ITS OKAY TO BE ME

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Time after time newcomers have tried to keep to themselves certain facts about their lives….they have turned to easier methods…but they had not learned enough humility…

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS pp. 72-73

Humility sounds so much like humiliation, but it really is the ability to look at myself-and honestly accept what I find. I no longer need to be the ‘smartest’or ‘dumbest’ or any other ‘est’. Finally, it is okay to be me. It is easier for me to accept myself if I share my whole life. If I cannot share in meetings, then I had better have a sponsor-someone with whom I can share those ‘certain facts’ that could lead me back to a drunk, to death. I need to take all the Steps. I need the Fifth Step to learn true humility. Easier methods do not work. 

“Entirely Honest”

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We must be entirely honest with somebody if we expect to live long or happily in this world. 

ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS pp.73-74

Honesty, like all virtues, is to be shared. It began after I shared “…[my] whole life’s story with someone…” in order to find my place in the Fellowship. Later I shared my life in order to help the new comer find his place with us. This sharing helps me to learn honesty in all my dealings and to know that God’s plan for me comes true through honest openness and willingness. 

Cleaning House

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Somehow, being alone with God doesn’t seem as embarrassing as facing up to another person. Until we actually sit down and talk aloud about what we have so long hidden, our willingness to clean house is still largely theoretical. 

TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS p. 60

It wasn’t unusual for me to talk to God, and myself, about my character defects. But to sit down, face to face, and openly discuss these intimacies with another person was much more difficult. I recognized in the experience, however, a a similar relief to the one I had experienced when I first admitted I was an alcoholic. I began to appreciate the spiritual significance of the program and that this Step (5) was just introduction to what was yet to come in the remaining seven Steps. 

Daily Reflections May 1, 2016

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HEALING HEART AND MIND

Admitted to God. To ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

TWELVE STEPS AND TWELVE TRADITIONS p.55

Since it is true that God comes to me through people, I can see that by keeping people at a distance I also keep God at a distance. God is nearer to me than I think and I can experience Him by loving people and allowing people to love me. But I can neither love not be loved if I allow my secrets to get in the way. 

It’s the side of myself that I refuse to look at that rules me. I must be willing to look at the dark side in order to heal my mind and heart because that is the road to freedom. I must walk into darkness to find the light and walk into fear to find peace. 

By revealing my secrets-and thereby ridding myself of guilt-I can actually change my thinking; by altering my thinking, I can change myself. My thoughts create my future. What I will be tomorrow is determined by what I think today. 

Mindfullnes? What’s That?

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“Trauma is fundamentally a disorder in the ability to stay in the here and now.” – Bessel Vander Kolk MD (Dr. Bessel Vander Kolk is a doctor who specializes in Trauma. If you type the name into Google you can learn a little more.)

Mindfulness is a subject that ties in to all of the classes I take in treatment. Mindfulness is by far the most beneficial tool that I have learned because it provides support, healing, and coping in each struggle I face. I hope your able to benefit from this information as well.

What is Mindfulness?

Psychologist and mindfulness meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn has simply defined mindfulness in this way: “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”

This sounds simple, but mindfulness is a skill that takes practice to cultivate and maintain. Why? Let’s consider the different parts of the definition…

“Paying attention”

  • How much of the time are you really paying attention to whats happening in your life- as opposed to thinking about something else, remembering things, imagining possible futures, and acting out habitual patterns or more accurately, reacting to people and situations based on old habits of perceiving, thinking, feeling, and behaving?
  • Paying conscious attention can be especially hard when a current interaction reminds us of past hurts or betrayals-and before even realizing it, we can automatically and defensively respond as if those old experiences are happening again.
  • All of us have our habitual patterns, our vulnerabilities to automatic reactions based on past experiences of hurt, our “buttons” that can get “pushed.” This is particularly true when we are already stressed and/or in a hurry. Truly paying attention in our lives is a challenge for anyone.

“On purpose”

  •  It takes a conscious decision, and effort by one’s mind and brain, to pay attention to what’s happening in the present. In fact, such choices and efforts are required over and over again, since we are continually pulled back into habitual ways of processing information and responding to things.
  • Too often we’re on “auto pilot,” not even trying to pay attention to what’s actually happening in the unique situations and interactions that make up our lives. (Personal perception:This happens to me a lot when I am at home and when I have idle time. I believe that having structure and sticking to the “next indicated step” view each day allows me to become more mindful each day.)

“In the present moment”

  •  Most of us, most of the time, are absorbed in memories of the past or visions and plans for the future.
  • For most people, it is rare to be aware, without some amount of distraction or multitasking, of what is actually occurring in the present moment.
  • Particularly when strong emotions arise, people often respond not to situations as they are, but to reactive perceptions and thoughts based on painful experiences in the past. In the most extreme instances, one may not be “here” in the present but “back there,” reliving the past through responses to present situations. (Personal perception: For me this looks like Dissociation and Flash Backs. However, now that I know this information and believe in it’s value, I am now able to “bring myself back”  by using the grounding techniques that I wrote about in another post, and searching for the “trigger” that “sent me back there” mentally.)

“Non-judgmentally”

  • This is one of the hardest things to achieve. We so often react intensely to our experiences, particularly unwanted experiences, and to our initial responses to them.
  • “This is horrible!” “What an idiot!” “How could I do that?!” “I can’t take this anymore!” “Here I go again.” You know the ways you can instantaneously and automatically judge situations, other people, and your own thoughts, feelings and behaviors – often in a chain reaction of increasing judgment and distress.
  • “I need…” “I want…” “I deserve…” Positive judgments and the cravings they evoke can also be a problem, particularly when they are automatic and intense. We can lose out focus, forget what’s important, get caught in cycles of addiction, selfishly take advantage of others, etc.
  • In contrast, the non-judgmental quality of mindfulness brings great freedom – to see things more clearly, to evaluate situations with some distance from our habitual emotional reactions and impulses, to observe emotions and impulses as they arise without either trying to escape them or letting them carry us away.
  • We all have at least glimpses of this potential, when we are feeling so positive and relaxed that something which would normally cause strong judgment and negative emotions is seen as no big deal, more clearly for what it is: a passing unwanted experience or temptation to indulge.
  • But to bring this non-judgmental quality into our daily lives, consistently, even at very stressful times, this is something many of is can hardly imagine. Yes it is possible, by practicing mindfulness (and kindness).
  • And for those who are vulnerable to remembering and reliving painful experiences from the past, to strong waves of emotion, to intense self-criticism – the cultivation of non-judgmental mindfulness can bring tremendous relief and freedom from old patterns. (I am currently in this stage of mindfulness. I do experience memories of painful experiences, strong waves of emotion, and self-criticism, but when I practice mindfulness and stay in the present I am now able to decrease the intensity of the pain, or pressure to engage in familiar cycles of behavior-or destructive coping skills; such as addiction.)

Example of an action/situation where I am mindful: Being at the beach walking the pier creates mindfulness and allows positive sensations to run through my body, which allows my mind to become more open, more positive, more rational, so that I can think about my life as it is at this point, in a positive and peaceful way. Which then creates an ability to think about the decisions I need to make in a rational, emotional, and wise approach. I can not make decisions in the past or future; only in the current moment.

In what areas could you benefit from being more mindful? Practice mindfulness any chance you get. I will be posting a couple more lectures on mindfulness to help solidify the material, the benefits, and ways of being mindful.

To the people that follow my blog posts,

I sincerely thank you for following and reading the posts I create. Having the knowledge that people are reading and potentially benefiting from the information given, inspires me to continue writing. Thanks so much.

Love,

Shadow

Introduction To DBT

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The main course – as I like to call it – I take in outpatient treatment is called DBT. DBT stands for: Dialectical Behavior Therapy. It is an intense therapy method used for many different reasons. I call it a course because it is just as hard as the courses I take in college! Maybe even a little harder, because the homework I get for the lectures are all about being mindful and in touch with myself and being in the process of actively changing my “wiring” so to speak. I hope that sharing DBT with you will be beneficial and hopefully not to challenging to understand in this medium.

Here goes. I am starting from the very beginning.

Introduction to Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

1. Dialectical: Any systematic reasoning or argument that places opposed or contradictory ideas together and seeks to resolve this conflict.

2. Biosocial Theory of DBT: This involves a biological disposition (not necessarily hereditary) in an environmental context.

A. Emotion Regulation: The combination of an emotional response system that is oversensitive and overactive with an inability to modulate (manage) the resulting strong emotions and actions.

1. Emotional Vulnerability Characteristics:

  • Increased sensitivity
  • Increased intense response
  • Slow return to baseline

2. Emotion Modulation Goals:

  • Decreased inappropriate behavior
  • Increased organization to act appropriately
  • Self-soothe physiological arousal
  • Refocus attention when “emotional”

B. Invalidating Environment & Effect on Emotional Vulnerability:

1. High emotional sensitivity, plus a lack of validation of emotional experiences, teaches the child to distrust his/her emotional responses, leading to either overreaction to emotions or under-reaction (ignores)  of needs or preferences.

2. This combination leads to behavior changes reinforced by the invalidating environment and may result in a Vicious Cycle: the invalidating environment leads to inappropriate behavior by the individual which results in more invalidation. Both the environment and the child (now adult) may exhibit the following behaviors:

  • Responds erratically & inappropriately to the individual’s experience (thoughts, feelings, sensations, etc). The invalidating environment is especially insensitive when individual’s experiences are not validated by the public (outside of invalidating environment).
  • Responds in extreme fashion  (overreact or under react) to the individual’s experiences that DO have public agreement/validation.
  • Ignores or disregards needs and/or preferences, as well as beliefs and communications. Further, the invalidating environment might punish the individual’s assertiveness.
  • Emphasizing controlling emotional expressiveness, especially “negative” feelings. Emotional pain is trivialized and attributed to the person’s negative traits. For example, the invalidating environment may blame the individual for their emotional pain, such as accusing them of lack of discipline, lack of motivation, or failure to adopt a positive attitude.
  • Restricts demands a child may make upon the environment.
  • Discriminates against the child based on arbitrary characteristics of the individual.
  • Using abusive punishment to control behavior.

C. Effect of Invalidating Environment:

It increases emotion dysregulation by failing to teach the child to label and manage arousal, to tolerate stress, and to trust his/her own emotional responses as valid interpretations of events. The child learns to invalidate his/her own experiences, making it necessary for them to scan the environment for cues about how to act and feel. The invalidating environment oversimplifies life’s experiences and the task of solving life’s problems. Therefore, it fails to teach how to set realistic goals. Moreover, by punishing the expression of “negative” emotions and erratically reinforcing emotional communication only after escalation by the child, the invalidating environment teaches the individual to adopt an all or nothing emotional expression style that vacillates between extreme suppression and extreme reaction.

3. Consequences of Emotion Dysregulation and Invalidating Environment

A. Impulsive Behavior (especially parasuicide) is maladaptive but effective. EX:

  • Overdosing: increased sleep, which decreases emotion dysregulation;
  • Parasuicide Act: distract or get attention to decrease emotional pain.

B. Inadequate Development and Maintenance of Sense of Self: One’s sense of self is formed by observations of oneself and of others’ reactions to one’s actions.

  • Emotional consistency and predictability, across time and similar situations, are prerequisites of identity development. Unpredictable emotional changes lead to unpredictable behavior and inconsistent thought, which interferes with identity development.
  • In addition, the numbness associated with suppressing emotions is often experienced as emptiness, which decreases sense of self.
  • If an individual’s sense of events is never “correct” or unpredictably “correct” (the situation is an invalidating environment), then the individual may develop an over-dependence on others.

C. Chaotic Relationships: Effective relationships depend on a stable sense of self, capacity for spontaneity in emotional expression, appropriate regulation (management) of emotions and toleration of emotional pain. Emotion dysregulation interferes with these abilities.

Note: In a healthy, non-chaotic relationship, both people feel ‘free to be me’.