Falling in Love with a Behaviorist

When I started walking the path of Psychology as a student I had several crushes. My first love was absolutely linked to Freud. I was infatuated by his theory, his writings and psychoanalysis in general. I was fantasising of being an analyst myself and stay connected with Freud for all my life. Some years afterwards this fantasy began to fade away. I got to know other theories which were more appealing.


Lacanian theory was one of them. I felt seduced by Lacan’s psycholinguistic approach and I became a follower. I did not say that I had betrayed Freud. After all, Lacan was among the psychoanalytical community. I was just playing around, trying to elaborate on my knowledge. Soon this game was not fun at all. My initial enthusiasm was transformed into noise in my head. I was feeling lost in the words, the meanings, the interpretations and the connotations. I had the sense that I could not fit in anymore. I said goodbye after years of struggling to figure out the clarity. Apart from noise in my head my vision got blurry. It was a wise decision to take care of myself and abstain from theories that did not nurture me mentally.


I was growing older and my faith in love at first sight was growing smaller. At that phase I was introduced with Beck. This theory was interesting and made sense to me. I studied Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and I started working as a CBT therapist. Everything seemed neat and clear. My personal internal processes, however, were still alive.


I gave myself some days off and I attended a conference in Cognitive Therapy in Istanbul. I thought it would be fun to attend an international conference and enjoy a city I really loved. And, there, the touristic vibes in relation with the 3rd wave CBT approaches created an inspiring scenery. I wanted to discover its beauties and I became a member of the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACBS).


I bumped into Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP) and a miracle of love took place! But just a minute! FAP is a behavioral therapy focusing on therapeutic relationship. How come was I in love with behaviorism again? I started reading Skinner and I could feel this conflict. His writings used to be aversive for me since my undergraduate years. I had to expose myself once again to his theory. It was among the things I had to accomplish, in order to become a certified FAP trainer.


I threw myself to books, articles and podcasts. Or, in behavioral terms, I re-exposed myself and started exhibiting respondent and operant conditioning. Eliciting stimuli made my heart beating before sitting on my desk. Reinforcing stimuli led me to the library and there I was. Reading Skinner and actually falling in love with him!


His descriptions were not mechanical anymore. I was approaching him without being intimidated by his image. My heartbeat became softer. It was not only habituation which drove me to this condition. I understood that we shared common values and this made me talk the same language, despite the fact that I am not that scientifically driven. Our common passion for analysing human behavior brought me closer to him.


This is a parallel process in human relationships. When we get acquainted with our partners’ behaviors which make no meaning or are totally different from ours, we have the tendency to take distance. However, if we step closer and investigate the different other, we usually get in touch with a pleasant surprise: the discovery of common values and the creation of a common language. The beauty in a relationship is this co-creation. And if we have a rich vocabulary, we can say “I love you” in so many different ways..! Not an easy task but worth walking its path.