Category Archives: Excerpts

Recovery is a Process: When a Boulder Slams Into Our Recovery Path

Recovery is a Process

“Why try? I’m tired of trying. “Why change? Nothing ever changes?” Many folks in early recovery believe NOTHING will ever get better or they believe things will get better, but only temporarily! They expect that when things are going well, something will happen and ruin everything…the bottom will fall out again and they will end up in the same position or worse. They have trouble believing recovery will make a real difference in their life.

The truth, when we are living a recovery lifestyle things get better in our life. As recovery time increases, the big picture of our life begins to come together and many good things happen. At first, one or two good things happen. When we build on these improvements, several more good things happen…then several more…and several more. Soon, we go from experiencing relief to experiencing some life satisfaction. Over time, periods of joy occur…and meaning returns to our life! The truth, things get better when we get better. Things change when we change.

When a Boulder Lands on Our Recovery Path: Things rock along okay for a while…3 months, 6 months, sometimes longer. We’re dealing with stuff that comes our way…and we’re making gains day by day…and then, something happens. Boom! It’s like a boulder falls out of the sky and smashes right into the middle of our recovery path. We’re now faced with a huge stumbling block…something big…and something hard to get around.

The boulder that slams into our recovery path may be an old friend who shows up one day, maybe someone we’ve been in love with before. We’re feeling all the fun and excitement of the good ol’ times. We’re tempted to spend time with them to relive old times and cherished memories…however, their situation or lifestyle conflicts with our recovery plan. Maybe they still drink or use drugs, or cut, or shoplift…maybe they have a bad attitude or they don’t have steady work and want to stay with us for a while…maybe they’re moody and get very critical and ugly…maybe they’ve abused us before.

The truth…life is going to happen. Difficult things will come our way and boulders will land on our recovery path. The direction our life goes depends on the choice we make when we’re faced with difficult situations. It’s like we come to a fork in the road. We can keep on the right path or we can go down the wrong road. No matter what we do, WE ALWAYS HAVE A CHOICE…to stay on the Recovery Path or to go down Relapse Road.

At this point, we’re faced with a major decision…and we have two choices. We can fight to stay on the recovery path and work to deal with the situation productively, or we can relapse into old behaviors and habits to numb-out and white-out the pain and distress. If we choose to stay on the recovery path, we’ll probably have a tough time dealing with the situation. Getting around, through, and passed a boulder takes time and we’re impatient creatures…especially when we’re expected to tolerate discomfort, inconvenience, pain, and suffering without our preferred destructive coping behaviors! We don’t want to tolerate distress and it’s very tempting to give up…and give in to old ways…the ways of relapse. We don’t want to take the time it takes…to deal with the boulder. We want the pain and discomfort to go away…fast. We don’t want the stress. We don’t want the heartache. We just want to be happy. We want life to go smooth…and when it doesn’t, we get discouraged. We want to call it quits. If life has to be like this, we don’t want any part of it.

The truth is…to maintain recovery, we must have an attitude of willingness. We must be willing to do whatever we need to do to be okay and to maintain our recovery. If we don’t do what it takes to stay on the recovery path…if we don’t try hard enough for long enough…it’s likely that we’ll relapse into our former destructive ways. Then, many of the things that became good because of our recovery will once again go bad…and that’s when we’ll walk away saying, “Why did I even try? I always relapse and things get bad again.”

The truth is…when we try…and continue to try to deal with life and all the boulders that come our way, life will get better and better. If we keep on keeping on, we’ll finally get through…passed…over…and around the boulders and obstacles in our recovery. That’s how people recover. They don’t give up…or they don’t give up for long!

Recovery is not one action. It is not something that happens in a day. It is step-by-step, decision by decision, and day after day. It is a lifestyle…and a life-long endeavor!

Why try? Because life gets good when we try and even better when we keep trying and refuse to give up! The something that happens that destroys our life is our decision to relapse. The thing that really breaks us and causes us to bottom-out emotionally and spiritually is a broken promise to ourselves…the promise we make at the start of recovery. It’s the promise that, “I’ll do whatever it takes to be okay…because I’m tired of living this way. Come hail or high water, I’ll do whatever I have to do to be okay…because I refuse to live like this anymore.”

In our recovery, there will be times when we’re holding on by just a thread…but we’re holding on. It’s only when we let go, that we fall. It’s like the saying, “You never fail until you stop trying.”

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Adapted from Chapter 3 “The Pathways of Recovery” from the DBT-CBT recovery workbook “Out-of-Control: A Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Workbook for Getting Control of Our Emotions and Emotion-Driven Behavior” – Copyright 2009 by Melanie Gordon Sheets, Ph.D.  (www.dbt-cbt-workbook.com)

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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 Dynamics of Emotional Mind and It’s Role in Driving Destructive Coping Behavior: When Emotional Mind Drives…We Wreck Out…and Our Lives Become a Total Wreck

The Dynamics of Emotional Mind - hand-out  092010b

View the pdf file for a readable image – click the link below

The Dynamics of Emotional Mind – DBT-CBT Conference Handout – 072411

This hand-out addresses the dynamics of Emotional Mind and its role in driving destructive emotion-driven coping behaviors (e.g., substance abuse, aggression, eating disorders, etc.)

The “Cycle of Suffering”- when we respond to emotional pain and life problems in destructive, emotion-driven ways, we end up with new problems and increasingly severe old problems…and we feel worse than before.  If we respond to this new level of pain and problems in destructive ways, our pain and problems will continue to intensify and multiply.  Because we’re not working through our pain or resolving our problems, our emotional baggage piles up.  The trauma from the past weighs us down in the present and intensifies present misery.  What could have been temporary pain and problems has turned into long-term pain and suffering.  The only way to get the cycle of suffering to stop…is to stop it.  We can stop our suffering by stopping our destructive coping behavior.  We must turn on Rational Mind to “think through before we do” and we must “follow through” with Wise Mind problem-solving and life-enhancing coping behaviors.

Based on:  “Out-of-Control:  A Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Workbook for Getting Control of Our Emotions and Emotion-Driven Behavior” copyright © 2010 by Melanie Gordon Sheets, Ph.D.   (www.dbt-cbt-workbook.com)

Radical Acceptance: Accepting the Unacceptable – Coming to Terms With Our Destructive Behavior to Heal the Emotional Pain of Shame, Guilt, and Regret

I recently responded to a LinkedIn discussion regarding the negative consequences of an individual being found “Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity.”  It was spurred by a Wall Street Journal article entitled, “The Trouble With the Insanity Defense” written by D. J. Jaffe, a co-founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center.  It was printed in the 3-26-10 edition.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB20001424052748704896104575139801575696436.html

The writer notes, “Not guilty by reason of insanity is an inadequate remedy to violence by individuals with mental illness.” He raised some valid points.

As I work for a state mental health institution which provides treatment for NGRI patients, I responded with the following comment.

Pros and cons. Time in a psychiatric hospital is generally “easier” time than in prison – so that is a definite benefit to the NGRI population. Further, many of our NGRI patients have stabilized to a degree that they are among the highest functioning patients in the hospital and have the highest level of privileges. Those are benefits.

In terms of cons, in general the NGRI population spends more time in a psychiatric facility than they would if they served Guilty sentences in prison. Also, like the article notes, they are often held in a psychiatric hospital long after stabilization and likely safe release to the community. In Texas, the superintendent (CEO) of the hospital has to approve the potential release before petitioning the court for placing the patient on an outpatient commitment. Both the judge and the hospital CEO are risking their careers and reputation if the released patient recommits a significantly violent crime.

The headline test – ‘Judge ordered release of criminally insane man who kills again

In addition, the community mental health officials also have to ‘sign off’ on the release and attest that they can ensure adequate monitoring and treatment to prevent reoffending. It’s a risky business. However, many of the NGRI individuals are truly honorable, caring, competent individuals who regret their actions and strive for a productive life. It is a great shame for patients and victims. Our facility works very hard on behalf of these patients, the courts, and the community to carefully evaluate individuals who appear ready for an outpatient commitment and to ensure a sound outpatient treatment program / support plan is in place for these individuals. It is a risky situation however as a state psychiatric facility, we are charged with providing this service and level of care.”

Marilyn Miller, MS., LPC., a psychotherapist in private practice in San Antonio, Texas, comments in this discussion that she works with individuals with bipolar disorder to help them “resolve enormous shame for their actions during manic phases (pre-medication and -treatment).”  She notes that even though their acts did not involve violence against others, their behavior was so “devastatingly self-destructive” and “so counter to their own ‘real’ values that the hurdle of getting over that shame is quite high.”  She states that she “can not imagine the further horror” for NGRI individuals “knowing that they have taken lives (or attempted to do so).http://www.marilynmillerpsychotherapy.com/

My follow-up response using the vernacular and understandings of the DBT-CBT “Out-of-Control” Workbook I wrote…includes,

As you say Marilyn, it is horribly sad to work with the NGRI’s (or other patients) who are non-psychopathic…and in a period of being out of touch with reality or otherwise ‘Big Time in Emotional Mind’…enacted state dependent destructive behavior…and when they ‘come to’ reality (Rational Mind) and recognize what they have done and the impact on others and their lives…they are in great emotional pain and are devastated by their behavior.  Just this week in group at the state hospital, this came up as we were discussing the consequences of ‘Emotion-Driven Behavior.’  A cloud of great remorse and sadness came over the group in that moment of insight and understanding relating to why things are the way they are in their lives…why their people are so upset with them….and why they have lost so many of the things that they value and cherish.

I teach them that it’s not WHAT happened (like a relationship break-up, conflict on the job, abuse, etc) that has led to such life losses…that it is HOW they responded to the life situation (drugs, alcohol, suicide attempts, physical violence, saying ugly things to people, etc) that has led to the deterioration of their life and the widespread losses of all the people, things, and activities they love and cherish.  This is a painful truth that leads to a major moment of reckoning.  From there, we talk about what we can do to prevent getting ‘Big-Time in Emotional Mind’…and learning ways to respond through Wise Mind when we do experience out-of-control emotional moments.

This past week, this moment in group was so heavy in sadness that I told them that this is exactly why I wrote the workbook and why I am so passionate about helping them in group…that it pains me greatly to be among such neat, wonderful individuals who truly care about their lives and their people…and how it is so sad to live, eat, breathe Emotional Mind…and to be stuck in a ‘Cycle of Suffering’…a cycle of being upset, enacting destructive Emotion-Driven Coping Mechanisms, suffering more losses, feeling worse, continuing destructive copings, consequences worsen, feeling even worse….and on and on and on.

The depth of their pain is what drives me to work so hard to help them to understand Emotional Mind dynamics and to find new ways to respond to life stressors, problems, situations, losses, etc., to STOP the cycle of suffering, and to live a recovery lifestyle so they can reap all the rewards of doing so…to end their pain and suffering and to live a life that provides meaning and satisfaction.

For many, this involves understanding why they have done the things they’ve done, self-acceptance and forgiveness, being committed to change the way they respond to life, developing a Game Plan for recovery, and FOLLOWING THROUGH with their recovery plan.  This process also involves understanding why others have acted in certain ways towards them, acceptance and forgiveness of others, etc.

Another major point I teach them is that their destructive behavior is not a product of WHO THEY ARE as a person…not their character, personality, or true self…but a product of HOW THEY ARE (or were) when they are ‘Big Time in Emotional Mind’…as a result of psychosis, mania, intoxication, great anger or upset, the result of an altered state of consciousness, the one in which they are Big Time in Emotional Mind without any significant levels of Rational Mind going on.  It is not WHO THEY ARE….because most of these individuals are good-hearted people who care about others…and truly care about living a productive life and being kind, loving, and helpful to others.”

For this blog, I’d like to add the following text from Chapter 12:  “ACCEPTANCE” from the DBT-CBT Workbook.  This is an example of applying “Radical Acceptance” to our lives.  Radical Acceptance is about “accepting the unacceptable”….and boy, when we’re in recovery…we’re going to have to do a lot of that!

ACCEPTANCE OF THE BAD, HORRIBLE, ROTTEN THINGS WE’VE DONE

We’re human.  We ALL make mistakes.  When we’ve LIVED IN Emotional Mind, we’ve made MANY mistakes.  We’ve acted impulsively and have made MANY regrettable decisions.  We’re NOT bad, horrible, rotten people.  We’ve just done some bad, horrible, rotten things.  These things happen when people are drinking, drugging, in a manic or psychotic state, or are desperately overwhelmed with painful emotion.  When we’re CLEAN N’ SOBER, on our MEDS, making HEALTHY LIFESTYLE CHOICES, and ACTING IN WAYS to Mindfully Protect Our Peace and Stability, we’re GOOD-HEARTED PEOPLE with good morals and values…and WE CARE ABOUT PEOPLE.

Think of the REALLY NEAT people we’ve met in rehabs, AA, support groups, and hospitals.  They’ve lived a past JUST LIKE US.  They’ve done hurtful things to the people they love WHEN they were in the middle of their addictions and Destructive Coping Behavior.  They’re NOT bad people.  They’re the WALKING WOUNDED and IN THEIR DAYS of PAIN and IMPULSIVITY, they did some painful and impulsive things.  TAKE AWAY the drugs, alcohol, mania, depression, pain, anger, and bitterness…and what’s left are some PRETTY NEAT PEOPLE!

We’re the walking wounded.
We’ve experienced a lot of pain.
Being desperate for relief,
we’ve done a lot of painful things
that have hurt ourselves and others.

Think of two people YOU KNOW that fit that description.  What sort of bad things did they do when they were in the middle of their addictions and destructive coping behavior?  Also describe their character when they’re living a Recovery Lifestyle.  _________________________________________________ _________________________________________________

Our Recovery Task is to ACCEPT whatever we’ve done.  Then, we must WISELY decide which things we CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT and which ones we CAN’T.  We need to focus our efforts on the things we CAN do something about that are a PRIORITY in our life.  We need to DO WHATEVER WE NEED TO DO to improve these things.  The things we can change that AREN’T A PRIORITY…
we need to LET THOSE GO… FOR NOW.

The things we CAN’T CHANGE…
we MUST let them go.
Letting go is a CHOICE.
It’s a choice for FREEDOM from burden
and a choice for PEACE and SERENITY.
Remember, “God grant me the serenity
to ACCEPT the things I cannot change.”
ACCEPTANCE is what gives us serenity
EVEN WHEN our lives are in turmoil.
It’s how we CHOOSE to THINK about things
and RESPOND to things
that ultimately affects HOW WE FEEL about things.
We can CHOOSE to be AT PEACE with our situations
or we can CHOOSE to be in turmoil.
We CANNOT LIVE NEW LIFE if we live in the PAST.
CHOOSE to let some things go
so you can GO ON with life…
and LIVE NEW LIFE!

Extra margin text from this section of Chapter 12:

We weren’t born this way.
We became this way
because of an Out-of-Control lifestyle.

Our people want us ALIVE and WELL,
so we need to bury the guilt and pain that’s killing us.
We cannot be the person we were meant to be
or live the life we were meant to live
if we are carrying around what makes us wish we were dead.

The only way to start over
is to START OVER.
We do that by accepting

what needs to be acceptedand by moving on down the Recovery Path.

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 –

What Frees You To Be Yourself…And To Achieve To Your Potential: Acceptance Of Self And Others From A DBT-CBT Perspective

I came across a discussion item on LinkedIn a little while ago about “What frees you to achieve to your potential.”  The individual posting the question focused on “self-discipline”…well, that was not what I had in mind when I read the discussion headline in my email.  Here’s my response!

“I believe self-discipline is a must, but that hasn’t set me free…it burdens me because I am overly-driven. I believe that my tenacity, perseverance, and ability to stay at a task long after others would have left it is a God-given gift…yet sometimes, I think it is also a curse! I guess I haven’t incorporated the “balance” component yet!However, I also believe that I am able to step out of my comfort zone, put myself “out there” or extend myself, try things…and achieve some pretty awesome things now and then because I do not expect that I will be perfect and I recognize that foibles, errors, and imperfections are very human. I realize that not everyone will like me or my style…and that’s okay…because not everyone will! No matter how great someone is…there’s always critics in every corner!I believe acceptance of my humanity and acceptance of the varied temperments of others helps to free me to be myself…extend myself…and be who I was designed to be…and do what I was designed to do. That sure helps me to work through the neurotic self-doubt and shame that has haunted me over the years.”

As I considered that response, it reminded me of a section in the introduction of the DBT-CBT Workbook I wrote last year.   This section is entitled, “Saving Face: DBT-CBT in Action” and the text from this section is below.

You’ve heard the saying about “stepping in it.”  Well, I sometimes “step in it”…and the work of this book is no exception!  I spoke to a professor at Texas A&M, Dr. Brian Stagner, about reviewing this workbook.  He was my mentor during graduate school and he graciously agreed.  Although I’m proud of this work, at the same time, I’m a little embarrassed by it!  That’s a dialectical problem by the way!  I figured he’d be impressed by the content, but stunned by the language and grammar…so, I never sent it to him!

Part of DBT-CBT is Choosing Our Battles and Taking a Stand and Fighting for what’s MOST IMPORTANT to us…NOT EVERYTHING in life.  It’s also about being prepared for and accepting the consequences of our behavior and choices.  It’s also about being wise…and we’ll see if I made a wise choice!  I expect to take some hits on grammar, like dangling participles, commas instead of semicolons, overuse of contractions, pronoun and antecedent disagreement, Texas slang, and other informal language and grammar.  The truth, I wrote this for the average person and in a language many people speak…except for some southern slang!  It wasn’t written for a professional audience, though I hope many in that audience will read it.  I’m an informal, “down-home girl” and I wrote this for “down-home people.”  I CAN BE formal if I have to be, but I certainly PREFER NOT!

Another criticism I expect is repetition in the workbook.  I tried to write this as I would speak it and teach it in Group.  When I teach important principles and concepts, I often repeat myself by explaining the same thing in different words…one sentence right after another.  Sometimes, hearing something said in different ways helps us to understand and remember it better…and if our minds have wandered, maybe we’ll get it the second or third time around!  I’m very invested in the people I work with…and I’m passionate about doing my part to change lives.  I drill home some points because this is intended to be a learning AND recovery experience.  It’s NOT designed for casual reading or entertainment purposes!

You’ll notice some repetition across chapters. My belief, most people don’t have audiographic memories…like they hear something once and remember it. My goal is for people to understand and remember these life-changing principles, concepts, and skills…so they’ll be equipped to apply them in Real Life. Many of us are hard-headed and need this information drilled into our minds. We may not WANT to hear some things and we may not be ready to look at or process some things. We usually have to be emotionally MOVED before we DECIDE to make difficult life changes. Being MOVED often involves looking at the Big Picture of Reality until our eyes are opened and the truth sinks in. Further, to learn how to carry out these skills and to live these concepts…we need to live, eat, and breathe this information until we know it so well we can repeat it back to ourselves. We LEARN by repetition.

Also, everyone doesn’t read a book cover to cover in a few days.  When time goes by, a review of important principles and concepts helps us to get the most out of what we’re reading.  Further, when we’re stressed out by life, our brain is working full capacity to survive and meet here-and-now demands…and it isn’t always so able to fully process and learn new information.  On top of all this, some of us have used a lot of drugs and alcohol, are aging, on medications, or have had head injuries…and our attention, concentration, and memories aren’t like they used to be!  Also, some folks have had learning problems all their lives.  Others may have symptoms of mental illness which affect their ability to concentrate.  In my mind…REPETITION IS GOOD!

The last point of embarrassment is…there WILL BE errors and typos…and Lord, I hope not…lost lines…where they disappear when the document is printed.  I know I’m obsessive-compulsive…a perfectionist in many ways.  I could review this book for ANOTHER year…and continue to make changes.  However, if I don’t GET ‘ER DONE…it’ll be half of forever before it’s in print and can be helpful to people who are HURTING and SUFFERING.  Getting this in print is much more important than perfection and my ego.

Some folks don’t like how I’ve used CAPITAL LETTERS.  I took some out, but left many.  Again, I’m trying to drill home points.  The capital letters are intended to draw attention to important principles and concepts…things I really want folks TO GET and be aware of!  Sometimes, they’re for emphasis (like to say louder when we’re reading), but most often they’re there to highlight a point.  The capital letters may make reading a little difficult until you get used to the writing style.

So, I resolve my dialectical problem of being both proud of this work and embarrassed by it.  I realize I want to print the PERFECT book to please a professional audience…however, I also recognize this book is for the average person who desperately seeks recovery.  THAT IS its value and purpose.  I ACCEPT that no matter how obsessive-compulsive and perfectionistic I am, I’m not perfect and I’ll make errors despite my best efforts to avoid them.  I also understand that although I’m a highly educated professional, it’s not my spirit to interact with the world in a formal manner.  I’m different, I’m down-to-earth, I am ME…and I’m okay.  Some people will accept and embrace this work…others will criticize it.  I understand some people will find fault no matter what…but, I’ve “stepped in it” and have set myself up for criticism because I haven’t used proper grammar or writing rules.

I’ll take my hits, do Damage Control, fix things as I see appropriate, and I’ll move on down the Recovery Path…and on with life!  Perhaps our paths will cross as we journey through the Pathways of Recovery.  Hope to see you there.

And to that, I say, “AMEN!”

So, what frees you to be yourself…and to be who you were designed to be…and to do what you were designed to do?

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

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. _________________________________________________________________________
_________________________________________________________________________

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. ___________________________________
____________________________________________________________________

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. __________________________________

____________________________________________________________________________

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

Using Rational Mind to Challenge the Emotional Mind Lies We Tell Ourselves That Sabotage Our Self-Confidence and Recovery: A View of Addiction Recovery from a DBT-CBT Therapy Perspective

Here’s an “adapted” excerpt from the DBT-CBT “Out-of-Control” therapy workbook.  It’s from Chapter 7, the Rational Mind chapter.  This chapter discusses Rational Mind in detail and offers many Rational Mind challenges for the Emotional Driven Lies we tell ourselves AND WE BELIEVE…ones that often sabotage our self-esteem and our recovery.

The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy of Failure:
“I expect to fail so I don’t try very hard …so, I fail.”

SKILL BUILDER: Failing to Succeed…or Successful Failures

Consider the lies we tell ourselves about success and failure, like,

“I’ll NEVER be  able to do it.”

“Everything I try gets screwed-up somehow.”

What do you say about your failures?  ____________________________
________________________________________________________

The truth…we MAY HAVE failed at MANY tasks.  If so, we need to rationally understand why.  Quite often, we fail because we DON’T TRY to succeed.  We “KNOW” we can’t do it…so we DON’T TRY, or we DON’T TRY VERY HARD.

Despite USUALLY giving things ONLY A HALF-HEARTED EFFORT, we may recall some times WHEN WE REALLY TRIED, but failed anyway.  BUT, DON’T THINK we’re off the hook because of some FULL EFFORT failures.

WE DON’T GET TO STOP TRYING just because when we’ve REALLY TRIED, we’ve still failed!  Rational Mind would inform us that MOST PEOPLE WHO SUCCEED HAVE FAILED MANY TIMES.  There are many TRUE stories to support this TRUTH.

Which stories have you heard…about people who FINALLY SUCCEED AFTER A LONG STRING OF FAILURES? _____________________________
_____________________________________________________

Abraham Lincoln ran for MANY political positions and lost MANY TIMES before he ever WON an election.  The ONE he won was THE BIG ONE…the PRESIDENTIAL election!  There are MANY stories about business leaders who had MANY failed businesses before they hit it big!  Henry Ford went bankrupt 5-6 times because of failed businesses before he gained success in the automotive industry.  The Heinz company had the same kind of start.  Have you read that Oprah was fired from a reporter’s job because she wasn’t right for TV?  Somebody certainly misjudged her!

Some of our greatest leaders and wealthiest people failed many times
before they achieved great success.

When we fail, we need to SEEK AN UNDERSTANDING of WHY we failed.  We need to LEARN FROM IT and CORRECT WHAT WE’RE DOING.  We need to change or adjust our plan to deal with what went wrong.  Successful “failures” start with PLAN A and go to PLAN B, C, D, E…and so on until things work out!  Despite their failures, THEY KEEP ON KEEPING ON!

It’s also important to be Mindful of our successes and accomplishments and to note WE’VE ALL HAD SOME!  We also need to realize that WHEN WE’VE TRIED…when we’ve REALLY STUCK WITH IT, we’ve overcome challenges…and WE HAVE BEEN SUCCESSFUL. Consider the 8-18 attempts at recovery that it takes people ON AVERAGE to become clean n’ sober.  Through our recovery attempts, we learn about our triggers and relapse patterns.  We learn we REALLY HAVE TO change the things in our life that we DON’T WANT TO CHANGE…things that we’ve refused to change, like friendships, activities, and abusive or conflict-filled relationships.  Because of our repeated failures at recovery, we FINALLY SUCCEED!  That’s because we’ve revised our Recovery Plan SO MANY TIMES that we FINALLY GET ENOUGH OF THE NECESSARY CHANGES made!  We’re hard-headed and we’ve got to learn from OUR experiences…and in the world of recovery…these experiences ARE OFTEN RELAPSES.

Does this information change the way you think about your “failures”?  If so, explain.  ______________________________________________
___________________________________________________

Changing our LIFESTYLE and our LIFE IS VERY DIFFICULT.
We need to ACCEPT OUR FAILURES

and UNDERSTAND they’re a NATURAL part
of the LEARNING PROCESS…
IF we learn from them.

It’s clear that Emotion-Driven Thoughts like, “I can’t do it. Why try?” are lies we tell ourselves. What’s the truth? _______________________________
______________________________________________________

The truth is, WHEN WE KEEP TRYING, things FINALLY work out.  Sometimes, we don’t succeed because we aren’t going about it the right way.  Therefore, we need to get a NEW PLAN.  Sometimes, we try to do more than is do-able at one time.  We plunge head first when we’d be better off wading in and taking smaller steps!  There are many reasons why we haven’t reached our goals.  Fortunately, most of these problems can be overcome with PERSISTENCE and a REVISED GAME PLAN!

Footnote: This footnote is “margin text” from the workbook alike the dark red inserts in the text above…however, these weren’t so easily woven in!  This first one relates to the 8-18 tries at recovery it takes on average to recover from substance abuse.

“Some say, ‘Been there, done 14, I’ve got to be real close to making it!’ Folks who are new to recovery are discouraged, ‘I don’t want to do this that many times.’ Be Mindful that 8-18 is an average. Some make it on the 1st try (they need to write the book!), others on the 25th. Some make it in 3 tries, others in 20. Bear in mind though…these numbers don’t mean it’s okay to relapse 17 times and then work real hard on the 18th try!”

These are “sayings” in the margin that go along with the text:

“If we don’t put forth a FULL effort,
we’ll never REALLY KNOW if we can succeed.”

“We never fail until we quit trying.
Success comes to those who are determined
to overcome obstacles in their path.”

When we understand that our failures are part of the learning process,
then we can constructively accept our failures and learn from them.

We’re so willful and hard-headed about recovery…
we won’t take someone’s advice or learn from THEIR experiences.
We have to learn from OUR personal experiences…
which is often OUR failures!

A mistake is only a mistake
if we fail to learn from it!
When we learn from our experiences,
our failures become a stepping stone toward success!
Therefore, a recovery goal is to Turn On Rational Mind to challenge our “failure” lies…
and to Turn On Wise Mind to make some adjustments to our Game Plan!
That’s because WE haven’t failed, our plan has!

Hope you enjoyed this blog entry and that it helps to challenge destructive “failure” thoughts.  It took half of forever to format this…the format of the workbook doesn’t cut n’ paste very well…or at least I haven’t learned yet how to do it more efficiently!  Life is one big learning curve and I guess sometimes we’ve just got to hold on…persevere…and enjoy the ride!