The Lift 013 | Be Kind to Yourself: Failures and Successes are Teachers with Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales

The Podcast

An ABA Technologies Academy Podcast

 1.0 BACB, 1 Supervision

Price: $15.00

Linda LeBlan and Tyra Sellers

Linda A. LeBlanc, PhD, BCBA-D

Tyra P. Sellers, JD, PhD, BCBA-D


This podcast episode describes the importance of reflection and self-compassion in evolving yourself as a supervisor.  Factors leading us to be overly self-critical and unforgiving are discussed along with strategies to minimize those perfectionist tendencies. The authors each describe their journey of maturation as a supervisor and their current perspective on their early efforts in supervision. They model an activity for exploring these issues that any supervisor can use.

Learning Checklist

What you’ll learn in the course and be able to do afterward

  1. Attendees will be able to identify the rules and contingencies involved in being harshly self-critical

  2. Attendees will be able to identify strategies to use when they find themselves being overly unkind to themselves with respect to current or past performance

  3. Attendees will be able to complete the “letter to your younger/future self” activity.

Course Rating

"This course is recommended for BCaBA, BCBA, and students of behavior analysis who will be or are currently receiving supervision"

Buy CES $15

Supervisor and Mentor book back coverThe Book

The book focuses on the importance of strong relationships and teaching higher-order skills throughout any supervisory endeavor. The authors provide a conceptually sound set of supervision practices that will guide the actions of those who aspire to become better supervisors or mentors at any point in their careers.

Learn More      






Dr. Linda LeBlanc (00:08):

Welcome everyone to podcast, episode 13 of The Lift. This is Linda LeBlanc.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (00:15):

And I'm Tyra.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (00:16):

We wanna welcome our guest and our co-author Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales. Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales is an associate professor in the department of behavior analysis in the University of North Texas. She and her graduate students collaborate with community partners all over that portion of Texas to work with people who are under-resourced and marginalized within current societal structures. This is a big part of what she does in her lab at North Texas in collaboration with other disciplines such as women's and gender studies and applied anthropology. She's doing a lot for our field serving on boards and disciplinary committees and working with the ABAI practice board in their new DEI efforts. Thank you for all of that good effort. Most importantly and close to our heart, she is our co-author on this book on supervision and mentoring, and she's got another book out on love and science, and the treatment of Autism. You're a busy lady and we appreciate your time. Thank you for being with us, Shahla. We missed you.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (01:38):

Thank you for taking me on this journey with you. It's been so satisfying because I think it's helping a lot of people, but also I learned a lot in the process, so I appreciate being here for the beginning and the end. [Laughing]

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (01:55):

Yay. I think I certainly feel the same way. Not only the process of writing the book, that was a tremendous learning experience, but even the process of doing these podcasts and interacting with different people and hearing their different perspectives on each of the chapters has also been quite a journey. Thank you for being here. Now we have a quote, of course, and we actually have two from this chapter that I love. The first one by Indira Gandhi, “Every new experience brings its own maturity and a greater clarity of vision.” What are your thoughts on that one?

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (02:45):

It's a beautiful and a very hard lesson. It's beautiful to see things clearly, but it's a little painful sometimes to know that if you knew then what you know now, you would've done things differently, and this is one of the things I think we reflected a lot during the writing of the book. Even that's an important thing to narrate for the people that you're mentoring, what that process is, how you went through it, and then how you look back on it and thinking about if you could change things, what would you change? How would you change them? Although I think it's a profound statement, I think it's also one of the beautiful and hard things about getting old.[Laughing] Hopefully you're old with reflection. [Laughing]

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (03:42):

That maturity is a hard one and not necessarily a given. Those new experiences are adding up. If you are really able to give yourself a little perspective and distance and self-reflect, then yeah... [Laughing] you get that maturity that gives you different thoughts rather than just more wrinkles. [Laughing]

Dr. Tyra Sellers (04:07):

Yeah. I think what I take away from this quote is just the reminder that if we are open to it, every situation should make us better. Not always easy, sometimes painful, but no time is wasted. Especially a mistake that can be something, if you allow it, that can help you grow. Hopefully you honor that mistake by having that clarity of vision and becoming just a little bit more mature.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (04:46):

The title of that chapter 13 in our book, the last one is, "Be kind to yourself. Failures and successes are teachers," and that can be hard to embrace. The notion that we put ourselves in the best position to learn if we can embrace all of the past experiences, even when they hurt. Even when they were a mistake and that over time, that ability to see the past mistakes and circumstances and not beat yourself up with them, is your key to really being able to learn from all of your experiences. It's so hard. [Laughing] It's so hard to respond to mistakes in a positive way and not feel threatened by them. It feels like it's part and parcel of the human condition. What are your thoughts, Shahla?

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (05:56):

I agree with all of that. I think one of the hardest things for me has been when I realized that my mistakes have hurt other people, especially children or vulnerable people. That helps you check it and see, "Well, what was it that I was doing there that I could've done differently, that would've maximized benefit and minimized harm?" I think especially right now where things are changing so much in our field, it's not always clear what will help the most, what will hurt the least. One of the biggest lessons I've learned is I really function better in a collective group where you can talk through those things before you jump and think deeply. We talk about that in the problem-solving chapter, but think deeply. What are all the possible outcomes of one decision over another, and who will they affect? In what way? It's so good to have different vantage points. I think that's one of the biggest things for me, especially recently, that I've learned. There's less likely to have errors or mistakes that will hurt other people if you're taking counsel together. Especially with people who look at things very differently from you, so that you can see all those vantage points.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (07:41):

I love that. I think that goes along with, I suspect for most of us, mistakes in early childhood, and then along the way, at least in Western culture for sure, are viewed as bad. Something you did wrong. I certainly have engaged in behavior like that with my own children. They knock over a glass of juice at the breakfast table when they were very little and it spills everywhere. The first thing you say typically isn't, "Oh no. I guess that's an opportunity for us to learn about...," Instead you say like, "Oh, no." And you make them clean it up or whatever.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (08:31):

It's not a conservation of volume teaching moment.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (08:36):

It's not. It frequently is not a moment of let's really take this as a teaching moment in a true sense of it's just behavior that occurred and consequences that followed and let's talk about them. I think that's probably why it's hard for many people to view mistakes as a learning opportunity or as good. Even when there's harm, the impact is bad, but the fact that that thing occurred could be viewed as good if we, and I don't mean good like it added good to the person that was harmed clearly, that's not it, but it's good in that instance provided learning opportunity. If we're in that collective, as Shahla mentioned, we have an opportunity for people to say, "Yeah, that did result in whatever." If this didn't happen, you wouldn't have an opportunity to learn from it. I wouldn't have an opportunity to learn from it. I think if we did approach it in a more shared sense, we may have a little bit of an easier time. [Laughing]

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (09:51):

Yeah. Maybe that's one of the big lessons of our time just in general, because we see outside of our field even, how much not making shared decisions, not taking things as learning opportunities, hinders our progress and our evolution as a species. That's really beautifully put.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (10:17):

Patricia Wright engaged in some behavior that I'm gonna call out right now, that was so fantastic. People's stories are theirs to share, but this happened in a public forum. I'm gonna go ahead and tell the story anyway. Patricia was giving a talk. I don't remember what about, and Patricia said something like, "Women who may get pregnant," and someone in the chat just mentioned, "Not just individuals that identify as women get pregnant," and Patricia stopped her presentation and said, "I just wanna thank the individual that gave me this learning opportunity and I wanna rephrase that: Humans that become pregnant." It was such an amazing reminder that it was brave for that person to give her that feedback in that setting. What an amazing gift she gave everybody that was willing to pay attention, that she accepted it and thanked that person. That misstep in terms of Patricia wanting to use language that was more inclusive, which is in alignment with her values, that misstep was given to her as a gift from this person that was willing to give that feedback. It was beautiful. I get chills still thinking about that. Thank you, Patricia Wright.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (11:45):

Yeah. Thank you, Patricia Wright. If you think about the fact that Patricia was giving a presentation, and in the middle of that, isn't necessarily the most awesome time to be suddenly interrupted to receive feedback and to still respond with grace. I think it suggests that she has gotten over something that it took me a long time to get over. This sneaky, almost unstated perfectionism, that it was an option to have not made a mistake when in fact we're always gonna make mistakes. They might be small, they might be large, but either she'd gotten over that or she really had no feeling of being threatened by someone jumping into her stream of thought in the middle of giving a presentation.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (12:47):

Yeah. There's another thing too, that occurs to me, and this is something I've learned so much from our colleagues who specialize in ACT there's also this process. I think it ripens with age, but of deciding what your values are and then knowing things have different values and prioritizing. I also have that putting aside the perfectionism and saying my value, my higher value or core value, is humility and progress in terms of inclusiveness and being really aware of that, being able to shift. She's also a model for it is an incredible skill to keep aligning with your values, despite what the structures are that are going on. Those are all really good points.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (13:40):

Yeah. I think that this other quote by William Boyd is one that leads into how we approach some of the chapter: "The view backward showed you all the twists and turns your life had taken, all the contingencies and chances, the random elements of good luck and bad luck that made up one person’s existence." I think I love that notion that we're all on a path and a journey and most of what we do, isn't necessarily purposefully trying to produce this path. [Laughing] We're going along and things happen, opportunities, mistakes, good luck, bad luck, certain situations that occur. We respond to them based on our history and that creates part of our next history to respond to. As we were writing, in particular this chapter, I think each of us talked about our twisty, turny path as a supervisor and what it's like to be a brand spanking new supervisor all the way until where each of us were at the time of writing this book. At least I experienced some of that discomfort on looking back at the first few years of being a supervisor of, "Yeah, I'd do that differently." [Laughing] What a very different version of me. In fact, I can remember, I may have even said this out loud, but I certainly thought, "Oh my goodness. I wish all of my first supervisees could get a do over with current Linda." [Laughing] We wrote this book and we tried to put in all of the good ideas and guidance we could, but that doesn't mean that we always did all of those things along the path. With hindsight looking back, recognizing some of the things that we might not have done well and what effects they were, can have some of the most potent influence on your future. It's that lesson learned. Each of us, at different points, was that early supervisor and messed some things up. [Laughing] We're put in situations that we weren't sure how to master and we did our best and now we might do things differently. I think all three of us really feel for new supervisors, right?

Dr. Tyra Sellers (16:53):

Absolutely. I think if you don't, maybe this is not okay. I won't say maybe this isn't the right profession for you, but maybe working in the capacity wherein you're responsible for the development of other people's professional and clinical repertoires isn't. If you don't have acute compassion and empathy for those folks that are new, that are trying to figure it out, I think you need to engage in a little self-reflection, because it's hard to be that new person. It's hard to put trust in someone you don't know well and make mistakes in front of them, and mistakes that could potentially harm other people. I remember being paralyzed the first time I ever ran a functional analysis at Spectrum Center. I was helping out and it was just in the control condition. I just thought, "I'm gonna do something wrong and harm this client. I don't want to do this." Fortunately I had someone helping me at that point who was like, "I don't think you're gonna do anything that's gonna hurt this individual, but I'm here. I've got you, I'll watch. I'll let you know if you do." I think you're right. I think that the three of us have an incredible amount of compassion for those folks that we're asking to do really tough things.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (18:23):

Shahla, I can remember you telling us a few things about, in particular, the women at Kansas, that you had the opportunity to be supervised by, and to see them supervise other young professionals and describe some of the really beautiful things that they did to make it okay to make mistakes and learn. Do you remember, or could you make a mention of one of those?

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (18:57):

I think really, for the most part, all of my early supervisors within and outside of behavior analysis were phenomenal. I wish that I would've done everything they modeled and taught me. [Laughing] Sometimes I'll look back, I'll think, "Oh, would've done that." Jan or Miss Whitacker that... I do remember a couple of things that I'd like to say, just because they were really important to me and many other people. Dr. Jan Sheldon, she was one of the leaders of the early Autism project that we had. She and Barbara did this, they gave us directions, instructions, descriptions. They modeled and practiced with us, but she also went into settings with me. I remember we had one little boy who was having a lot of difficulty in the school where he was placed and I had been working, working, working, and it was a matter of not only what to do to support him, but how to do it in the system. We actually drove there together and she came in and observed with me. She saw everything that was going on. She modeled the interactions, how to work with the relationships, but also to call things that were really not right, but in this just beautiful way that contextualized it. Everybody understood, but also saw that some things had to change very dramatically. Then she could fade the support for me and keep talking with me at a distance as I was working with the situation. I think that's one thing I see that has become a little bit harder for a lot of supervisors. The ability to actually go in and develop a relationship with them, with the child, with the other therapists, with the parents and model all of the process and especially the problem-solving that is guided by really deep care and affection for that child's wellbeing over time. The same was true with Dr. Barbara Etzel. I was a TA for an undergraduate class, stimulus control procedures for teaching young children. The class was exquisite because she had a lecture, we had readings and I was the TA helping with that, but we also had a lab and she would get down on the floor and she would show how to do an airless program for teaching shoe time or learning numbers or identifying letters. She was always in there modeling. Her way of working with the kids again was so extremely balanced in terms of just deep respect and kindness to the children and really smart analytical skills in terms of how to break it down, how to keep the child moving and making progress. I think there's a million, of course, other examples, but I think often of both of them and of the importance of not getting detached from the place that you're supervising and retaining both the science and the heart in what you're doing.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (22:38):

What a fantastic opportunity for you to see really capable people do hard things. For example, with Dr. Jan Sheldon talks in a way that contextualizes something that's happening right now that's wrong as something that we can all partner on to make it better. I think that really requires some skill, some savvy. You also didn't see Jan in her first year out of grad school or what have you. My guess is we aren't Athena bursting fully formed from the brow. The notion that we're all gonna get better and in the beginning we might at least be able to see what we would hope we could do and what we perhaps should execute on, even if the execution isn't perfect yet. That's a really important thing for any new supervisor. Give yourself a little grace. You'll be afraid to do things, if you are afraid of making mistakes, but if you're reasonably cautious, but still okay, knowing that you might make a mistake and that you'll stick around to fix it if you do, that to me is how you get your balance. That's something we can coach and support new supervisors on. It is about the things you do, but it's also about how you're approaching this experience of being in the supervisory role. You'll never be a perfect supervisor. You just work on getting a little more balanced, akin to yoga or martial art. You don't know it all. You're never gonna know it all, but you can put yourself in a position to be a little more balanced and stable and share what you do know.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (25:06):

Yeah. Didn't Denisha Jingles say, "Progress, not perfection." [Laughing] The idea is that it's not about the destination, it's about the journey there and paying attention, keeping your eyes open to that journey. That is where the most amazing, astonishing, hard, but beautiful things happen.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (25:34):

One other early model comes to mind that I think helped with that a lot is Dr. Jim Sherman. He was in charge of helping us direct the Autism project in the late eighties and early nineties. One of the things that was always remarkable to me about his supervision is he was always so very happy about progress. I would go in and I would show him data, I would explain how we figured something out to help a child talk or whatever it was. He would literally get tears in his eyes. There was such shared joy in all of our achievements. I think no matter what, as you go through the supervision process, I think that's one thing that keeps you above water. Focusing on the good, which is not always easy, because we're oftentimes problem-solvers and there's a whole bunch we have to teach and a whole bunch we have to fix, but I think his complete presence in accomplishments and in movement forward in that progress, not the perfection, but the progress was such a good lesson. Now that we're talking about it, I have to keep in mind to better myself. [Laughing] Especially during these times, it's not always easy.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (27:02):

I think that's part of what reflection gives us though. You reflect back, whether it's self-reflection or reflection on others, and take that moment to appreciate something beautiful that someone did and maybe you're not doing it yet [Laughing] and framing it that way. There are two big lessons that I hope a lot of people get from the book and different for different people. One or the other might be easier or harder. Some of us have trouble with both of 'em [Laughing] and one of them is to be kind to yourself about your past mistakes, or they become established as such aversive stimuli, that you stop looking back and you stop learning. You perhaps avoid things that are, "Oh gosh, that Vygotsky zone, proximal development, right?" It's just a little hard, a little out of your wheelhouse, but that's where learning is. The notion of creating an expectation that you will make mistakes and that you have to be kind to yourself that you're always present. If you are dragging your own worst enemy around with you all of the time, it's going to really inhibit your ability to become the person that you could be. I would love to get your two thoughts on that before we talk about the other one. That notion of being kind to yourself about your mistakes.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (28:58):

I wanna know from both of you, is that something that you've struggled with? I think it's two parts: Being willing to identify and accept when you've made a mistake and then being able to learn from it and move on. Have those traditionally been difficult for you in your career? If so, what did you do to put your arm around those mistakes and let them in a little more openly?

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (29:30):

Once I realize I made a mistake, I'm very apologetic, particularly in the past, I would just beat the heck out of myself. I maybe didn't notice early on that I made the mistake, because you can subtly look away from things that might be aversive without realizing that it's happening. If someone said, "Oh, this happened," I was generally just crushingly disappointed in myself and carried that burden for a long time. I could feel the suppression of my willingness to try and I have to fight my way back from that place to be ready to try again. Particularly early on as a new supervisor and I used to be far more reluctant to submit a manuscript. I'd have this whole study and just the notion I'm gonna put it out there and someone's gonna say, "You've got these problems and we're not gonna publish it." Even anticipatory dread of the mistakes that I didn't know I had made. That's a lot of sharing. Sorry about that. [Laughing] Shahla, how about you?

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (31:11):

My sharing's probably even more difficult. I think this is gonna be a lifelong struggle for me. I actually grew up under wonderful conditions, but conditions of extreme perfectionism and extreme expectations. I think that I will always struggle with this because of some of the things, the way I hear myself talking to myself. In fact, I'm a strong advocate of therapy and this is one area where I think it's good to talk to someone, because you can develop patterns that are super hard. I think it's just something I acknowledge that this is gonna be hard for me and that it will be continual. I also think there's another tension here. I think as a woman and as a woman from a Middle Eastern background, with a Middle Eastern name, there is also sometimes danger in admitting your mistakes and being vulnerable especially in environments that are difficult. For example, being in meetings and saying something and being disregarded, and then five minutes later, somebody else says the same thing who may have a much more powerful status or place in the hierarchy. There's this really weird balance in that situation. I can imagine it's even more pronounced for people who are historically marginalized or under-resourced. How much you disclose about errors and learning in public. One thing that I think is incredible is they call them the Zoomers. [Laughing] This new generation. We were talking about this in class, the other night. I'm teaching an intro class on respondent operating conditioning, and the students were actually talking about this. How open they are with their learning process and moving. We talk about this in the book too, but they've been great models for me in not letting my identity location affect how I process my learning, but it is a struggle. It's an ongoing thing, butand acknowledged one. That was probably TMI also.[Laughing]

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (33:44):

I think this is the TMI chapter though. [Laughing].

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (33:47):

Yeah. The TMI chapter! [Laughing].

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (33:49):

We laid it out there. [Laughing] Well, Tyra, how about you?

Dr. Tyra Sellers (33:55):

I can't say that this is an area of significant struggle for me. I make mistakes, I make a lot of them. I think that some of my early childhood, where adults around me behaved in very inconsistent ways, you do the exact same behavior one day and it's great. You do the exact same thing the next day and world war three breaks out and you're told you're terrible and you're a monster. For some, I think that can suppress responding. For me, [Laughing] I think it had the opposite effect where I was just..

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (34:34):

A little freeing.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (34:36):

[Laughing] Yeah, so anything's on the table. I don't know how anybody's gonna respond and I think it did make me very attentive to my environment. Respond a little and watch and see. I tend to be very attentive to whether or not I could be getting into the neighborhood of making an error. Sometimes you can't detect it ahead of time. I think when I make a mistake, particularly when I know that it has hurt somebody else, I feel it very intensely in that moment, but I don't hang onto it. I don't beat myself up over it. I think part of it is growing up with a family that behaved both incredibly loving and moderately abusive at the same time. It makes you understand really great, amazing people can do shitty stuff and it doesn't make them a bad person. I think that has bled into the way I perceive things. In this moment, I may not be a great person, but I have a gift that I can give to the person I just harmed by making it as better as I can right now and never doing that again, if I can avoid it. I don't hold onto them hard, but I feel it at the moment is really hard. It's like, "Okay, now let's go get ice cream." [Laughing]

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (35:59):

I love that.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (36:00):

That is beautiful. Thank you. That's such a beautiful thing I admire about you. [Laughing]

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (36:11):

It tells the tale of each of our different paths and that every single reader of the book is also gonna have a different path. If you can get to the point where you can really describe this is how I've experienced things or the part that I can even see myself doing it. I'm now at the point where I can say, "Okay self, that's about enough of that. Ease up on [Laughing] my friend, Linda." You can really at least start to change a little bit of what the next steps on the path will be.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (36:51):

I'm gonna share something. I just had an epiphany. I never had been very self-reflective. I mean, a little bit, but writing the book with the two of you and engaging in a lot of self-reflection has really gotten me fluent. I just realized, I think this story that I shared sort of about my childhood is one of the reasons in my career that I've been so interested in behavioral variability, and I'm just making this connection really quickly. Even though it's not necessarily pertinent to the conversation, in reflecting really briefly and being a listener of my own verbal behavior, when you have a lot of extinction or you have indiscriminate contingencies that are being delivered, it can suppress responding. For me, it had the opposite. I had a lot of varied responses. I think that's why it has been so interesting to me in my professional career. Well, thank you for that learning opportunity, everyone. [Laughing]

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (37:56):

It's amazing what self-reflection, and being a listener as you're a speaker simultaneously, can do for you. The other overarching lesson, "Be kind to yourself about mistakes, but also take pride in your past successes." That's actually one that's been particularly hard for me. Just from my early learning history of having trouble taking a compliment and wondering, what's gonna follow that compliment? What the butt is or that I need to not brag, be humble and I have always struggled. In fact, the close of my letter says you might still have difficulty taking a compliment. It's something I've worked on, but it's still really hard for me. I think one of the most consistently hard experiences I have is when someone introduces me for public speaking, which is hard for me, just to hear that stuff and I can feel myself shrinking away from it. I know this person introducing me is likely thinking they are creating a very different reaction, but sometimes I just hum in my head a song really loudly. I can't hear what they're saying. [Laughing] The notion of you've got to take pride in your successes and I've started trying to practice like I'm pretty good at organization and time management, so it's okay that I can teach some others how to do this. I wasn't a great writer, but I've learned how to do it reasonably well. At least just say that and sit with it. [Laughing]

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (40:06):

It's so interesting, because it's such a disconnect with everything you've accomplished, and I'm gonna pay you compliment. You have to not sing in your head when I say it, but in fact, I was talking about you in another podcast. The first time I saw you was at ABA and I didn't know you, and this was a long time ago and you were presenting the perspective taking study. It was even before it was published. I remember thinking, "Oh my gosh, she's operationalizing one of the most important human things," and how amazing that was. I think you've gone on to do a series of things like that, but I also find it so interesting that it's so hard to find the place for that. I think there's also this thing about humility. It's where you find that balance between joy and happiness about what you've accomplished, what you've been able to produce and also knowing there's so much more. It often seems, I know there's like a whole thing about imposter syndrome with women especially, but it often amazes me that these astonishing women will say exactly those kinds of things. I'll think I had no idea that was behind there. [Laughing] Anyway, thank you.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (41:38):

A lot behind the curtain for each of us, right?

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (41:42):


Dr. Linda LeBlanc (41:45):

It's amazing how you can begin to change your experience by changing how you speak. I think for me, one of the first steps that I began to take was acknowledging how lucky I was to have people who taught me things. Both true and a way for me to be able to respond that wasn't just this deer in the headlights. I have no idea what to say, but instead I could just say I'm so thankful for my mentors in grad school or this person who taught me these things and helped me. For some reason it made it a little easier to share that success, but we've all got our journey. Tyra, how about you?

Dr. Tyra Sellers (42:40):

No, I hate it and I don't even wanna talk about it.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (42:43):


Dr. Tyra Sellers (42:44):

I don't even wanna talk about that. It's hard for me, I don't like it. Yeah, that's it. The end.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (42:54):

Okay. [Laughing]

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (42:57):

Well, the same is true, especially in being brave across different communities and lifting everyone up. Again, it's a weird paradox. I understand it completely. [Laughing] Too much.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (43:23):

We're all a weird paradox, aren't we?

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (43:25):


Dr. Linda LeBlanc (43:26):

I think those paradoxes, if that's the right pluralization... [Laughing] Close enough, right? I'll be kind to myself, if that was a mistake. It's part of what led us to write those letters. This notion that you can write a letter to your future self or to your past self, but you are going to have a different perspective. We came up with this idea at some point, and I can't remember who, but we decided we were gonna. Was it me? [Laughing]

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (44:08):

Yeah, it was you. We were in a restaurant and you had that light bulb thing go off that you do sometimes. You said, "What if we wrote letters to ourselves, our past selves?" [Laughing]

Dr. Tyra Sellers (44:22):

Shahla and I were both like, "No!"

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (44:24):


Dr. Linda LeBlanc (44:27):

That notion of, "Okay, we've just been doing all this self-reflection. We've got some wisdom." It's clearly valuable to us to share that wisdom. What if we gave ourselves a venue to share the wisdom with ourselves and to really acknowledge some of that past learning journey? The idea really resonated, and we were all like, "Yeah! We should do that." Then it was like, "Oh no. Now we have to write them." I don't know about the two of you, but I found it hard to write that letter to myself. I found it emotional to write that letter to my past self, and I still find it so emotional that we're not gonna read them, which we originally entertained the idea of. I think that's when you've really put your truth on paper, right?

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (45:36):

Yeah. I think when we talked about reading them and even looking back at it right now, I glanced down thinking about it. I think we all felt teary eyed or at least I looked at it and I still feel that way looking at it. I think part of it, for me, is this lesson about being gentle on yourself and understanding what your journey has been and having affection for yourself as you've had that journey. I reread it this morning and I'm thinking, "You know what? That's actually the same lessons." It's just more complex things or it's different arenas or environments. A lot of what I said to my young self is what I'm saying to my really old self too, but under different conditions. It's like a big generalization or maintenance thing over time. [Laughing] I think part of why the letters feel so moving is because they're very alive. They're alive in how we have reflected on our past, but they're also very alive in how we're seeing current things and what we've gone through as a form of how we're working with things.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (46:59):

Yeah. I found it difficult to write the letter as well, but instructive. I don't really like to go back and read it. In fact, I was doing a guest lecture for a colleague that was teaching a class and she read it at the end and she cried and I cried and it was very uncomfortable. [Laughing]

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (47:27):

What a nice thing.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (47:29):

I mean, not really.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (47:31):

Not the crying. Well no, crying's nice, but just what a touching thing. First of all, it was an environment where that could happen for the students to see and to process it. That's really amazing.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (47:46):

It was nice that she valued those letters because when I think Linda, when you first proposed the letters, I was hesitant. Some of the rule governed behavior that I have particularly, because I have a little bit more varied path through my career than some other folks in our profession. I took, really seriously, this whole idea of anything touchy feely, anything that could be somewhat mentalistic is bad. We don't do that and that didn't sit well with me, but I felt like I had to put that on. I had to wear that if I was really gonna be a real behavior analyst and not one toe in the pool behavior analyst. I never liked it. I was always uncomfortable with it, but it's still there. You can't unlearn that, but I'll tell you, hearing Shahla, hearing you say things like, "I think it's okay for us to talk about things like happiness and how to measure it or how to measure indicators of it. It's okay to talk about love." It has been very instructive for me. Going back and reading it, I struggle. I do value this exercise, but there's this little part of me that was told by some past instructors and past supervisors, who are very accomplished in the field, that you don't do the touchy feely stuff. You don't talk about this stuff. It's still hard for me to say people value this, people aren't gonna view you as wishy washy or less of a behavior analyst because you wrote this. I don't like that I struggle with that, but that's really where the discomfort comes from. Not from me admitting that any of that is true. I'll tell anybody anything if they ask. It's that other piece of it.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (49:46):

Yeah. I had a whole lot of that stuff in my history as well. This is what a scientist is. This is what a professor is. This is what a blah, blah, blah. [Laughing] I didn't feel like I was any of those things, but I'm proud of us for writing this book and showing this can be the professional thing. You can be the kind of supervisor who cares about your people and who thinks about why you do what you do and that you give people a little bit of opportunity to be varied and different from you. I don't think that was a message I was hearing a lot as I was coming down my path, but I'm proud of us. I think a next generation of professionals is gonna be more okay with that than we were. Part of it might be because we said you can write a letter to yourself. After we wrote the letters, that's when I got nervous and, "Oh my gosh, can I put this in the book? This is gonna be terrible. Are we really gonna do this?" I think no one else necessarily has to do it, but if they want to, there's at least one anchor point that says there is a meaningful and professional way to experience your career this way, darn it.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (51:35):

I think it's part of a zeitgeist. I think it's part of a shift. The science of human behavior is so important, but we're so in our infancy and we've talked about this in different ways, especially in chapter four, and in other things we've written. We've had a structure that's been one dominant group that set the tone for what emotions like fear are acceptable, but tenderness is not. Our literature does have emotional landscapes. It's very particular to the comfort levels of a dominant group that have created that. Now, more and more voices are coming in and there's a whole lot of other things brought in about the human experience. It should be part of a science of human behavior that is essential, in not only our goals, but how we arrange our experiments and preparations and the rules about how we do that. I think that's one of the things I love the most about the ABA conference. There's so much variability in ways expressing and all very compatible with moving science forward. It's so nice that it could be in a book. I don't think 20 years ago we would've done that. Maybe we wouldn't have been writing the book, [Laughing] or somebody else would've been writing it. I think the fact that there's all this disruption and shift is really exciting. It'll be interesting to see where it all goes, but I like it .[Laughing] Even though it's a very emotional look at it, it's one of my favorite parts of the book.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (53:40):

Yeah, it really felt like the right closing tone and message. The notion that if you're really going to think about supervision and even peer mentorship as relationships, there is some openness, honesty and a little bit of vulnerability. That's one of the good things that we get from relationships, at least from many of them, is the opportunity to let those that we care about see behind the facade a bit and know that they will still value us no matter what's in there. I'm so lucky to have had two peers to write this book with. I honestly felt that way, the whole way through writing the book. Thanks to you both.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (54:47):

Thank you.

Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales (54:48):

Thank you both. I love the circles we wrote about relationships and that we ended up with our relationships with ourselves. All of that is really exquisite and I think you are both awesome.

Dr. Tyra Sellers (55:07):

Definitely was a journey of learning and just amazing conversations with you both. So much happened that didn't even make it in the book, conversations we had. [Laughing] Wish we would've recorded all of the times that we were working together and had a transcript of all of those things that we said. It was truly my honor to spend the time with the two of you.

Dr. Linda LeBlanc (55:37):

And again today. Thanks to everyone for joining us for this episode of The Lift, but most especially thanks to our colleague, Dr. Shahla Ala'i-Rosales, for writing this book with us and for being here today to talk about mistakes as teachers.


Leave a reply