My friend/colleague, Mhairi, sent me a reflective piece to post on the Young Ones website (the organization we have both helped run for the past 4 years). She is making great progress in her CBT treatment and in her reflective piece she asks herself why she thinks such negative thoughts about herself. This is a huge step for her because she identifies that she had, up until now, accepted these negative thoughts as apart of her life. Mhairi says, “…for those of you that are reading this and have been treating yourself in the same horrendous ways, I implore you…..start asking yourself, why?…Question everything you’ve accepted as fact.”
Since beginning DBT, and especially in the current emotion regulation module, I have been asking myself why I feel certain emotions. In the past I accepted these emotions as facts. The extremity I experienced was “proof” that I was out of control and a horrible person. I never asked myself why I was experiencing these emotions, instead I asked myself why do I have to feel them. It was never about the cause, just about getting rid of them.
I am becoming fairly effective at taking the time to STOP, PAUSE and BE CURIOUS when I start to feel overwhelming emotions. I am better at giving my emotions names and weeding through the numerous other emotions to find the one that has been causing all my issues. I have learned something that is quickly changing how I cope and interact. Why do I feel emotions so strongly and why do I behave and think the way I do? Because I am afraid. I am afraid of being hurt, of being a victim and of losing everything/everyone that I care about. I live with this every day and respond based on what I feel will make the fear go away (ie: yelling, cutting, name calling etc.).
Now that I have identified that I am afraid I can find the causes and the solutions. For example, a few days ago I came home to find that B had put the clean laundry on the bed and not in the basket for me to fold. I immediately became angry and proceed to tell B that he needed to take responsibility for the laundry. I had not been able to catch myself so I was being aggressive with him. After a bit though I did catch myself and began to explain to B why the laundry had made me upset. In my past relationship, laundry on the bed meant that I had taken to long to fold it and if I wanted to go to bed I either had to fold the laundry or put it on the floor which demonstrated my “lack of commitment, motivation and character”. I told B that I was afraid he would think the same of me if I did not fold the laundry. I cried out my fear as he told me that he would never think those things of me if I didn’t want to fold the laundry. Cause: past experience where I was harshly criticized by someone I cared about. Solution: Explain to B why I am afraid to get his support in dismissing the feeling as just a feeling and not a current fact.
Ask yourself why and see how you can start making changes.