ACT Book Summary: Pages 212 - 219

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This is a section I find very compelling and challenging. It has parts I can put into words but don't understand. It has other parts I understand, but can't put into words (Should the "buts" be "ands"?). At least it seems that way to me. I can put into words the difference between judgments and choices but can't seem to differentiate in practical examples. I have, for example, a vague feeling for where I want to go with the organization I manage. This feels like a value. I want everyone to be relatively happy and do a good job. That seems like a goal. What's my value here?

I begin with "Choice" on page 212. Choice is distinguished from judgment-almost as a residual category (defined by what it isn't) of behavioral processes with certain characteristics that are used to select among alternatives. A selection among alternatives based on reasons is a judgment. Reasons are verbal formulations of cause and effect which answer the question "why?". The formulations serve as a justification of sorts which may make reference to societal or personal outcomes or use quasi scientific historically based deterministic assertions. For example, "I eat fruits and vegetables because they clean out my system". A choice is a selection among alternatives that may be made with reasons but not for reasons. The live demonstrative exercise is to offer your fists and say, "Choose!". The client points to one. When ask "Why?", he may or may not formulate a reason; but most persons will realize that the reason is formulated after the act of choosing and therefore not functioning causally in the selection process. In a judgment, the weighing of pros and cons actually influences the outcome of the selection process. For example, "I was going to hire Mr. Smith because of his job skills. I decided not to hire him when I considered his poor health." Is it a judgment because my awareness of Mr. Smith's health problems precede my selection of Mr. Jones? Would it have been a choice if I met them both, wanted to hire Mr. Jones but didn't do so until I found out about Mr. Smith's health?

Then there's this business on 213 and 214 about asking why a reason is true as a way undermining the causal relationship between the reason and the selection(in the mind of the client, that is). Or asking why a food is chosen and then when they say it tastes good you say you asked the person to choose and not their taste buds. Maybe this is over my head. The authors acknowledge that there is no "free choice" in a scientific sense. Is this then a question of creating the subjective illusion of "free choice" by impeachment of reason(or reason giving)? This seems to be the point of the paragraph at the end of this section. I can't quite grasp this. Help me Francis or Patty or Hank or someone.

Valuing is always occurring as a behavior. The dialogue between Therapist and Client on page 215 is to show how choices are always being made and purposes fulfilled. The point here does not seem to be to elucidate how these selections among alternatives are choices rather than judgments even though the word "choice" is used. Perhaps this follows in some logical way from the previous section. Still the implication is that clients are not conscious of the selection among alternatives process being "choice making" and this dialogue will make them so.

What do you want your life to stand for? The dialogue is with an independently wealthy client presumably because such an unfortunate is stripped of the illusion that working for a living guides life, I guess. Anyway, they do the exercise about attending the client's funeral and what he wishes everyone would say. The therapist comments that he doesn't expect them to say "...he was no fluke." I think this is to make the point that avoiding negatives is out as a value in the sense that we're after here(File it. Along with judgments and stuff determined by reasons). They're mainly trying to distinguish values, whatever they are, from the clients current real life actions. This section ends with Albert Schweitzer as an example of someone known by what he stood for rather than specific accomplishments and it recommends the values assessment homework assignment (pages 224-225). We'll get to that shortly. I wish I could've gone to Dr. Wilson's ABA workshop on this; but I chose Prof. Barnes-Holmes' RFT workshop (or was it a judgment? Does it matter how I think I arrived at the selection among alternatives?).

Choice and Commitment. If actions are based on reasons and reasons change, then "true commitments" are better done as choices than as judgments. The heart of the ACT life strategy seems to be to develop a life direction in the behavioral sense relatively independent of thoughts and impulses of the moment. The marriage commitment is given as an example of a commitment that is undermined 50% of the time by divorce. The authors see the "cause" of divorce as the persons involved not knowing how to make commitments and marrying on the basis of judgments, decisions, and reasons-therefore not having made a commitment at all by our definition (right?). Is this logic circular? Does it follow that divorce can have no other cause? Maybe so-for our purposes. Anyway, the experience (private event?) of falling in and out of love is rather unpredictable compared to the "choice" quality of commitment. This frames things in a way that life can be lived differently for some than those who "believe" in love feelings as a guideline for action taking. They conclude that commitments are choices free of reasons and changeable verbal cover and suggest the Chessboard Metaphor and Gardening Metaphor as ways to illustrate conceptually.