Category Archives: Self-Injurious Behavior – Cutting

Track Your Emotional Level Using “The Levels of Emotion Chart” from the DBT-CBT Workbook (with Estimates of Emotional Mind and Rational Mind)

The Levels of Emotion Chart provides descriptions of how we FEEL and FUNCTION when we’re experiencing different levels of negative emotion. The levels range from 0-10. At Level 0, we are at peace. At Level 10, we are desperately overwhelmed with negative emotion. Notice the far right columns.  They show how active Emotional Mind and Rational Mind are at each level (this is just a guess though!) This chart helps to gauge or measure our emotional intensity and to better understand the effect our emotional levels have on our ability to participate effectively in our life.

Use the link below to check out the chart and to read the text from the workbook related to the chart.  I don’t know why, but you’ll go to a page view that doesn’t open the file…BUT, if you click the link again when you get to that page…it’ll come up like it’s supposed to!  

The Levels of Emotion Chart – from the DBT-CBT Therapy Workbook by Melanie Gordon Sheets, Ph.D.

Review the levels of emotion in the chart and answer the following questions.

What level are you currently at?

What has been you lowest and highest level today?

What is the level of your best functioning over the past week? the last month?

At what level were you at when “Something Happened” and you ended up having to go into treatment?

At what level should you seek help so you can prevent going into treatment?

Most group members believe we should call our support person, sponsor, counselor, or crisis worker at level 5 or 6. Knowing what they know now, they want to get help BEFORE things begin to get out-of-control. At levels 5 and 6, we still have a fair amount of Rational Mind going on. This helps us to seek support…and to accept the Rational Mind and Wise Mind understandings and suggestions offered to us!

The DBT-CBT Recovery Workbook Focuses On Self-Destructive Behaviors

DBT-CBT is a life-changing recovery program that inspires people
to make the life changes that will change their lives.
This program has turned many defeated hearts into empowered spirits
that are psychologically prepared to take on the challenges of
GETTING ON  and STAYING ON the Recovery Path.

Come join us in our journey.

This is a workbook for recovery from a variety of Self-Destructive Coping Behaviors. The philosophy of DBT-CBT is that “Many of our “abnormal” behaviors are normal given our experiences. They once served as survival skills.  However, their period of usefulness is long over.  We’ve overused these coping behaviors…and now, they’re causing us great pain and they’re destroying our lives.”

This workbook explains why we do the things we do…and why we keep doing these things even though they cause us more pain and problems.  It’s about what we do in the heat-of-the-moment…the emotional moment.  It’s about what happens when EMOTIONAL MIND drives and RATIONAL MIND takes a backseat…and WISE MIND is left on the side of the road.

When we’re filled with upsetting emotions, we often do things for quick relief…like drugs and alcohol; suicide attempts; cutting and other forms of self-mutilation; aggression; temper tantrums; walking off and leaving the situation; withdrawal; overeating or not eating enough; overshopping; “sleeping around”; rebound relationships; gambling; and other risky and reckless behaviors. The Nature of the Problem is…the things we do to feel better end up multiplying and intensifying our problems. Our Destructive Coping Behaviors help us to cope in the Heat-of-the-Moment…but, they have many negative consequences. They make our current problems more severe…and they CREATE many new problems for us to struggle with.   Over time, our lives spiral OUT-OF-CONTROL and into a CYCLE OF SUFFERING.

This workbook provides useful tools, attitudes, and plans for changing how we respond to life.  Our goal is to GET CONTROL of our OUT-OF-CONTROL emotions, behaviors, and thinking. We do this by PARTICIPATING EFFECTIVELY in our lives and by using LIFE-ENHANCING COPING MECHANISMS to deal with our pain and problems.  Our goal is to MINDFULLY PROTECT OUR PEACE AND STABILITY and the BIG PICTURE OF OUR LIFE.  Our goal is to STOP the CYCLE OF SUFFERING.

A List of Common Self-Destructive Coping Behaviors

“A List of Common Self-Destructive Coping Behaviors”

Avoidance Strategies

Denial  •  Oversleeping  •  Procrastination  •  Stuffing Our Emotions

Walking Off – Leaving   •   Withdrawal – Isolation

Flight into Activity (staying too busy to think about our troubles)

Eating Disorders

Anorexia   •    Bulimia    •   Overeating   •   Comfort Eating

Passive-Aggressive Behavior

“Harmless” Jokes   •   “Forgetting” (forgetting on purpose!)

“Accidents” (accidently doing something on purpose!)  •  Sarcasm

Procrastination   •    Talking Behind Someone’s Back    •     Gossiping

Physical Aggression

Towards People, Animals, and Property

Self-Harmful Behavior

Suicide Attempts – Gestures

Self-Mutilation (cutting, burning, scratching, hair pulling,

and other forms of self-inflicted body damage).

Substance Abuse / Dependence / Self-Medicating

Alcohol   •    Illegal Drugs    • Prescription Drugs

Over-the-Counter Drugs

Vengeful Acts

Taking Revenge (getting even…or ahead!)

Verbal Aggression

Saying Hurtful Things to Others   •   Hostile – Threatening Remarks

Screaming Fits – Temper Tantrums • Threats to Harm/ Kill Ourself

Telling People Off    •   Bluntness – Speaking Our Mind


Gambling    •    Habitual Lying    •   Codependency – Enabling

Rebound Relationships    •    Promiscuity (sleeping around) – Affairs

Overshopping   •   Being the Drama King or Queen

Getting Involved in Other People’s Problems

Criminal Acts (stealing, property damage, setting fires, etc.)

High Risk – Reckless Behavior (driving too fast, “playing chicken,”

road rage, “taking chances for the fun of it,” etc.)

How many of these things do you do?

Most of us do MANY of these things…and we end up with a lot more problems to deal with!

This list is excerpted from the DBT-CBT “Out-of-Control” Therapy Workbook by Melanie Gordon Sheets, Ph.D.

DBT is Dialectical Behavior Therapy  and  CBT is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.

How do I recover from Borderline Personality Disorder: A DBT-CBT perspective

Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) will be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. It will require a lot of perseverance and focus…and Mindfulness every waking hour. It will require great effort to gain control of out-of-control emotions, behaviors, and thought processes. Then it will require great control to MAINTAIN control over time. You’ll have to want recovery more than anything else in life. Just like the alcoholic…to recover they have to want recovery more than anything else in life. You’re attitude will have to be “Recovery is my #1 priority” and then you’ll have to act in ways to make it so.

The question of how to recover from BPD was posed to me and I wrote a couple paragraphs to give the person an idea of what it would involve. I did not spell out a comprehensive treatment program, just an overview of some things it would involve. BPD is a severe personality disorder that requires a comprehensive treatment plan and years of therapy…and years of practicing new behaviors and skills to undo and change years of dysfunctional responses. So consider the following information to be an overview of the process and know there’s more to it!

Some aspects of recovery include:

    A support system
    Practicing life-enhancing coping skills to replace self-destructive ones…and using these in the heat-of-the-moment…and on a day-to-day basis to keep negative emotional levels as low as possible.
    Challenging self-destructive Emotion-Driven Thoughts with Rational Mind thoughts. Rational Mind thoughts relate to the unchanging TRUTH and facts about a situation, our life, other people, etc. Our Emotional Mind thoughts are based on our “in-the-moment perceptions”…or the way we think about things when we’re in an emotional state. For instance, when we’re upset, we may think and say, “Nobody cares about me.” This will be a habit…so we’ll have to catch ourselves (Mindfulness) and turn on Rational Mind and say, “Many people love me and care about me. I’m just thinking that because I’m upset right now. That’s just stinkin’ thinkin’” If we think, “Cutting would help me to feel better.”…we must catch ourselves and say, “Cutting helps in-the-moment, but it ends up causing me more pain and problems. Calling a support person and working through the moment will help me NOW and in the future. Cutting is relapse for me and will only bring me down and land me back into the Cycle of Suffering. I want recovery and I’ve got to use life-enhancing coping skills.” Wise Mind is already kicking in and will be offering some suggestions for getting through the moment.

Borderline Personality Disorder also involves dysfunctional relationship dynamics and patterns. Part of the recovery process is awareness of our sensitivities and our typical responses in relationships. Mindfulness is essential here. When we catch ourselves responding in old dysfunctional ways, we’ll have to use Rational Mind and Wise Mind to alter our responses. Like when someone hurts our feelings, we might think, “She is such a b—-. She was never my friend. I’m never going to talk to her again. I don’t get mad, I get even.” That’s Emotional Mind thinking…it’s Emotion-Driven Thinking…thoughts that are driven by or are caused by whatever emotions we are experiencing. We’re thinking that way just because we’re Big-Time in Emotional Mind. So, we’ll have to catch ourselves and challenge that thought with Rational Mind. For instance, we might remind ourselves of the truth about her and other people, like “She’s usually nice to me. Maybe something’s going on with her and she’s not in such a nice mood right now. She’s been friendly and she’s been my friend. Everyone has their moods…and I guess she’s in one right now.” Wise Mind would kick on and make some problem-solving suggestions, such as, “I’ll pull myself together and go on with my day and TRY not to worry about this. I’ll check back in with her later and see if she’s okay. If something is troubling her, I’ll offer to talk with her about it. If it seems like she’s upset with me, I’ll let her know I appreciate her friendship and I’m sorry if I did something to upset her…and I’ll encourage her to talk with me about it…and I’ll work real hard not to be defensive! I’ll try to smooth things over with her so I can maintain this relationship.”

There’s a lot to working through and changing a lifetime of experiences, habits, thought processes, reactions, etc. Therapy, support groups, a support system, mindfulness, following through with life-enhancing coping behaviors and problem-solving, and an attitude of “Recovery is my #1 priority” are some key elements to recovery. READ self-help books too…and learn as much as you can about recovery. Know that it took a lifetime to get us to this place and time…and it will take a while to recover. It’s step by step, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day…month after month..and year after year. I think it is reasonable to expect that even though we get to a point of being “pretty well recovered” things will still come up…things that will bring up old feelings, insecurities, and issues…that we’ll have to deal with. But, by then, we’ll be real practiced at it and it won’t take long to set ourselves straight. Honestly, I am “pretty well recovered” but I still have to deal with myself on a daily basis. I consider myself to be “a work in progress.”

Another thing to think about is that it is normal to be “abnormal.” Most people have issues and concerns that bother them. Some struggle to get better n’ better…and others remain in denial and blame others, avoid their issues…and remain in a Cycle of Suffering.