Don’t believe everything you think.

It was written on a bumper sticker and hanging in my ex-therapist’s office.  And I remind myself of it every single day.  If my day is filled with dark thoughts, I remind myself as often as I can.  I’m tempted to write an entire post about the statement, but it just seems so `perfectly simple’ as it is.

If you choose to remember the words, I hope they are helpful for you too.

Keep on singing!


Posted in checking the facts, dbt skills, emotion mind, negative thinking, wise mind | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Negative thinking – new thoughts and diffusion

We can probably all agree that thinking negative things, especially about ourselves, can increase our negative emotions.  That’s putting it nicely: Thinking negatively can really create a living hell.  How can we stop?

First off is mindfulness.  Lots of mindfulness – until you can actually watch your thoughts to the point that you may be able to challenge them with new thoughts, or replacement thoughts.  If you challenge and replace negative thoughts often enough, your brain will start to do it automatically.  It’s really important to know that replacement thoughts aren’t the same as `positive thoughts’.  Our minds are smart enough to know when we’re flat-out lying, so replacement thoughts are often more useful when they’re neutral.  I’ll start, because I have lots of negative thoughts allll the time.

1. I’m a loser because I’m on disability, because I can’t support myself, because I need to ask for help…blah blah blah.

Challenge thought:  I’m not as healthy as I’d like to be, and there are stigmas associated with that..but I have a lot of positive qualities too.  Even though I need support financially, I contribute a lot to the community, and help a lot of people out.  And I have really good intentions, and follow through on my word.   I’m all-in-all a pretty decent person.

Please note:  If I had challenged ‘I’m a loser’ with, `I’m a great person’, that would have felt like a lie to me.  It might work for some people – but the dbt therapists I spoke with generally try to go for a way of challenging the thought that is actually true.  Really what you are doing is taking the judgment out of the negative thinking, and replacing it with what are the true facts.  Often the true facts are a little `kinder’ than the judgments. 😉

Thought two:  This pain is going to go on forever, and I just can’t stand it. I feel like it’s going to make me crazy.

Note:  I used to have this thought about my emotional pain, and still do sometimes.  But this week I’ve  been more focused on intense chronic pain that I go through bouts of.

Challenging thoughts:  This is a loooong one, girl!  Actually, this pain has always been time-limited, so chances are it won’t go on forever, although it really does suck right now!  And you have stood it before, so remember to try to stay in the moment and you can stand it again.

I feel like it’s going to make me crazy?  Well, I’m having the thought that it’s going to make me crazy.  What does `make me crazy’ even mean?  I don’t even have a definition of `crazy’, and I don’t think there even is one.  The truth is that I really desperately want this pain to go away.  And who wouldn’t?  That doesn’t make me crazy though.  If I try to stay in the moment, I know I can get through this bout, because I have proof that I can do it – I’ve been going through periods like this for a long time, and history tells me that I can and will get through this.  (And I’d probably add some encouragement here for actually having been able to challenge a thought during such intense pain).  Pat on the back!  Ouch.  Maybe not!

Diffusing thoughts:  Diffusing thoughts is another way to make them less powerful, and even funny.  I think I spoke of this somewhere else – but hey, some things are worth repeating.  “I feel like a loser.  My family hates me, so I must be a loser…because families don’t just reject people unless there’s a serious and valid reason’.  Well, as much as I’d like to challenge that, I’m going to diffuse it.

I’m going to look at the words, and in my `minds eye’ I’m shrinking them.  Now they’re tiny.  I saw them in the color red, but I’m going to make the letters light grey.  They already seem less-well, existent, important, real.  Now I’m going to mix the words up.  “Unless loser hates family me must reject reason and valid…. Now it’s actually becoming fun.  I mean, they’re just words.  They cannot hurt me unless I let them.

Another thought:  “You’re fat. You look like a frickin’ pink pig”.  Oh, another one I’d love to challenge.  Buut, there are so many other skills to try, I’m going to try a different one.  I have a blues song in mind that I think is called “So good”.  I’m gonna sing the words to that.  “You’re so fat.  Sugar and Spice, yeah.   You look like a pig, yeah.  All  things nice, yeah.  So gooooood!  So goooood!  I WANT YOU!!!  Cue sexy saxophone solo! Yeah, my thought is pretty funny at this point.  In fact, I’m dancing to it.

So, now that I’ve told you that I think I look like a pig, I think the least you can do is go and try some of these methods of making your negative thoughts less powerful yourself.  Is it a deal?

PS:  My physical pain this week trumped doing the homework from last time a bit.  Although I am working on it.  Did you notice?  I tried, tried not to use the word `feeling’ when I meant `thought’.  But I snuck it in there once.  Just for practice. 😉




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Feelings, thoughts, and emotions

I think a lot of `our problems’ are because language is so…well, problematic.  Writing this blog, I’ve been noticing that I’m using the phrase, ‘I’m feeling like…and then following it with a thought’ – and I’m implying there’s a connection between feelings and thoughts that isn’t necessarily there.  This may seem like just a petty little semantic problem at first – but especially for us dbt-ers, I think it’s actually a really important distinction.

I’ve only been seeing my new therapist (NT) for a little while, and there’s been a pattern of me saying that I’m feeling – then adding an `emotion’ or a `thought’ – and her responding with, `where are you feeling it?  What does it feel like?  What color is it?  Is it heavy, etc.?  Pulling all these words apart, here’s what I’m left with:

*Feelings are sensations.  It makes sense, right?  I mean, feelings are related to touch.  But we don’t always use the word to mean `sensations’.  In order to be aware of what our thoughts are though, it’s pretty crucial to know that feelings are NOT thoughts.  They may be related to thoughts, but they are not in themselves thoughts.  They are sensations.  ‘Nough said.

*Thoughts are…well…umm….thoughts. 😉  Our brain comes up with thoughts.  Thoughts in and of themselves don’t have any power or weight.  If we believe them, or judge them…we can give them power.  When we give them power/believe them, they can be linked to bodily sensations/feelings.  But they’re not linked all the time.

My homework this week – and if you’d like to do it too, I’d love to hear your feedback – is that when I identify an `emotion’, I am to first `feel’ the emotion.  This is the skill `mindfulness of current emotion’.  Then I am to observe the thoughts that are accompanying the bodily sensations.

This will take a lot, a lot of mindfulness.  But we’re gonna do it.  Right?  Oh no, butterflies in belly.  Thinking: People are gonna read this and be saying, `hell no, who the f*ck do you think you are thinking we give a crap what your homework is, let alone thinking we’re gonna do your stupid practice’.  Emotion: Humiliation, sadness.  More feelings: downward pull on mouth, blinking back tears.  There ya go.  Loads of fun! 😉

That’s it for now.  Simply to separate out the two, and to start using the words correctly.  Because it’s an `assignment’, and I’m impatient, I’m already tempted to do all sorts of things with my thoughts to see how it affects my feelings.   But I’ll try to keep myself in check, and it’ll be helpful to believe that some folks out there are doing this with me..and not talking crap about me.  So that’s what I’ll think. 🙂


Posted in daily skills, dialectical behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioural therapy, emotion mind, mindfulness of current emotion, skills practice, wise mind | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Checking-the-facts and Problem-Solving

Hi there.  So, I’m going to give you a quick update.  Quick because I’m in physical pain, and my brain is having a hard time thinking logically.

Last time we chatted I was upset about an email response I’d received from my ex-therapist, and was `reading into’ the email quite a bit, and having some pretty extreme thoughts.  It didn’t help that ex-therapist’s (ET’s) colleagues had not returned my emails from last week.  So, I was wondering if there was some collective boycott of me.  I knew it was extreme thinking, and really it was a bit comically arrogant of me to think they all really sat around spending their time talking about me.  But, it could have been true.  It really could have been.

After `licking my wounds’ for about half an hour and going full-hog (is that even English?) into self-pity (hey, I timed myself.  30 minutes under the covers), I got out my diary card and after skimming through it, started problem-solving.

What did I want?  What I wanted short-term was access to some dbt material that ET has.  I mean, I also want her to be my best friend forever;), but she’d already told me she was busy til spring, so I’m going to wait until spring to ask if she wants to chat.  But, I’m working on a project now and access to the material she has is pretty crucial.  That’s short term. What’s the best way for me to go about getting what I want?  Verrry gently asking, making sure to let ET know that I’m only asking for this one thing, and I really appreciate/respect her time limitations.

Long-term?  Honestly, thinking and acting in accordance with what I want in the `long-term’ is somewhat new to me.  Thinking long-term really helps wise mind kick in with some really solid ideas, and usually tempers my need to `react’ immediately.  Lawd knows, reacting immediately has felt good…and has also been the Least effective way for me to live.  I still want to react – but thinking about what I want long-term gives me the 5 second gap I need to not go with my reactive, or emotional mind.  What I want long-term is: to either foster a friendship with ET, or know that I need to drop that as a possibility, and just get on with radically accepting how excruciatingly disappointing that is.

First things first.  I need to `check the facts’, and find out if indeed ET and her colleagues are avoiding me.? Did everyone indeed hate me?  Was there a conspiracy against me?  There was one person within the group whom I could actually call and just ask straight up whether my thoughts were accurately reflecting the situation.  So, I left her a message.  In the meantime, I wrote ET a very short email saying I had one very quick question: May I borrow the material?

ET wrote back saying she’d be happy to give me a copy of the material.  Give me!?!  I flew to the other side of the emotional spectrum.  Yaay!  She likes me!  She wants to help me!  She was telling the truth when she just said she was busy!  There was no collective boycott of me.  Yaayyy, the world is a great and perfect place!

Granted, the `everything is great’ side of the emotional spectrum is much more pleasant than the `my life is shit and I’m the world’s victim’.  But neither of them is valid.  So I had to check the facts Again!  Is the world really a perfect place…just because ET is giving me something?  That really seems like not only an extreme, but potentially dangerous thought.  What if ET changes her mind?  Do I really want her actions to determine whether my world is perfect or not?  Even if I get the materials, is my world great?  No.  It’ll be mediocre at best.  Certainly better than if I hadn’t got the materials, and much, much better than having found out that she really did dislike me.  But I was really setting myself for another `fall’…by saying that `if I get something, I’ll be fine’.   It’s still living in the future, and attaching myself to something outside myself….something material, to change my emotions.  It’s similar to keeping up with the Jones’.  It’s very American – and causes a lot of misery.

By the time ET’s colleague called – sounding friendly – I didn’t feel any need to quiz her.  I just wanted to be grounded in a nice conversation, in the moment, feeling my feet firmly on the ground.  Maybe feet firmly on the ground is a more healthy place for me than in the `giddy sphere of happiness’.   I’m not sure that I know how to be happy without being off-balance, without waiting for `the other shoe to drop’, without giving someone or something the power to knock me over.  These days somewhere in the admittedly unexciting `middle’ is the best place for me.  I’ve heard Marsha’s term ‘quiet desperation’, and it’s a perfect description for this place I’m in right now.  It’s not comfortable here.  My thoughts tell me (well, scream at me) that I must, must pick an emotional pole.  But I’m just gonna sit here and feel how uncomfortable this feels.  Stomach in knots, jaw clenched, headache…  That’ll be my homework for this week: Mindfulness of this desperation, this discomfort.

Did someone lie and promise you a rose garden?  Mwahaha!

Yours in pain,

Skill Monster


Posted in checking the facts, daily skills, dbt, dialectical behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioural therapy, emotion mind, give, mindfulness of current emotion, problem-solving, sadness, skills practice, wise mind | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sadness and extreme thinking

Phew.  So, just got an email from my `dbt mentor’ and ex-therapist that is having quite an effect on me.  I had sent a couple of emails letting her know what I was up to (hoping to reinforce her? Impress her? I don’t know exactly what).  Anyway, she knows I’m working on a dbt project and when we were in therapy together she had been very positive about it.  I sent her an email this morning asking if we could meet/chat, and she responded with ‘I’m really, really busy…and will be for a few months’.  OUUUCCHHH!!!!

I’m shaking, my face feels numb, and my eyes are stinging.  I have the urge to go and crawl under the covers.  I’m thinking things like, `I thought she really cared about me…but obviously not’.  ‘I can’t do this without her’. ‘She doesn’t even like me and wants to blow me off’. ‘She has time for group, clients, all her projects…everything else in her life…and not 15 minutes for me?’. ‘I’m shit’.  `She hates me’.  `She and all her colleagues hate me’. `I’m such a fucking loser, I can’t believe I trusted someone again and they fucked me over.  Everyone fucks me over in the end.’

I know they’re just thoughts.  But all the physical sensations coupled with the thoughts make them really, really LOUD.  They’re screaming at me, and for some reason my biggest response is feeling numb. Numb emotionally and physically.  I feel like I’m just flinging my fingers around to hit these buttons.  My limbs feel like they’ve lost their power.  I’m just `droopy’.  `Who gives a fuck about any of this?  This stupid fucking blog?  My stupid fucking life?’.

I’m not `going to’ any thoughts of suicide or self-harm, which I guess is progress.  No.  It is progress.  But god damnit, when shit like this happens I feel like I’ve gone a year back in time.

Maybe the difference is that I know that my thoughts are extreme.  I did `check the facts’, and while I’m still really afraid that all my thoughts are true – that she does dislike me, and all her colleagues do too – I don’t have proof of that.  I don’t know it’s a fact.  I feel like it’s a fact.  Trust me; my body is reacting as if I just found out that `all of them’ hate me.  In reality, I did try to contact them all a week ago just to get some feedback about this blog and haven’t heard from any of them.  I want to look at that as `proof’ that they’re all avoiding me – that they even decided together to all avoid me.  But I don’t know that’s true.  So, shit.  I’m just going to sit here with my shitty, sad feelings.

I did, btw, respond to her in a very short, polite email, using some GIVE skills (GIVE: (act) Gentle, Interested, Validate and..ummm…Encouraging?  I’ll look it up.  I used the GIVE-skills route because even though I do feel pissed off and abandoned, I don’t want to burn a bridge with her.  Maybe there isn’t even a bridge there…but I’m just going to act as if there is until I get proof that there isn’t. I know she’s really busy.  I just honestly did think I was special.  Ha.  Yes, I do feel like I’ve been kicked in the head.

Okay, well, my emotions are all over the place.  I’m gonna dunk my head into some ice water and cry.  Then I’ll look at the diary card to do something a little less self-indulgent.  But right now, I’m just feeling really sorry for myself.  And while part of me is thinking I’m overreacting, and this is just `proof’ that I’m `crazy’…I also wonder if I’m not feeling exactly how most humans would feel.

I don’t know.  I’ve been told, and believed that I’m `too sensitive’ for so long that I don’t know what `normal’ is – or even if I’d want to be `it’.



Posted in abandonment, checking the facts, dbt, dbt skills, dialectical behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioural therapy, give, grief, mindfulness, mindfulness of current emotion, sadness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Participation…or Judgment and Misery

Well, one might think the choice would be easy.  But not with this brain!  Being judgmental can be really….among other things, satisfying.

I have a bit of a twisted relationship with gyms.  I’m usually a member of one, but I don’t go.  I pay my fee every month as punishment for not going.  Then I hate myself, both for wasting money, and for not getting off my ass and into the gym.  My intentions when joining are always good.  I promise myself I will go.  And yet…..opposition happens, and I do almost anything to avoid.  Willful girl!

Currently I’m a member at the Y.  I joined because there was a climbing wall, and a sliding fee.  I only used the sliding fee.  I even have the gym schedules on my door!  And on my desk!  And in the bathroom!  And on my phone, ringing me!  Ugh.  I’ve actually managed to look in the mirror and on the desk and not see the fluorescent schedule.  It literally doesn’t compute in my brain.  And when the phone reminds me, I generally swear at it.

But, a couple of weeks ago, the Y added Nia classes.  I have been fascinated with the `idea’ of Nia for quite a while.  A blend of yoga, dance, martial arts…go at your own pace…tribal, pulsing music…everyone looking beautiful and like they just got back from burning man or some natural hot springs (well, on youtube at least). So, I told myself that I wasn’t allowed to think.  I just had to go.  Period.

Let me first say that all things crystal-bunny-ish and new-agey make me cringe.  I’m uncomfortable with self-expression that is waaaay over the top.  It’s the English in me.  When I’m in situations where people refer to themselves as beloved goddesses, I’m not sure if I want to laugh or cry.  And you need to know that before I tell you about the class.

The beautiful thin instructor came in smiling beatifically. Her perfect body was wrapped in gorgeous yoga-wear, a bindi on her white forehead…lotus flower tattoo on her forearm.  Namaste.  The music was a mix of techno-Enya.

I was in the back of the room, and really couldn’t get out without making quite a scene.  So, I just resigned myself to getting through the next hour.  How much worse could it get?  Well, much, much worse.

We were instructed to `reach for the moon’, `reach out and CATCH the fireflies, CATCH the fireflies’, circle our legs as if we were `taking a bite out of something’ (What?). ‘Your branches are trees, blowing in the wind.  Ooohhh, the wind is blowing so hard from the left.  Can you feel that pushing you over?  Aaahhhh, the stretch it brings!”

I was snarkily adding my own comments to things, feeling very embarrassed…and finally just shut my eyes and danced.  Danced my own way for a few minutes.  Skills?  Come to me now.  Did I dare…could I possibly…would I allow myself to….Participate?  To just shut up and throw myself in without judgments?  Well, I’d try it for 3 minutes.  That’s generally the rule:  I’ll try it for 3 minutes.

I galloped like a horse.  Snarky thought came up, I put a stop sign in front of it.  I flowed like a river.  ‘Nother snarky thought and stop sign.  Seriously, this went on for the next 20 minutes.  Accompanied by a lot of laughter, both because I really was having fun, and because my thoughts were having little fits about my having fun.  Participation and having fun was so much more difficult than being judgmental!  Thoughts of protest rose so often that I ended up singing them.  (Oh yes, you’ll get to do this too if you’re doing an intensive program, lucky people).  You’ll get to sing your thoughts.  Snarky thoughts sung to Enya sound ridiculously funny.  Especially when you’re catching the moon and pulling it into your belly.

I have gone to 3 Nia classes now.  They’re a perfect struggle to participate fully. Last time I went the teacher shouted at me, `I can see your spirit shining.  Yes, your spirit is shiiining!’.  I laughed. Me?  Haha! And spun around like a windmill turning with the wind.

Sing it!  Sing to the tune of Cee-Lo’s F*ck You, “I can see your spirit shining.”  It’s ridiculous.  Perfectly so!

And just so you know that I haven’t actually turned into a crystal-bunny, I’m going to start publishing things that I wrote while I was in the first couple of years of dbt.  It’s not pretty, and I’ve been avoiding listening to the recordings I made of the individual sessions. Because I didn’t just wake up one day being able to put a little `yay!’ at the end of my blogs.  It was a couple of years of (mostly) hell.  Punctuated with a lot of gratitude and practice.

I still don’t know if I have what I’d consider `meaningful life’.  I’m lonely, anxious, sad, grieving etc. a lot of the time. But I have the ability (usually) to actively choose the path of non-misery.  Not necessarily happiness.  Sometimes joy.  Occasionally calm. And being able to choose non-misery, or `suffering’, is huge.   HUGE.  Huuuge….like an elephant singing in the rain. Sing it!

Really, really hoping all of you who are in the midst of the hell can find just a little bit of hope in my writings.  I don’t know you, or exactly what your pain and suffering is about…but it really can get better if you stick with this damn dbt stuff.

I’ll be thinking about you, wishing for you to stay with it.  Because it’s the only thing I know that works over the long term.  Lots of things `work’ to relieve pain and suffering in the short term…but are really going to be harmful to you in the long run.  And I don’t know about you, but I signed up for dbt saying that I wanted a `life worth living’.  A life.  Not a day, or a week.  Hang in there!  It is worth it!


Posted in daily skills, dbt skills, dialectical behavioral therapy, dialectical behavioural therapy, life worth living, mindfulness, participation, skills practice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mindfulness Resources, as promised

FYI:  Bob Stahl is an MBSR teacher and trainer…and, Thich Nat Hahn also has cd’s available.  Jon Kabat-Zinn is just…well…almost everything I’ve read or heard by him has just been really down to earth and helpful…although I wouldn’t recommended his book: Coming to Our Senses (I think that’s the name anyway) to anyone even remotely new to mindfulness practice.  Oh, and of course, it would almost be sinful not to include the book called:  Be Here Now.

If you’re looking for `practice’ vs. `concept/theory’, I’d go (and did go) 😉 for the guided mindfulness cd’s.

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