Part 5: Dialectical Behaviour Therapy

Now that I had an idea of what was wrong I was able to start down a path to learn how to fix it.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy rescued me.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a cognitive behavioral treatment that was originally developed to treat chronically suicidal individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and it is now recognized as the gold standard psychological treatment for this population.1

 

click here for a good website to fully understand DBT.

DBT theory suggests that some people’s arousal levels in such situations can increase far more quickly than the average person’s, attain a higher level of emotional stimulation, and take a significant amount of time to return to baseline arousal levels.

Which means some people will seem more irractic, chaotic or extreme, even in situations that may seem trivial to you.

 

There is this workbook I bought back in July called “Depressed & Anxious the Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Workbook for Overcoming Depression & Anxiety” by Thomas Marra. The way he explained things in it calmed me and made me feel safe and for the first time like there was a reason for why my life had been such a roller coster of emotions.  It was extremely hard for me to find professional help, it’s expensive and scary having to just call up a therapist. So I convinced myself I was fine and I could handle it all on my own, this book will fix me. But then, I still had my freak out back in November after I met that guy, which just confused me even more, none of the techniques from the book could help, I was discouraged and lost at that point. When I started my peak challenge, everything changed and a month ago I realized I can’t do it all on my own, I need some professional help. So I called a therapist. I need a diagnosis, I needed the truth.
There has always been more to my mental issues than simple anxiety.  I started seeing patterns and behaviours I’ve been blind to, that kept me from living.

There are 4 behavioural skills involved in DBT therapy which can radically change your unstable and conflicting habits, it’s not easy or quick, takes a lot of patience, determination and practice to break behaviours and thought patterns that are so ingrain into you entire being.

  • Mindfulness: the practice of being fully aware and present in this one moment[in a non-judgemental way]

  • Distress Tolerance: how to tolerate pain in difficult situations, not change it

  • Interpersonal Effectiveness: how to ask for what you want and say no while maintaining self-respect and relationships with others

  • Emotion Regulation: how to change emotions that you want to change.

http://behavioraltech.org/resources/whatisdbt.cfm

 

For me the most important skill I learned from DBT was Radical Acceptance which means being willing to experience a situation as it is, rather than how you want it to be. Your mind is always going to give you other ideas, interpretations, reminding you of old strategies – helpful or not. Each time your mind wanders and you notices these other thoughts and images, simply bring your attention back to this moment. here is a good link for Radical Acceptance.

The following are a few examples from  Thomas Marra’s book “Depressed & Anxious the Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Workbook for Overcoming Depression & Anxiety” Which were very helpful to me:

Emotion Regulation Skills Assumptions (pg 125)
1….Your emotions serve a purpose. They help you to react quickly, to protect you from threat, to bond you to other..

2.  Emotions, in order to serve the important survival and humanistic function for which they were designed, must be experienced and acknowledged

3.Avoidance of emotions had paradoxical effects: the more you engage in avoidance and escape from your emotions, the more powerful and urgent the emotions become.

4. Feelings are always right. It is what you do with them and how you react to them (how you think about them and how you behave because of them) that can be hurtful or maladaptive.

One thing I had to learn was just because I feel anger does not mean I need to strike out at the person. Feelings prompt actions and increase the propensity for action, but feelings do not necessarily have to be acted upon.

5.. You are not your emotions. What you feel is only one (important), aspect of who you are. Your identity, who you are, is not the same as what you’re feeling.

I’ve had to learn what identity really mean to me, find the self I am and work to be that person.

6. Emotion regulation skills require practice and patience.

Like all important and useful things, you must work hard and consistently to produce lasting effect.

7. Emotion regulation is not about insight. It’s about emotional and behavioural strategies.”

Distress Tolerance Skills

“Pain, both physical and emotional, is a part of life. There is nothing we can do to successfully avoid all depressing experiences or anxious situations”

[ believe me I’ve tried, spend the last ten years doing such things, but although at first I was successful, eventually I was forced into a corner where I had to deal with my emotions and actions as a result of those feelings.]

“People who are born with physiological defects that prevent them from feeling physical pain frequently do not live very long. They bleed to death with even noticing. They experience burns so severe that their body cannot repair itself….It is normal to feel sad when you lose something important to you, to feel despair when the loss is of a loved one, and to feel fury when someone had taken something from you that you assumed was rightfully yours. Temporary, acute emotional pain is thus tolerated by most of us. You tolerate it because you know it will end. You tolerate it because you accept it as natural and expectable. But mostly you tolerate it because you expect to feel different in the future. You can see the light at the ned of the tunnel and expect to feel good again in the future.       But what happens when emotionally painful experiences keep the pain going over long periods of time? What happens when your pain feels so bad, for so long, that you feel you can no longer endure it?”

For most of my life i’ve been in the latter category. Never understand why it takes me so long to calm down in most experiences and situations of my life. I’ve had to learn how to use the strategies from distress tolerance skills to become a person who can live in the former group.

don’t get me wrong, I still have bad days, where I want no one to talk to me, if they do I greet them with hostility and anger, I hate them, I don’t want to exist in the world today and you can’t make me.

reading the book and doing the exercise laid out inside or just writing my blog, helped me acknowledge many of my bad behaviours. I was able to catch myself before I acted on my impulsive and unstable behaviours. Realized they don’t have as much power over me as I originally thought. The power is in my hands, always has been. I just couldn’t see it because I couldn’t understand what was happening. Setting goals for myself was good too, doing the peak challenge allow me to set a deadline to get this blog done along with eating healthy, working out and having a support group i could lean back on when I need encouragement, it gave me meaning, something lacking in my life, inspired me to follow through. But more than anything I was pround of myself, I did this. It can be really hard especially at first because I didn’t know where to start, theres just too many things and it’s overwhelming. I had to pick one thing, and just focus on that.
The feeling of self-worth i felt after that initial realization was an amazing high, I wanted more natural highs like that, so I continued exposing myself to all the problem areas of my life trying to see what causes this discomfort and anxiety. As of today, it’s been 8 months and I’m still working on it.

This is just an overview, an introduction  post – I plan on writing blog post about all the aspects of DBT and how they’ve helped me. how they have influenced my environment.

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  1. http://behavioraltech.org/resources/whatisdbt.cfm
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