Sunday, February 15, 2015

What Is One Way To Make Life Better? Try New Things!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

I can partially credit the quality of my present life to my willingness to try new things.  I think in some regard we start to die a little bit when we calcify around a complex of rigid ideas about how our own lives should be.  Tomorrow I am going to take yet another courageous leap and begin an eight week program designed to further enhance my health.  I hope this program will help me to move beyond my recent and persistent feeling of being stuck.

A primary aspect of the program is something called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).  According to the program literature I have already received the purpose of ACT is to "help you live a rich, full and meaningful life while effectively handling the pain that inevitably comes your way."  This may be realized through ACT's six core processes.  These processes are as follows:

  • Contact with the present moment
  • Acceptance
  • Values
  • Defusion
  • Committed Action
  • Self-As-Context

Following these processes allows for the development of psychological flexibility.  The antithesis of psychological flexibility would be psychological inflexibility.  Such a condition is essentially defined by the opposite of the six processes noted above.

As I contemplate the nature of my current struggle I realize my struggle can be understood within the frame of the universal human experience of grief.  I am still grieving the life I never had and feeling confused regarding the life I still can have.  I feel confused about how I can let go of my early life history and all the associated pain.  In a sense it seems I need to walk the narrow line between fusion and defusion.

The ACT program literature defines cognitive fusion as "being caught up in our thoughts to the extent that they control self-awareness and influence behavior."  I do not wish to be constantly caught up in the horrible memories I have of my earliest life history.  I do not wish to be 'fused' with my past history.  The supposed antidote to fusion is defusion.  In defusion you learn to step back and separate or detach from thoughts, images and memories.  I feel a bit uncomfortable with a practice of 'pure' defusion, however, because it would seem to imply that I do not acknowledge my memories sufficiently to allow for my grieving process to unfold and ultimately conclude in a healthy way.  How do I grieve the past without getting stuck in it?


My sadness is a bit more omnipresent than usual today because it is the birthday of my father's younger sister.  I sent my aunt a birthday card last year.  At that time I was still attempting to find some way to include my family of origin in my life while simultaneously having a serious disagreement with several members of my biological family regarding their past conduct and my belief that their behavior was highly hypocritical.  You could perhaps call this approach deciding to agree to disagree.  But I eventually realized this apparent middle ground would not satisfy my own needs.  I needed the preventable pain of my childhood to be acknowledged, witnessed and stopped.  But it wasn't.  And no explanation I have ever received as to why events unfolded as they did has ever neither sufficiently answered my questions nor assuaged my pain.

My ACT literature acknowledges the significance of values in living a healthy life.  I ultimately came to the decision that one of my important values is including people in my life who will acknowledge and witness me both in my happiness as well as in my pain.  My paternal family of origin was not able to be present to my past and more recent pain in a healthy way.  And so I chose to be true to my own values.

Following your own values is sometimes a very difficult proposition.  Adhering to your system of values will sometimes lead you to make choices you might find very painful.  I want and need the people whom I include in my life to see both the light and dark aspects of my life.  I need people I include in my life to be full witnesses and full participants in my life.  I need people who are capable of being with me in both my joy and my pain.

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I invite you to accompany me as I document my own journey of healing. My blog is designed to offer inspiration and solace to others. If you find it of value I welcome you to share it with others. Aloha!