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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Reality Bites: Relational Frame Theory

What if you were asked to define something, but not use any words to do it? Like one hand clapping, this Zen like problem defies resolution because it is self contradictory. Definition requires words and clapping requires hands, and without words or hands, one can neither define things or expect applause for the effort.

A similar problem occurs when one is asked to explain something without using the metaphors that allow you to explain it. This rises to the level of paradox, as metaphor is key not only to gaining understanding, but to understanding itself.

Using multiple levels of metaphor allows one not just to do but to communicate science. Indeed, the mathematics always follows the metaphor, as Newton and Einstein would attest. Sometimes the metaphors are a cipher to a reality yet to be revealed, and as Freudian terminology demonstrate float away from a reality it can scarcely signify. But I suppose that's just my ego talking.

But syntax can not only act as a promissory note for events implied or yet to be discovered, it can be a thing in itself, ungrounded to any physical or physiological reality. So words can relate to words in an endless cycle. This results in philosophy that is not stupid (for who's to tell?), but rather is stupefying. For this writer, stupefying reasoning is something I not only can't fathom, but can't really criticize either. Like a Jackson Pollock painting, I just look at it, confused; as I am equally confused with those who presume that they 'get it', like the fine weave in the Emperor's new clothes.

Which brings me to the latest hot topic (or more likely fad) in psychology, relational frame theory, and its therapeutic equivalent, acceptance and commitment therapy, or ACT. Honestly, for someone who can read neuroscience journals in stride, this one just baffles me, and quells my vicious sense of irony. Sort of like verbal inkblots I suppose.

Steven Hayes, founder of RFT, creating flow chart
mapping his revolutionary theory.

So what is RFT? Here is The short answer.

If you get this, let me know, for I have some recent Jackson Pollock paintings to sell you.

1 comment:

Mark said...
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