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The Pain and Pride in the Veins of my Academic Family Tree

Last night, I watched "Psychological flexibility: How love turns pain into purpose", the first TEDx talk of Steven C. Hayes, my academic grandfather. All sorts of mental and emotional stuff showed up for me as I sat down to view it on my big screen. As some of you know, I was selected to give a TEDx talk but then asked to change it significantly in an unreasonable amount of time and thus never gave it!

Some people watched my practice run, so its message has still been received, and I am very glad about that. It is no surprise - nor coincidence - that it overlaps a great deal with what my "Grandpa Steve" had to say. If you know me (or if you watched that practice run), you are familiar with an incident that determined my life's purpose. At age 4 when my Kindergarten teacher told me that I was too little to carry my mat home, I became determined to be a voice for children in need. Around the 14:30 mark, Steve in a heart-breaking poignant, personal story talks about his life purpose, also discovered during childhood. And, also, like me, in his talk Steve talks of his ego and how it affects that purpose.   And, while ego can get out of hand, there are some benefits to tooting your horn...given the right context! Even though I did not give the talk, the fact that I was selected from hundreds of people to be "good enough" to do so is due in large part to the three men who came up with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, ACT. Kelly, Steve, and Kirk gave me, and so many other science-minded clinicians who deeply care about meaning and compassion, a model to follow in our treatment of clients. Steve spoke of studies of psychological flexibility positively predicting parenting outcomes, well-being, and exercise maintenance. He said studies show that psychological flexibility is negatively related to depression, trauma, and other negative psychological outcomes. He mentioned treatment studies showing that ACT can manipulate psychological flexibility and thus change those patterns. I turned to Roy, my husband, who was sitting beside me also watching, and I said, "My students and I have done some of those studies!" It was an exciting moment. I am super proud to say that my mentor and his mentor (along with the Holy Ghost Writer, lol) wrote the original ACT book and that I have watched the model continue to evolve.  What REALLY was exciting to me, though, was to see this man who has always - to me - been in a position of power, leadership, and authority, be VERY genuinely vulnerable. There was not one moment when I doubted the authenticity of how Steve was behaving or what he was saying. He was living the ACT model every moment he was on stage, and that means that he was, as he says in the talk, being open - entirely - to his experience, whatever it was, in the moment, moment to moment, with an active willingness to feel whatever showed up in the service of teaching and/or sharing something important. He talks about an important pivot between pain and purpose and how love is an important connection that reminds us all why we do what we do and helps us get through the more inevitable difficult times. He mentions trusting his experience, without even knowing what it is exactly, or what to call it - and even when he has reservation - IN THE SERVICE OF SOMETHING. Those of you who have seen my talk, know that I say something almost exactly the same. I don't want to spoil his, though, so I won't say more about that. There is a truly extraordinary part where he mentions a long-standing, old, familiar "bad" behavior that shows up in a slightly different form. I will let you watch to see what I mean (it is around the 9 minute mark). I remember attending a workshop conducted by Steve when I was a graduate student where I had a similar experience. We all have this; the a-ha that makes you want to vomit because you realize you REALLY haven't been doing better, and worse, you have tricked yourself and others. AND, this is when he realizes that acceptance and mindfulness in the context of compassionate valuing is the answer. I think this maps on to my talk too, and I think this is exactly why ACT training is so experiential. This is why ACT labs are like families and why ACT sessions include therapists' vulnerabilities. There is no doubt in my mind that ACT is behaviorism, but certainly driven by love, and I just have to look up the branch of my academic tree to know Carl Rogers got it right when he said, "What is most personal is most universal."   Here's the link to my Grandpa Steve's talk: Last night, I watched "Psychological flexibility: How love turns pain into purpose", the first TEDx talk of Steven C. Hayes, my academic grandfather. All sorts of mental and emotional stuff showed up for me as I sat down to view it on my big screen. As most of you know, I was selected to give a TEDx talk but then asked to change it significantly in an unreasonable amount of time and thus never gave it! Many of you watched my practice run, so its message has still been received, and I am very glad about that. It is no surprise - nor coincidence - that it overlaps a great deal with what my "Grandpa Steve" had to say. If you know me (or if you watched that practice run), you are familiar with an incident that determined my life's purpose. At age 4 when my Kindergarten teacher told me that I was too little to carry my mat home, I became determined to be a voice for children in need. Around the 14:30 mark, Steve in a heart-breaking poignant, personal story talks about his life purpose, also discovered during childhood. And, also, like me, in his talk Steve talks of his ego and how it affects that purpose.   And, while ego can get out of hand, there are some benefits to tooting your horn...given the right context! Even though I did not give the talk, the fact that I was selected from hundreds of people to be "good enough" to do so is due in large part to these three guys right here: Kelly, Steve, and Kirk (pictured here from left to right) gave me, and so many other science-minded clinicians who deeply care about meaning and compassion, a model to follow in our treatment of clients. Steve spoke of studies of psychological flexibility positively predicting parenting outcomes, well-being, and exercise maintenance. He said studies show that psychological flexibility is negatively related to depression, trauma, and other negative psychological outcomes. He mentioned treatment studies showing that ACT can manipulate psychological flexibility and thus change those patterns. I turned to Roy, my husband, who was sitting beside me also watching, and I said, "My students and I have done some of those studies!" It was an exciting moment. I am super proud to say that my mentor and his mentor (along with the Holy Ghost Writer, lol) wrote the original ACT book and that I have watched the model continue to evolve.  What REALLY was exciting to me, though, was to see this man who has always - to me - been in a position of power, leadership, and authority, be VERY genuinely vulnerable. There was not one moment when I doubted the authenticity of how Steve was behaving or what he was saying. He was living the ACT model every moment he was on stage, and that means that he was, as he says in the talk, being open - entirely - to his experience, whatever it was, in the moment, moment to moment, with an active willingness to feel whatever showed up in the service of teaching and/or sharing something important. He talks about an important pivot between pain and purpose and how love is an important connection that reminds us all why we do what we do and helps us get through the more inevitable difficult times. He mentions trusting his experience, without even knowing what it is exactly, or what to call it - and even when he has reservation - IN THE SERVICE OF SOMETHING. Those of you who have seen my talk, know that I say something almost exactly the same. I don't want to spoil his, though, so I won't say more about that.   There is a truly extraordinary part where he mentions a long-standing, old, familiar "bad" behavior that shows up in a slightly different form. I will let you watch to see what I mean (it is around the 9 minute mark). I remember attending a workshop conducted by Steve when I was a graduate student where I had a similar experience. We all have this; the a-ha that makes you want to vomit because you realize you REALLY haven't been doing better, and worse, you have tricked yourself and others. AND, this is when he realizes that acceptance and mindfulness in the context of compassionate valuing is the answer. I think this maps on to my talk too, and I think this is exactly why ACT training is so experiential. This is why ACT labs are like families and why ACT sessions include therapists' vulnerabilities. There is no doubt in my mind that ACT is behaviorism, but certainly driven by love, and I just have to look up the branch of my academic tree to know Carl Rogers got it right when he said, "What is most personal is most universal."   Here's the link to my Grandpa Steve's talk: https://youtu.be/o79_gmO5ppg It is well worth your time :)


#acceptance #mindfulness #ACT #anxiety #stress

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