to direct contact contingencies. So, we get around rules in other ways for instance politicians can now move us more effectively through associative frame speak than through direct logic (eh hem… Drumpf for President anyone?).

And yet, we’re not doomed to idiocracy.

We know that simple low complexity derivation begets 1) rules, which leads to 2) unawareness (rule governed insensitivity to contingencies).

When you add to that mix pain, you get: 1) avoidance, that leads of course to resilient and contagious ideas. This is why we teach acceptance by metaphor and experience. You can’t just say “accept” because you end up with a useless rigid rule and lack of awareness of the contingencies around it.

So, let’s acknowledge what’s there and why it’s there.

We all have histories of learning negative discriminatory relations about race, sex, gender, social class, body image, and a whole host of other things.

Even if they weren’t outright stated (aka you didn’t hear racist, sexist, anti-gay messaging regularly) simple repetition of any situation creates rules which spread in our minds in a variety of ways. We then deal with this in predictable ways.

Some of these rules may come about just through noticing differences and similarities between ourselves and others (Roche, Barnes-Holmes, Barnes-Holmes, Stewart, and O’Hora, 2002) and this influences our behavior.

So, we’re going to have these relations as a bi-product of our natural tendencies to categorize and organize our worlds (if we didn’t life would be a bit like 50 first dates. Where everything would be new and foreign each time we contacted it. That’s not workable. )

We’re going to have these rules in our heads about people that are painful as a result of living. We can try to wish them away but that’s just going to result in rules in the other direction then create insensitivity to direct contingencies (even if they’re as big as a gorilla in the room.)

Unfortunately, there is no erasing of relations. We all have painful thoughts that we’d rather not acknowledge.

Luckily, there’s been some great work on what this is in the social realm and what we can do about it (see Vilardaga, Levin, Hildebrant, Hayes, & Yadavia 2008, May ABA – need to log into ACBS for access) or Vilardaga, Hayes, Levin 2014 – The Flexible Connectedness Model).

We can deal with relations that are problematic in a variety of ways.

In some cases, we can simply derive new more complex relations that fade the old relations in importance; however, when the rule is more stubborn (i.e, involves any pain as it so often does when rules latch on to humans) this often won’t be enough.

We often need a shift in context (defusion, mindfulness of the contingencies of that drive our behavior in non-rule-based form). We can also combine these with combinations of context shift like this Deictic Framing Exercise (exercise by Vilardaga, Levin, Hayes, 2008 – video by Gareth Holman). This type of exercise combines several relations that move us past rule-based insensitivity including shifts in deictic and deictic related framing (temporal, hierarchial, etc.).

                 ****This is likely to work for those who are willing to engage.*** 

However, we know that coherence, simplicity, avoidance of pain… all of this is self-reinforcing and we can’t expect a large portion of the population to sit down and do a perspective-taking exercise just yet. So, what can we do?

 Adapt the message or the context.

If argumentation and rule-based insensitivity are likely you need to adapt the message. Go metaphorical, go high complexity, and go associative. Feelings aren’t as easily blocked (see every perfume commercial ever made.)

Or shift the context, humor can work well at getting our attention when insensitivity is the norm (see Old Spice Muscle Pump  commercials that get our attention when we normally tune commercials out).

When humor, feeling, metaphor, aren’t practical and/or the consequences are too high, we can also reduce the accessibility of Sds (discriminative stimuli) if we know what’s pulling the problematic frames. We could be enacting this in some of our institutions (e.g., the justice system) now. We know the impact of race on judgments and sentencing and yet we just keep sending people into the justice system and pretending human bias isn’t there. When are we going to just start recognizing and adjusting to human bias tendencies to protect people? We’ll tend to engage in mass scale rule-based insensitivity to avoid contacting what’s difficult (see the DARE program and abstinence education for policies that continue to be funded despite their widely recognized ineffectiveness).

Contextual Behavioral Science and RFT can begin to mindfully examine these contingencies if we take the time to look at what’s going on with a stance of self-other compassion without blaming or shaming either party we can start from a new context where together we step forward to understand what keeps us stuck hurting ourselves and each other.

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Copyright 2016 © Angela Cathey. All Rights Reserved.