Archives for posts with tag: ACT

I woke with a headache. No arguing with that; it’s a headache, it hurts, I feel it. Being a positive person isn’t about pretending there is no headache. That’s silly game playing that lacks consistent results. It’s more about… being aware that the headache is a temporary thing, that it will pass, and that it is only a headache. My choices still matter more than the headache itself.

We can do a lot to predict outcomes of events and choices, given a willingness to be self-aware, honest, and true to the data. Our choices still matter; our choices change the outcomes. Predictably enough, predictable outcomes change over time, as our choices are made, and our will brought to action. There’s no reason being angry about an outcome we’ve chosen, ourselves, with our actions; we could have seen it coming, generally, as human primates are fairly predictable. Even the unpredictable ones, if you’ve observed their specific ways long enough. Hell, the predictable nature of unpredictable people is so predictable, in fact, that fairly realistic scripts can be written of such things, for our amusement.

I sip my coffee and wish my Traveling Partner well. Day break soon. It’s been a rough couple weeks as his Other’s mental health declined, and her behavior spiraled out of control; that shit gets ugly fast. It was also fairly predictable, taken in the full context of my own experience of her. I take a deep breath and relax. He’s okay. Our friends are okay. Material losses are just things. Hopefully all that ugliness and stress is behind them, and everyone can move on with healing. Done with that.

Emotional resilience in times of turmoil is a big deal. If I don’t have it, I don’t bounce back from stress, and if I am not easily able to bounce back from stress, it begins to wear me down over time, becoming harder and harder to deal with, and as smaller things begin to loom larger in my daily experience, I become raw, emotional, off-balance… and I start to take shit very very personally (and almost nothing at all in life is actually all that damned personal). It all spirals downward from there. How is it that emotional resilience isn’t a common every day emotional wellness talking point? Why is there not elementary level course curriculum in emotional health in public schools? Why has it been such a struggle to get health insurers to cover mental health care fully and without limits? Who the fuck came up with the idea that emotions are the bad guy? Our ignorance about our emotions is far worse than any single emotional experience ever could be. Our personal demons are less likely to be our actual emotions than our lack of emotional intelligence, our lack of cultivated emotional resilience – and the ensuing chaos as our intellect attempts (and fails) time and again to “cut to the front of the line” in every experience. Reliably, our emotions get there first. Visceral. Raw. Real. Felt. Unavoidably we feel our emotions. (That’s why we call them “feelings”.) What we do about them is a wholly separate matter.

…Emotions are still only emotions, though. A reaction to stimulus. Sometimes that stimulus isn’t a high quality of “real” at all. We react emotionally with equal intensity to actual events as we do to imagined ones. Our internal narrative drives our emotional experience every bit as much as actual events and interactions do (for some people, less tied to reality, more so). This is problematic when our own lack of emotional intelligence, or a lack of developed emotional resilience, results in being unable to discern the relative value of whatever is the source material of our emotional experience.

If I am thinking about my Traveling Partner, and imagine losing him… forever… and I evoke an emotional reaction in myself with that thought, I may briefly feel a terrible grief. (No kidding – it won’t be anything like the real deal, but I won’t discern that difference in the moment I am feeling my momentary emotion.) Is the grief not real? Oh hell yes, the emotions are real! That’s what often undermines our ability to maintain resilience in the face of storms of hormones, as women; our emotions are entirely “real”. What is questionable is the quality of the source material driving that experience. Our emotions are bio-chemical. We’re literally on drugs when we’re enraged. On drugs when we are euphoric, in love, experiencing “new relationship energy”. On drugs when we are sad, feeling low, and overcome by ennui. Emotional intelligence is the quality that allows us to understand ourselves sufficiently well to say “omg this sucks, I’m not myself today, I need some space (or I need some hugs) and I’m sorry in advance – I’m feeling a little less able to find my center today”… without laying waste to the experience of our loved ones in a shitty moment by weaponizing our emotions and attacking the world. Over time, “I’m sorry” isn’t enough, if you regularly treat your loved ones poorly. Eventually, too much damage is done, and no apology eases the hurt feelings, or restores the lost trust.

“Emotion and Reason” 18″ x 24″ acrylic w/ceramic and glow details, 2012

We are creatures of emotion and reason. Understanding the complex interplay of intellect and feelings, of reaction and resilience, of emotional intelligence, cognitive skill, and intellect, goes a long way to making us seem more rational while we are also experiencing a rich and varied emotional life. Trying to tip the scales in favor of one or the other is an exercise in futility that weakens our ability to adapt to change and to overcome trauma. Avoid or shut down our emotions, and we become distant, tend toward callousness, prone to clueless insensitivity, unable to fully experience intimacy in relationships with others. Suppress our intellect, eschew a factual basis to life, and we find ourselves chaotic, reactive, and unable to gain perspective. Either of those results in our treating everyone around every bit as badly as we treat ourselves. (Well, yeah, because it’s a true thing that we do generally; we treat everyone as badly – or as well –Β  as we treat ourselves). Fuck all that – it is a more comfortable experience to walk my path mindfully as much as I am able, aware of my emotions, appreciative of my intellect and cognitive gifts, able to balance and use them both comfortably. I am able to bounce back from stress and trauma with greater ease. It does take practice. Yep. And, you guessed it, there are verbs involved. (And maybe a meditation cushion. lol)

Real is real. I still have choices. You do, too. πŸ™‚

It’s time to begin again.

Couldn’t we all do better? A bit? Give that some thought. Are you really the person you most want to be? Every day?

I am feeling frustrated with humanity, generally, and it pivots on competing memes, the willful stupidity of human beings defending pet ideologies, and the unavoidable truth that every damned one of us has some pretty fucking hateful moments, and lugs around some pretty vile baggage. I’m mostly quite done with every damned body pointing at the other guy with criticism about hate, seemingly unaware that they, themselves, have some similarly hateful moments.

Fuck, people, look in the god damned mirror.

I’m not making this point unaware that I am, myself, quite human. On the contrary, I am frustrated and puzzled by some basic confounds in my own thinking. I am concerned about implicit biases I am likely wandering around with, that may inform my decision-making in a fairly stupid way. I worry that things I think I “know” are not well-grounded in fact, to the point that I am regularly seeking proofΒ that I am wrong. (Because, frankly, finding out I am wrong is the only shot at correcting poor quality reasoning – I don’t give fuck-all for being right, and it isn’t helpful to “know” that I am, when it comes up.)

What’s specifically giving me metaphysical indigestion this morning is the head-on conflict between posts/memes/commentary suggesting that “gun control is not the answer –Β  be kind to lonely kids!” is The One True Way, and the other batch retorting “don’t suggest anyone else is responsible for violence except the sociopaths committing it – you could be encouraging vulnerable kids to become entangled with sociopaths!” because setting good boundaries is The One True Way. Fucking hell – are we all really that stupid? Is it not 100% entirely obvious that this is a false dichotomy? That the jigsaw puzzle of American violence is a tad more nuanced than that? Fuck your overly simplistic idiocy. So done with that kind of simple-minded horse-shit.

It matters how we treat people. It matters what we accept, as a culture, with regard to how people treat each other. It matters when we frame the discussion in terms of the value of one group of lives or another, or the worth of one individual or another. It matters how we talk about – and how we prosecute – violence. Yes, when we let domestic violence crimes go unnoticed, undiscussed, and unprosecuted, we build a culture in which some children grow up thinking their anger (an emotion, nothing more) has more value than the actual lives of others. We created that scenario as a culture, as a society. We deepen it when we devalue women, people of color, and other vulnerable populations. When we foster rape culture, and suggest in our institutions and laws, that how women dress or behave is somehow righteous justification for another human being’s lack of self-control over their use of sexual behaviors, we defend violence over “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. We are at fault for the culture that exists.

Does that mean we are also accountable, individually, for the individual acts of violence of other individuals? Nope. We are each responsible for our own actions… including those actions that foster a culture of violence. So. Yeah. It’s not us vs. them. It’s not as simple as a single choice between two clear options. It’s about actually fucking being aware of the consequences of our actions, and of our institutions and laws, and we are responsible for the society we create. We built this. Stop acting fucking surprised. Fucking fix it.

Fuck, I am so angry about this. Just do better, damn. How fucking hard is that?

What are you going to do to make this a better country to live in for everyone who lives in it? (Yes, including people who are incarcerated, people who are poor, people who are undocumented – have you read some of what they are put through? Every.Damned.Day. “Inhumane” doesn’t begin to describe it, and that’s really not okay.)

I know what I’m going to do. I’m going to do better. Just that. Something. Each day, today too, I am going to put my will and my actions toward being a somewhat better human being than I was yesterday. And again tomorrow. Then again the day after that. I will spend a lifetime working towards being the woman I most want to be, building the world I most want to live in. Tearing down the bullshit and baggage I learned growing up, or later on, or built myself. No excuses. I can do better.

It’s time to begin again.

Eat less or exercise? Personally, I have to do both. It’s non-negotiable. If I get less exercise, still keep my caloric intake well-managed (and low) and eat healthy food, I gain weight anyway. If I get plenty of exercise, but make poor nutritional choices, I also gain weight. If I eat a poor quality diet, don’t manage my calories closely, and also don’t get sufficient exercise, I not only gain weight, I gain a lot of weight, and I pack on the pounds fast. Some medications cause me to gain weight, too; that’s something I reliably find out the hard way. So… eat less or exercise? I don’t get to choose, I’ve got to do both. πŸ™‚

There are quite a few things in life that we sometimes get snared viewing as a choice between options, when, actually, it’s a choice to change, or not to change; all the options involving change may be required to make change occur in the direction we’d specifically like to see. Real-life doesn’t tend to negotiate with our whims.

Emotion, and the skillful management and expression of strong emotion, specifically, has some things in common here, with a twist; incremental change over time is super slow, but our emotions jump to the head of any queue, lead every moment, and arrive to every party too early. So sure, it’s reasonable, and true, for someone mid-freak out to have the recognition and understanding that their experience is based on “irresistible” internal forces beyond their immediate control; strong emotion, particularly powerful emotions like rage, frustration, and sorrow, can erupt from within us, sweeping over us, taking away our sense of control, and eventually leading to regrettable words and actions. The “I’m sorry”s begin to pile up (if you are that decent sort who regrets treating others badly). So do the rationalizations (about hormones, childhoods, provocation, circumstances…).

It’s also quite true that our behavior is a choice. Yes, all of it. Yes, pretty much all the time, every time. The first time someone lashes out with an act of violence, they might get by with “I didn’t know” or an expression of astonishment that they could be provoked to that point, but second times? Third times? Times that occur after someone – anyone – has pointed out that’s not okay? Yeah, those are choices. Yielding to strong emotion and relinquishing control over behavior is a choice (unless maybe you are profoundly mentally ill and urgently in need of inpatient treatment). Well, if that’s also true, is everyone who ever treated a loved one poorly, or punched a wall, or lashed out with horrible words deeply mentally ill and urgently in need of treatment? Some of them probably are! Most of them likely are not. That they are choosing such behaviors is still a choice, and they could choose differently, and no you can’t “make them” change, and omg – if they decide to change themselves, that is a process that can be infernally slow, fraught will failures, and varying results.

…And before we can change ourselves through our willful choices in the direction of being our best selves, we actually need to 1. be aware that we would like to be other than we are, and 2. understand that change is possible, chosen, and must be practiced. It’s a lot to hold onto. It’s a lot of work. The practice has to come ahead of the need to be changed. It’s necessary both to feel, and to practice our best behavior under the stress of an “emotional load”. We’ve got to do both. It’s work that will have to be done in the face of real-time failures, disappointed frustrated loved ones, relationships that don’t make it through the process, friendships that end because it turns out some of them were invested in what is being changed. It’s work that is continuous and ongoing. Change is a verb – and you have choices.

Another school shooting. I read about it and can’t help but wonder where so many people have gotten the idea that their anger, disappointment, frustration, or any other emotional experience, entitles them to take a life – any life. Where did that come from? How long has this toxic seed been part of our culture? Did the shooter understand this is unacceptable behavior? If he did understand that, and chose to do it anyway, where did he get the idea that this is a course of action appropriate to his emotional experience? Why do so few people understand what poison their “righteous anger” actually is? Even otherwise good-hearted people can be drawn into making the most outrageously hateful statements about the value of another life (don’t read the comments on the internet, People, I’m just saying there’s an astonishing amount of rationalized hate out there), given the opportunity to frame that other human being as a bad guy of some kind. We most commonly succumb to hate due to a lack of empathy… I don’t know how to fix that for the world, or my nation. I’m still working on it for me – one practice at a time. Changing myself is within my control; I have choices.

Time to begin again.

My mind rarely really rests. When I sleep I often dream vividly, rich in detail, color, emotion, and confusingly real-seeming. When I am awake, driving, shopping, handling some task or another, I am often also “writing” poetry or blog posts – that rarely see publication, having inconveniently become more than my limited memory buffer can store. It’s a continuous internal lecture or conversation with myself. Pause a human being in front of me, chances are I will, at some point, begin to do something rather like attempting to make conversation, but with such high risk of becoming a monologue that eventually, I am likely just chattering away without purpose or focus, or worthy content, even if I actually wanted to sit and read quietly, or work. Not talking when I don’t want to talk requires practice.

I like living alone for something besides the “solitude” (which can, I admit, occasionally become lonely); I like it for the “cognitive stillness” and emotional ease. I like it for the cognitive rest I am now able to get, at least now and then, with so much less work to reach that quiet place.

I have a pretty firm, well-established meditation practice. Meditation has helped me build emotional resilience, a calm “center” I can return to with relative ease, and a certain chill something or other which has made life considerably more pleasant, less volatile, less chaotic, and enduringly characterized by contentment. I don’t know that I would call myself “happy”; it’s not a word I’m so prone to using, at all, these days. It’s a mental magic trick that makes more people unhappy than happy to be focused on the pursuit of that elusive beast as a goal, so I stopped doing that. I don’t “pursue” contentment either; I build it. I build it sustainably on healthier choices, and healthier practices. I have been regularly surprised by how much of the forward progress has been entirely dependent on my own decision making, and my own actions.

Meditation did not “cure” my PTSD, or “fix” my injured brain. Meditation is, however, a reliably good practice for improving my day-to-day experience of my life, and that’s enough heavy lifting for one practice, surely. πŸ™‚

It’s a busy brain, broken or not. I wrote 3, maybe 4, really fantastic blog posts in the past 24 hours – in my head. Catchy titles, engaging and amusing openers, fanciful plays on words with layered meaning… gone at the next annoying intersection, or distracting other moment. lol I woke with a completed utterly beautiful bit of poetry in my head at 3 am, got up to pee, forgot what I was thinking on my way back to bed. This morning, upon waking for the day, I have only the recollection that it ever existed at all still remaining. I play “Tribute” in tribute, and giggle over my coffee; these moments of creativity, lost, forgotten, omitted, or overwritten, litter my life experience. I can’t take them personally after so long. lol

A new day begins. So do I. Another day to write, to love, to feel, to practice – to live.

I’m awake. Showered. Dressed. Sipping coffee in the usual ordinary sort of way. My day begins relatively gently, and I am eager to return to the office this morning. (I kind of have to write that sentence down, right there, to record factually that indeed I am looking forward to going to work, because I’m not sure that’s a sentence I use very often, or a feeling that is especially common over the entire course of my life, and I want to enjoy the moment.)

I am, for most values of “feeling better”, feeling better. πŸ˜€

As with any other sort of subjective state of being, it’s an individual perspective, right? I’ve still got some sinus drainage. Still have some soreness of throat. Still have the cough (which may well linger through the holidays). None of those things are what they were. The cough is seldom, and not as bad, and the sore throat and sinus drainage are also minor. I’m not overwhelmed by fatigue. I don’t have a headache. I’m not shivering while wrapped in blankets in a warm room (very not; the heat is set to “don’t let the house freeze” over night, and I’m just wearing work clothes, not even a sweater, and quite comfortable). I’m work-ready, though, and ready to work. πŸ˜€

I’m also super glad I now commute by car, even if distracted drivers keep tapping my fucking bumper at stop lights on an almost monthly basis; I’m well for most values of well, but… I’m not up to walking a mile to catch a bus on a cold morning. Not yet.

Taking care of this fragile vessel is an interesting balancing act. Long-term care means holding down a job and preparing for future retirement… short-term care may require taking time away from work to care for my health right now.

Mental health care works similarly. There is a balance between long-term wellness and urgent care needs to find. There is a balance between addressing issues that are destroying personal perspective and quality of life, and those that degrade relationships with others. A friend struggling with a loved one’s seeming lack of “acceptable” progress, which she feels is required to feel safe in the relationship, doesn’t seem to understand that being in therapy, for the mentally ill loved one, isn’t about that. It’s about saving their own actual life, their experience of living, their quality of life and ability to live and thrive – on their own terms – and achieve mental and emotional wellness – for themselves. I mean, sure. I know when I went into treatment, and this is every time, ever, I definitely wanted to preserve and heal the relationships my condition had affected…but… not at the expense of succeeding to become well, myself. Mental health therapy is for the person seeking treatment – and it’s not about “fixing” that person according to any criteria or standard aside from that determined by the treatment seeking mentally ill person and their therapist. Period. End of stakeholder meeting. Fuck right off if you think you get to insert yourself and your pet concerns into that process to exert influence over a treatment plan intended to achieve reasonable emotional wellness because you have an outcome in mind. Fuck right off indeed – and then go get your own god-damned therapist and take care of your own god-damned needs. lol Seriously, people. “My partner is in therapy” does not equate to “my partner is rebuilding themselves per my specifications”. Just stop and hey, maybe actually support the general emotional wellness of your partner, yourself, and your relationship by being kind, compassionate, listening deeply, and accepting that you, yourself, have your own baggage – and may need your own help. Your partner can not be your therapist, and their therapy is not about you.

Sorry. That’s a bit of a rant there. I’ve just been through it in too many partnerships. The “concerned” questions that mask a hidden agenda. The probing about what is going on in therapy. The lack of willingness to actually participate or seek help, while pushing the full weight of all the issues of a relationship onto the mentally unwell partner because they are unwell, rather than be accountable for some portion of the dynamic. The clear drive to push an agenda into therapy content. The disapproval of selected therapist or treatment modality because it doesn’t meet the needs of the person not even seeking help in the first place. The indirect arguments with a therapist who’s not even in the room if those pesky probing questions are met with openness and trust, but the answers are uncomfortable. Fuck all that. Everyone has their own baggage, and very few people in relationships are “crazy alone” – the crazy becomes shared over time. If you are in therapy, yourself, it’s about you. That’s okay. It’s supposed to be. If your loved one is in therapy, be supportive without being invasive; it’s not about you. It just isn’t. Just fucking chill. (I know, I know, you feel out of control because you can’t control what your partner reveals to the therapist – maybe it is the “wrong” stuff, or not enough, or not “what matters”… and you still don’t get to call the shots, and it still isn’t about you, and you still need to go find something else to do with your time and let your partner handle their business.)

I breathe. I relax. Memories. Wow. I still carry around some pain and some anger about an ex who worked very hard to “guide” my treatment in therapy, with some degree of success, to my detriment – over time I ended up becoming progressively much worse. I’m glad I am out of that relationship. Turned out that mattered a great deal and was an important positive change. Turns out it is still enough to ruffle my feathers when watching friends go through it from an outsider’s perspective. It’s not easy. It’s a lot of damned work. People seek therapy because they are hurting. Therapy itself is sometimes a process of feeling all the hurts until the hurts are processed and in perspective – that just doesn’t even sound pleasant, and it isn’t at all. It’s a process, and the tedium and strain and quantities of change and upheaval are not eased by attempting to interfere, that’s really what I’m saying. πŸ™‚ (And, just to keep it real, I’m still working on plenty of my own issues – remember that whole “living alone” thing? Yeah. Therapy turns out to be muuuuch easier in that context. Much.)

It’s a new day. A good one for all manner of new beginnings, and starting things. Where will you take it? Will you use your human super powers for good or evil? Will you be listening deeply, or waiting for your turn to talk? Will you make taking care of yourself well and with great skill and compassion a high priority? Will you take one step to change the world for the better, yourself? Take a look around. It’s time to begin again. πŸ™‚