A Response to Mavis Tsai’s TEDx Talk: Create Extraordinary Interactions

by Anne Gulyas

Connection. It happens everywhere in the world. Anywhere. It happens early in the pre-dawn hours, at mid-day or late into the evening. Often, it is a beginning or poignant time of relationship within the intimacy of lovers, family or friends. Sometimes, it stands alone as a shared moment between strangers. For me, it is the whole reason for existing at all, and I know that I am not alone in this belief.

Yet, despite the central importance of connection for me, 3 years ago I found myself adrift and excruciatingly isolated. I had shut down and retreated into a state of self-imposed exile after several severe losses—the death of my mother and the death of a relationship with a man I loved. Somewhere in the grief, I had slipped into an existence of survival. I worked, I ate, and slept, I even socialized albeit in an emotionally distant way. 

I might have continued in this manner of “living” until my own passing were it not for a friend who invited me to Mavis Tsai’s Live with Awareness, Courage and Love (ACL) meet-up group. Live with ACL is a global project in five continents that brings the principles of Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP) to the general public. 

I no longer wait for the universe to provide me with the chance meetings that somehow become memorable. Now, I create the extraordinary.

In this very first group, I experienced reconnection with myself and my purpose, as well as a renewed bond with my friend and new connections with strangers. So powerful was this “awakening” that I have dedicated myself to the mission of FAP and ACL: facilitating individuals in deepening interpersonal connection and rising to live more true to themselves. Like many people, I have in memory, a number of interactions over my lifetime that are unforgettable for their intensity, depth, insight, and timing. They happened without planning, and changed the way I thought and felt about life and my place in it. Without exception, it left both of us feeling seen, understood, and deeply cared about. These interactions often served as touchstones reminding me in darker and more challenging times of what is possible. 

As much as I loved and even lived for such interactions, I, possibly like most people, awaited their arrival in my life. Sometimes I waited patiently, at other times, in deep anguish. At times I would pray for more of these—and then I’d wait some more. After all, you can’t make them happen, right? Wrong. What I’ve learned from Mavis’s ACL groups and from FAP, so well captured in her TEDx talk, is that we can intentionally create these interactions, and this changes everything!

See also: Learning to Relate: ACT + FAP for Clients with Intimacy Issues

In this TEDx talk, Mavis invites us to consider that we each can create extraordinary moments and interactions for ourselves and everyone we encounter. By showing us the steps of how to build exceptional connections with ourselves and with others, we are given tools to radically enrich existing relationships as well as any chance meeting. 

I’ve taken the six questions and three components from this talk and made them a part of who and how I am. I no longer wait for the universe to provide me with the chance meetings that somehow become memorable. Now, I create and share the extraordinary. 

Anne Gulyas is a FAP research interventionist for studies conducted by Robert Kohlenberg and Mavis Tsai at the University of Washington. As co-organizer for the Seattle Live with Awareness, Courage and Love Meetup, she is on a team that is working to bring the principles of FAP worldwide.

Functional Analytic Psychotherapy Made SimpleMavis Tsai, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and research scientist at University of Washington’s Center for Science of Social Connection. She co-created (with Robert Kohlenberg) Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP), a treatment that harnesses the power of the therapeutic relationship to transform clients’ lives. A recipient of Washington State’s Distinguished Psychologist Award, she trains volunteers in five continents to launch Live with Awareness, Courage and Love Meetups, dedicated to bringing the principles of FAP to the general public. www.livewithacl.org. She is a co-author of FAP Made Simple.



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