December 11, 2015
This is my eleventh response to “Epistemological Barriers to Radical Behaviorism” (O’Donohue et al., 1998). The authors write that “Humans can arrange contingencies that will further the species and the values that the members may hold, such as freedom and personal dignity.” In yesterday’s class my students and I engaged in one last conversation about the cumulative effects of Sound Verbal Behavior (SVB) during this semester. It was moving to hear how positively affected everyone was by the discovery and exploration of SVB. When I asked them to talk about what has changed since they started this class nobody spoke.
It wasn’t that nobody had anything to say or didn’t dare to speak, but a deep silence and relaxation fell over our group. It was a profound experience and I described what was happening. Throughout the semester various aspects of SVB had been addressed, but this unique experience of meditation had not happened to us as a group. Everyone was blissful and I could tell by their faces that many students were surprised by the tangible beauty of this experience. The first one to describe this calmly said he felt that SVB pulled them into himself. Others agreed and reported that they had already experienced this elsewhere before.
One girl said she had always tried to describe SVB, but never had the words for it. Another person, who had been hearing voices his whole life, shared that because of SVB he was now hearing pleasant voices. Repeatedly, students reported on how changes in their environment had led to changes in their behavior. Also, some spoke about the mental health services they had received and which mostly involved Noxious Verbal Behavior (NVB). Even psychiatrists, therapists, counselors and teachers don’t know about SVB and, consequently, are not helping. At best they have instances of SVB, but they don’t know what it takes to continue with it.
For about one full hour our SVB conversation continued and students brought up the fact that their stress, fear, anxiety and depression had dissolved and they were able to identify the different people and situations which had brought that about. One student showed that he had been biting his nails his entire life, but he declared that now he was confident he would find a way to stop this habit. I had told the class at the beginning of this semester that I myself used to be a nail-biter and he still remembered that. The students looked at me and at each other. We smiled and we felt a deep sense of relief and gratefulness.