There’s a famous developmental model in clinical psychology developed by Drs. Mark Greenberg and Carol Kusche. It is rooted in the larger cognitive behavioral model. The model is called, “ABCD”. It refers to Affect (emotion), Behavior, Cognition, and the Dynamic interplay among them. Because it is a developmental model, it refers to this interplay not only in a particular moment, but across time.

Sometimes AB and C work together in cohesion. Often they work at odds with one another. Sometimes they work in cohesion but in a way that is not healthy. “I am angry with you and I’m beating the shit out of you because I believe I am entitled to beat the shit out of anyone I don’t like for any reason.”
I know that many of us strive to live more peaceful, loving, and cohesive lives. And for extra credit, we are decent and upstanding people. I have worked hard over the years to live a life that is cohesive and healthy. I have focused on this in particular in my mindfulness practices in the last couple of years.

I am pretty happy. In general, I live a pretty balanced and cohesive life that makes sense. To be perfectly honest, I sometimes watch people I love say they want to be a certain kind of person, living by certain values, and then make choices that totally contradict their stated goals without apparent knowledge of this discrepancy. I have tried to make a habit of turning inward at these times. I am getting better at it. Bit by bit.

I decided a few weeks ago to dig deeply into the parts of myself that I try to avoid. To be honest, it is a narrow part of me but it runs very deeply, and when I hit it, it is very painful.

I know I am a good person who does mostly very good things. But there are areas in which I fail. Areas in which I let fears, irrational thoughts, and habits drive behaviors that are very much out of line with my values.

I lose my temper with my husband. I respond to situations as if they are much bigger than they really are. Sometimes, I let other people’s unhealthy behavior toward me define my own sense of worth. At times, I take on a love one’s hurt not only as if it were my own but as if it were my responsibility to fix.  Sometimes these misfires of affect, behavior, cognition, and their dynamic interplay are brief. Other times, they play out over the years, like increasingly gnarled tree roots underground. I can feel them. I know they are there but I can’t see them.

I know I am not alone in this. No one is perfect. But I’m tired of feeling happy and balanced so much of the time only to find myself acting grouchy, ridiculous, and sometimes outright mean, when I pass my stress tolerance. I used to live my life very near or at capacity so I stressed very easily. It’s not so easy now so I figure this is a particularly good time to work on this.

There is a concept of “radical acceptance” in mindfulness meditation. In my understanding, it means observing our own painful thoughts and feelings and allowing them to be, instead of resisting them.

This is why my blog sometimes reads like a confessional. I am, however, not seeking reassurance or absolution. I am trying to better understand myself and be a more balanced person.

I am also trying to show that it is possible to be a happy person without being a perfect person. Over the past year, I have begun to view a lot of coping statements people use as being counterproductive for me. I don’t like telling myself “beauty is only skin deep” or “fat is beautiful” when I am not feeling good about my body. Similarly, in terms of aging, I don’t want to tell myself, “I’m only as old as I feel” or “age is only a number.” I would like to keep working to a point where I say things to myself like, “I am overweight. That may not be the greatest for my health. What do I want to do?” Or, “I am getting older. I’ve had a serious illness. I’m living a pretty healthy life now, doing the best that I can. I think I will get on with my day.”

I am working to get to a point where self-examination is objective and leads to serenity or agency. I am getting there but I still have much further to go. I am trying to take apart the mechanism, bit by bit, that turns self-examination into doubts of worth.

I used to think that having a balanced life meant almost never feeling stress and shuffling through the states of joy, bliss, serenity, faith, hope, and resolve. I actually had a friend years ago who practiced mindfulness, who seemed this way. Then there was the day I tried to say something empathetic about her stress level because we were all working hard. She quickly and somewhat sharply told me that she “never” got stressed. Then I knew. She was one of the rest of us.

People are complicated. Life is complicated. We spend our whole lives at A, B, C, & D. And thank goodness. I want to live a long life and how boring would it be to have it all figured out.