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Hold That Thought!

Hold That Thought!

We all hate the thought of one human being bullying another. There are entire campaigns dedicated to eradicating bullying on campuses. We’ve read stories about young people actually ending their lives because they were bullied on a social networking site. There are also stories of teenagers who were so tortured by bullies that they snapped. They took guns to school and killed students and teachers. Unfortunately, these stories are beginning to lose their shock value. Would it shock you to discover that we can all be bullies? We literally bully one who is very near and dear to our hearts. We bully ourselves! Thoughts such as, “Nothing will ever work out for me,” or “I am so stupid,” or “I am ugly,” are common things we tell ourselves. This keeps us mired in the mud of negative emotions and increases our suffering. Sometimes the thoughts come fast and furious, and we feel as if we cannot shut them off. I’ve learned a new mindfulness exercise I want to teach you. You can print it out and add it to The Anywhere Any Time Mindfulness Toolbox: 10 Quick Ways to Reboot Your Brain on the Fly (pick up your free pdf copy of that by clicking here).

The Space In Between

  1. First, identify a negative thought you use to bully yourself.
  2. Change that thought to a more positive, truthful thought (an affirmation). For instance, let’s use the thought “Nothing ever works out for me.” Let’s change that to, “Things work out for me much of the time.
  3. Close your eyes and picture the first word of that affirmation in front of your eyes. Think of the word “Things.”
  4. Next, imagine you have moved the word “Things” over to the left. Now imagine the word “work” right in front of your eyes.
  5. Now move the word “work” over to the right. You now have both words, “Things work” sitting on either side of your head. There is a blank space in between, right in front of your eyes.
  6. Be in the empty space that is in front of your eyes. Breathe.
  7. Bring the word “work,” which is to the right, over to the left with the words “Things.” You now have “Things work” to the left and an empty space in front of your eyes.
  8. Now bring the word “out” and imagine it is right in front of your eyes. When you have a strong image of it, move it over to the right. You now have an empty space in front of your eyes again. Be in the space. Breathe.
  9. Next move the word “out” to the left. You now have “Things work out” to the left. Imagine the word “for” hanging right in front of your eyes. Repeat the above until you have imagined and moved all the words of your affirmation to the left. Sit with the empty space left in front of your eyes.

This may seem a funny thing to do but according to my clients it is so helpful in two ways. First, it gives them something positive to say to themselves instead of the negative message their “bully” has taunted them with. Secondly, it slows down their thinking and calms and soothes their spirits.

If you try this mindfulness exercise for yourself, go over to the blog at http://lindahoenigsberg.com and leave me a comment. I have a book giveaway for one lucky person (I will have my husband randomly pick a number). This is a book I just read and loved, loved loved! It’s called Finding Spiritual Whitespace, by Bonnie Gray. It is a memoir/guidebook. I’ll contact you for an address and send it right off! And remember, sharing is caring. Please share this post on the social media site of your choice. Who knows whose bullying you stopped dead in its tracks!

Out of Control ~ Part 4

Out of Control ~ Part 4

Anger ~ When Doing the Opposite Can Help

 

In Out of Control Part 1, we talked about the brain, and how that non-thinking, emotional part of our brain, right smack in the middle of our heads, can hijack us, and cause us to react in ways that tend to hurt others or ourselves.

 

In Out of Control Part 2, we discussed thinking errors, and how our feelings in childhood can affect the way we think.  We also learned that the way we think can affect our feelings, and that our feelings can affect our behavior, and on and on!

 

In Out of Control Part 3, we discussed how learning to be mindful could help us, not only control our emotions, but also, in some ways, reshape how our brain works. It’s almost like a reboot.

 

So, in Out of Control Part 4, I want to leave you with a tool to help you when you feel one of the hardest to control emotions – anger. Anger is one of hardest emotions to control.

 

One of the skills in Marsha Linehan’s DBT Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder(1993) is the skill of Opposite Action. This skill can actually help slow down and even reverse an emotion if we know what we are doing and we are willing to do it. But being willing is key to any skill. And being willing with this skill is particularly relevant.

 

In the case of anger (and other emotions as well) the first step is to figure out if the anger is justified. Usually, when we become angry with someone, we have a reason for that stirring up in our bodies, that clenching of our hands, that tightening of our jaw. But sometimes, we get angry because we misunderstood something we thought someone said or did. Sometimes we get angry because we are experiencing “triggering” emotions. Our feeling arises because we were just reminded of something that happened in our past. But sometimes, it’s actually justified. What then?

 

We know that the first urge when angry is to “approach.” In other words, we want to defend. We want to strike out in words, or in a look, or even in a closed fist sort of way. The thing is, rarely do these actions help us in any way unless we are actually protecting ourselves from danger. Other times, we at least want to get the anger to come down a little bit before we decide our next move. So what can we do?

 

Opposite to Emotion ~ Anger

 

One of the first steps to changing the level of anger we are carrying is to “gently avoid” the person we are angry with. What does it mean to “gently” avoid? Let’s say you are in a heated discussion with someone and you know if you storm out and slam the door they will either follow you or at least become more angry, making the situation worse. To gently avoid, instead of storming out you simply excuse yourself and walk into another room. It can be the bathroom, or the kitchen, anywhere other than where the argument is taking place (this predisposes that the other party is a reasonable person). You can say something like, “Hold onto that thought,” and leave the room long enough for both of you to calm down.

 

By the way, while you are in the other room there’s a couple more opposite actions you can take. Try to avoid rethinking the argument, planning your latest comeback, or developing a case against the person you are angry with. Try to think about something else for a few minutes.

 

Try to put yourself, just for the moment, in the other person’s shoes. What could be triggering their response? Is it possible they are thinking of a past event? Are they having a particularly hard day? Are they defensive because their feelings are hurt?

 

Now this one is hard…but it works. Many times, we are reacting to the way someone is treating us. What if we were to do or say something just a little bit nice? Chances are, the other person would respond differently, which would calm our anger, which would cause us to act differently, which would then cause them to act differently, and the whole entire blow-up may be avoided all together.

 

The skill of Opposite Action is not guaranteed to work in every situation with every person you get angry at. The more the anger is justified, the harder this may be to implement. But for someone who feels they have a “problem” with anger, a skill like this can be extremely helpful. Give it a try, and let me know in the comment box if it worked for you. Any questions? Give me a holler. Join the conversation.