Monthly Archives: February 2010

Working Through Verbal and Emotional Abuse: Challenging the Lies We’ve Come to Believe Using DBT-CBT Therapy Techniques

The following is an amended excerpt from the DBT-CBT Workbook. It is from Chapter 8, “Challenging Extreme Judgments,” which focuses on the negative things we say to ourselves (and believe) and the negative things others have said of us that we come to believe as truths about us.

When we’re mad or hurt, we sometimes say very hurtful things to ourselves and others. This is Emotion-Driven Behavior. Our hurtful words are based on how we’re thinking and feeling in the Heat-of-the-Moment! They’re ANGRY WORDS. We’re not in Rational Mind and we’re not speaking truth. We’re expressing HOW WE FEEL about people and things WHEN WE’RE MAD OR HURT! Words driven by a heated Emotional Mind SHOULD NOT BE TRUSTED!

The purpose of this chapter is to recognize that these statements are borne from Emotional Mind…an angry, depressed, or discouraged state of mind. They are Emotion-Driven Lies…not Rational Mind truths. The worksheet for this chapter, “The Challenging Negative Judgments of Me Worksheet” leads us through the process of challenging these lies through Rational Mind. We identify a particularly hurtful statement that has negatively impacted our self-esteem and self-concept and we identify characteristics of ourselves that prove that we are not that way. Then, we are challenged to answer the question…”What is rational to believe…that statement that came out of the mouth of someone who was upset and irrational in the emotional moment…or all these facts about ourselves that prove otherwise and the hundreds of people that agree we really are this kind of person?”

THESE TRUTHS SHOW HOW MUCH OF A LIE the negative judgment is…and has been. The judgment was NOT based on truth. It was an EMOTION-DRIVEN LIE MADE UP about us…and WE HAVE LIVED SO MUCH OF OUR LIFE BASED ON THIS LIE. We have believed the lie. We have NOTICED EVERYTHING that supported the lie, and discounted, overlooked, and IGNORED ALL THE THINGS that challenged the lie…all the things that prove we’re NOT stupid, worthless, or undesirable. LET THAT SINK IN. What was said about you is A BOLD-FACED LIE. IT IS NOT TRUTH. We know that now because THE FACTS PROVE IT! Anytime those old feelings come up, be ever so Mindful of the facts and the TRUTH. TAKE A STAND and RATIONALLY CHALLENGE THE LIE…right then and there. Don’t EVER let yourself get away with believing that lie again. RATIONALLY CONFRONT IT and DEFEND YOURSELF!

The following is the text that follows this worksheet and discussion directly about it.

APPLICATION: The Origin of the Judgmental Lies

Most of the negative judgments made about us…were first said to us when we were young. They were NOT based on anything about us…not a character trait or a personality feature.

When someone tells a 3 or 4 year old child that they’re worthless, stupid, or will never amount to anything…or they’re too much of this or too little of that…or no one will ever love them…IT’S AN EMOTION-DRIVEN LIE. How in the world can someone know something like that about a very young child? This type of meanness, ugliness, and hurtfulness SPEAKS VOLUMES about the person making the statements…AND SAYS NOTHING ABOUT THE CHARACTER OF THE CHILD.

We know that when WE make ugly and insulting comments to others, we’re being verbally abusive. Oftentimes, we’re mad and we say these things in anger. Likewise, THE PERSON saying ugly things to us is UPSET, too. Often, THEY FEEL stupid, irresponsible, or worthless and THEY TAKE IT OUT ON US. Most of them were emotionally abused…and are just MINDLESSLY PASSING IT ON to the next generation. Also, they may suffer the moodiness and impulsivity that goes with drugs and alcohol, Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, etc. For whatever reason, they’re BIG-TIME IN EMOTIONAL MIND and they’re being verbally and emotionally ABUSIVE to us. When we’re YOUNG or VULNERABLE, (22) WE TRUST THEIR OPINIONS and come to BELIEVE what they’re saying. However, WE’RE BELIEVING AN EMOTION-DRIVEN LIE.

When we did “The Challenging Negative Judgments About Me Worksheet,” we CHALLENGED the EMOTION-DRIVEN LIE by looking at the Big Picture of Our Life THROUGH THE EYES AND TRUTH OF RATIONAL MIND. When we review this worksheet and consider all the things about us that support we’re capable people with worth and value, we’re functioning in Rational Mind. When we make a DECISION that WE’LL NO LONGER JUDGE OURSELVES in a FALSE and HURTFUL manner, we’re functioning in WISE MIND. When we’re DETERMINED that ANY TIME those old thoughts or labels COME TO MIND, we’ll CHALLENGE THEM and REMIND OURSELVES of all the things about us that PROVE otherwise, then, we’ll be USING WISE MIND TO MINDFULLY PROTECT OUR PEACE AND STABILITY.

ANY TIME, ANY ONE of those NASTY JUDGMENTS comes into our thoughts and begins to hurt us, WE NEED TO CHALLENGE THEM…right then n’ there. (23) We need to STOMP THEM OUT and REFUSE to allow them to CONTROL US any longer. They are lies. WE HAVE BEEN LIVING A LIE. We have perceived ourselves based on a lie. DO NOT ALLOW THESE LIES TO CONTROL YOUR LIFE ANY LONGER! DO NOT ALLOW THEM TO TAKE AWAY your peace and stability! They’re things Coming At Us that have NO PLACE in our Inner Circle.  TAKE A STAND against these lies…and FIGHT FOR YOUR RECOVERY!

APPLICATION: Stupid Is as Stupid Does?

At this point, some folks say, “When they said that, I had done something stupid or irresponsible.” Remember, we’re human. We’re not perfect. Things WILL happen.  That’s our humanity! One stupid behavior or 10 or 12 of them means we did one stupid behavior or 10 or 12 of them. Those things describe our behavior in-the-moment or the month. They DO NOT define WHO WE ARE as a person or WHAT WE’RE CAPABLE OF. They DO NOT define our character or our make-up. THEY DEFINE AN event, action, or a behavior…NOT our WHOLE person. Just because the 8th grade educated shift team leader made a mistake, that doesn’t mean he’s stupid. That means HE MADE A MISTAKE…THAT DAY. That mistake and an 8th grade education DOESN’T describe what he’s capable of. Those things DO NOT define his character or describe everything he has ever accomplished in life. HE IS NOT STUPID. He simply made AN ERROR.(24) Stupid ISN’T as stupid does!

There may be times in our life when we make many errors…even when we totally mess things up for a year or two by making one bad decision after another. DOES THAT MEAN WE’RE STUPID? NOOOOOO. It means we’re DYSREGULATED (25) and LIVING Big-Time in Emotional Mind. It means we’re making a lot of Emotion-Driven decisions which ARE STUPID. That DOESN’T MEAN WE ARE STUPID…you know why?    Explain. _________________________________________________________________________
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We’re NOT stupid or clueless. In our gut, we usually know our behavior is going to cause problems BEFORE we do it! We have Wise Mind going on, but we’re NOT PAYING ATTENTION TO IT. We’re NOT Following Through With What We Know is in our best interests…because WE’RE BIG-TIME in Emotional Mind! WE’RE  DYSREGULATED… we’re LIVING IN-THE-MOMENT. We’re uncomfortable…we hurt…we’re not worrying about tomorrow. We’re living for TODAY…and if it feels good…we’re going to do it!

Are we STUPID because we do it?  Explain. ___________________________________
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No, we’re NOT STUPID. We’re ACTING in poor judgment. We KNOW better.  We know right from wrong…and good from bad. We DO stupid things because EMOTIONAL MIND IS DRIVING. That’s why we SPIN-OUT and LOSE CONTROL.  That’s why we wreck-out and our life becomes a total wreck.

So, does that mean we have poor judgment?  Explain. __________________________________

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NO…because WE HAVE GOOD JUDGMENT! We KNEW it was stupid or of poor judgment…but we did it anyway! We KNEW it was going to end poorly, but we DIDN’T CARE AT THE TIME. We just did what we WANTED to do…
and no one or nothing was going to stop us. We were being VERY WILLFUL.

What we did was EMOTION-DRIVEN Behavior. We do all types of MINDLESS and IMPULSIVE things when we’re acting on Emotional Mind…ESPECIALLY WHEN WE’RE IN A DESPERATE STATE, like desperate for relief, desperate for comfort, or desperate to be held and loved on. It’s NOT STUPIDITY. It’s DESPERATION. You’ve heard the saying, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” Well, desperate measures often involve risky things that are likely to have a bad outcome. So, BECAUSE WE’VE DONE SOMETHING STUPID or two years or ten years worth, that DOESN’T MEAN WE ARE STUPID. That’s because WE KNOW BETTER.

WE JUST DO IT ANYWAY! Gladly, this workbook is about GETTING CONTROL of our BEHAVIOR and our LIFE! And, we do that by Turning On RATIONAL MIND and WISE MIND to REGULATE and CONTROL our dysregulated and Out-of-Control emotions and Emotion-Driven Behavior.

Footnotes:

22- If we’re older when these lies were spoken, they usually came from an abusive spouse or romantic partner.  Over time, we’ll realize these people were angry, mean, harsh, moody, and unfair.  We KNOW their words were Emotion-Driven.  We KNOW they’re abusive, mean, and critical people, but for some reason, we believe their ugly opinions.  We believe they’re right and other people are wrong.  Go figure.  The truth, we were vulnerable and they took advantage of it.  Often, they were mean to “keep us in our place”…in a “downed position” with low self-esteem.  They wanted us to believe we ARE stupid, unworthy, and not capable…so we would never have the strength to leave them.

23- Whenever a negative judgment begins to bother you, either complete “The Challenging Negative Judgments of Me Worksheet” in your mind or on paper.  Use this RECOVERY TOOL to challenge those lies!

24- I’m pretty smart with a Ph.D…that just gives me a license to be  Piled Higher and Deeper in errors!  Lord knows if it’s 10AM and I haven’t made an error yet, I must still be asleep!

25- Dysregulated – (dis-reg-you-lated) – not in control of ourselves… we’re not able to regulate or control our behavior.

Extra margin text below:

No matter how smart we are or how much psychological stuff we know, we can get side-swiped and wrecked-out by a hurtful comment.

When we believe these lies and base our sense of self and identity on these lies, we’re viewing ourselves through Emotional Mind.  We’re not dealing with the facts and the truth.  We’re overlooking, ignoring, and denying all the things which tell us we aren’t that way…and we’re focusing on ALL the things which suggest we may be that way.  We’re ignoring what Rational Mind is telling us and we’re viewing ourselves through the distorted lenses of Emotional Mind.

We have thought poorly of ourselves and have treated ourselves poorly because of a lie.

We ARE going to do some stupid and thoughtless things now and then, but that doesn’t mean we’re a stupid and thoughtless person.  It means we DID SOMETHING that was stupid or thoughtless.

We ACTED in poor judgment.  We went against our good judgment.

“Then how do we describe this stupid, poor judgment behavior?!”   We describe it as DESPERATE behavior.  It’s not an issue of smarts.  It’s an issue of being desperate and dysregulated!  It’s an issue of being OUT-OF-CONTROL! We know better, but we do desperate, self-defeating things anyway.

This text was adapted from the DBT-CBT Therapy Workbook – “Out-of-Control:  A Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Workbook for Getting Control of Our Emotions and Emotion-Driven Behavior”  by Melanie Gordon Sheets, Ph.D.  – copyright 2009 – Recovery Works Publications

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