Steve's reactions to the Time article

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The author did a terrific job, in my view. He starts out with a sentence that has me as a mental patient and finishes with a paragraph that says for ACT to go mainstream it will have to shed "its icky zealotry and grandiose predictions" but in between is a pretty serious effort to understand and explain.

I want to acknowledge John Cloud publicly. If every reporter treats this work as carefully and fairly we will be blessed. He is an honorable guy who worked really hard over several months to get it right.

The first thing John said was "I'm doing the RFT tutorial. I'm half way through it." I paused and replied "OK. If you are doing that, I'm there. If you are that serious I will answer every question and spend every ounce of energy needed to help you do your work." And I did. I was an open book (as you can see!). Some of what is in that story my mother did not know. But he earned that.

Of course, he is a writer, and writers need angles. The angle he chose was almost mythological: wild eyed rebel vs. the establishment. Even the photos fit that theme (me in a motorcycle jacket; in a tree fort; etc). So some of the basic science, the grants etc were deemphasized and things like bad clothes or weird rings were emphasized.

But, hey, in the grand scheme of things ACT is more outside than inside, so it was not a functional distortion to omit some things like that.

I apologize for the focus on me. That was not of my doing: John came to ABCT, interviewed Tim Beck, David Barlow, Judith Beck and many others. He went and saw talks by Kelly, Kirk, and many others. He then wrote the story as he chose. I suppose he felt that he needed to get people to care about the issue enough to read a very long story ... and he did that by putting my own struggles at center stage.

Mostly all other names in the ACT / RFT universe are not in the story. I did try repeatedly to push the names of researchers or co-authors (as John will attest!) but reporters just make their own calls on such things. And I wish he'd mentioned behavior analysis at least once (I begged!). But RFT is there by name; and some of the science is there. He does mention in a general way the students and the researchers and clinicians around the world. And the World Conference is mentioned! Woo Hoo. And the website is there ... which may be why you are reading this.

I am so thankful that there were no "anti" quotes from the ACT side about anyone. The story shows us (well, at least me) as a bit goofy, but not negative toward others. We took a few shots ... but that is to be expected I suppose.

Is this story premature? Maybe, but the culture decides on such things, and through accident and interest, here we are.

On the issue of grandiosity

No predictions are in there that are grandiose. What is in there is the willingness to see that the culture needs so much more from behavioral science than it is providing. I did say "Our survival really is at stake." That is so. Can anyone looking at the "war on terrorism" not realize that soldiers alone cannot do it? But that does not mean I think we can solve the problem. I did not say that and that is not in the quote. I just think we have to try. We have to try to solve the problem of hatred. We have to find a way to help people learn to love themselves and others, and to act in accord with their deepest values. And I do think we may have a possible path forward inside this work -- let's see. Together, let's see. That is a grand vision maybe ... but I'm not the only one dreaming. Who knows about outcome ... can we begin the process?

On the cult deal ... look for the other page and James Herbert's great talk on that given at the ACT Summer Institute.

My bottom line

In the long run what will matter is the substance: the science and the human value of the work we do. We will need every ounce of community and shared values and purpose we've gathered to do our work together as it becomes more visible and as the resulting centrifugal forces gather. The reason this work is being noticed is because of a community that cares. It is not a cult. There is no forced agreement. Look at this site! Anyone can post anything; and to be a member you just join. How much more open can a group be? I know of no other scientific group that is developing as an open community like this. How can a shared, open, self-critical community be a cult! It is just a fear word.

To the critics who say it, I say, join the group and post your views. You will find reason, support, and compassion here, not hierarchy.

So let's keep our eye on the horizon and remember why we got into this work in the first place. It was not about attention in magazines, nice though that might be. Unlike the fear expressed from by others outside of this community, it does not run on artificial agreement or hierarchy -- we need each of us to bring ourselves forward and to create something of value together. As individuals. Together.

Despite the worries, it seems clear we are entering into the conversation in a new way. That is an opportunity. It is also a burden. It will cut in multiple ways.

Could I also say on a personal level that I appreciate the support I've received in this process from many of you who have known it was going on. The letters and emails I am now getting from people who are suffering are enough to make me weep ... as my students have seen. Let's remember them. This work is about them.