Session 15, lesson 3 of unit 2 Emotional Resilience DBT. Checking the FACTS - revisited and revised.
Updated: May 10, 2022
Checking The Facts - Rebooted
❗ Warning: This blog entry is unproof read, un-spell checked, unpolished, un-cohesive, disjointed and makes for a sketchy read. As does anything I post. Good luck!
In this weeks session (originally posted sometime in 2018) we discussed and looked at in depth the ability to check the FACTS in an objective way when in emotional distress and the emotional skills needed in order to get the facts right in an unscrewed up way due to BPD melt downs, splitting and the such. Cold light of day fact checking is something I've not been good at in emotionally heightened states because of my fucked up neural wiring, shrunken amygdala, negative catastrophic thought schemas and my resulting predisposition to disordered melt downs, some of which have been to the extreme.
I wrote a huge long rambling diatribe of an intro type thing to this session entry at the time and how it resonated with me but I've cut that for this revisit as reading it back to myself was one big cringe fest that made me want to wretch puke my lungs up and I was way over sharing and angry and it was just weird.
But to put it concisely, this group session really did at the time resonate profoundly and cut deep into some heavy stuff. Pennies dropped inside my little brain. I realised some things about my time in care in the past and the fact that I really should have been helped out more and differently during my stays at mental hospitals and time working with the NHS and social services on my illness. But they failed me on the therapy side of things to a large extent. It made me angry. Anger at my parents and past guardians rose up inside me too. I got very angry and upset about it all but mainly at myself. I was internalising my anger.
(On the flipside of the coin I also realised who the fucking legends have been that have helped me and went the extra mile.)
That was the upshot of my cringe oversharing long ass blog intro. I have cut most of that shit out and deleted it in to the digital oblivion.
Please note that new updated and added blog material is in blue. Original entry in black.
Hopefully it might make a bit more sense that way. Probably not. Hey ho.
Some edited ramblings extracted from original blog entry:
It was one big consistent ahha moment (as they annoyingly insist on calling them in this group) during this session. It turned out to be a very eye opening, mind expanding DBT sesh. The therapists present and lay things out in such a way that for the first time ever my splitting (see below) behaviours began to make sense. I felt relief that there is a clinical explanation and reasoning (not excuses) behind my shitty angry behaviour. I felt enlightenment, deep shame, anger and resentment and self compassion all rolled up together in one big emotional roller coaster of an hour. It got me. It was meant to.
It highlighted once again for me, just how very sad, screwed up and cynical I have become. These truths felt very close to the knuckle and raw and painful at just how wrong I've been about so many things for so long and how I've unintentionally done people I love(d) with all my heart and myself included so much wrong all most exclusively due to the fact that I had and have this unchecked toxic fucking illness.
I'm angry and resentful (still) at the fact that ............
.....bla bla bla ...... I edited the woe is me bollocks out. Boring. I bore myself.
What is Splitting?:
Splitting ruined my previous life.
What Is BPD Splitting?
The common fictional trope of the devil and angel on someone's shoulders is a good metaphor for how most people approach the people and experiences in their lives. They see the good, they see the bad, and they form a well-rounded—usually fairly accurate—assessment.
For people with BPD who experience splitting, only the angel or the devil can appear at any given time, never together. In other words, people who experience splitting think in terms of good and bad, all or none, and always or never. There is no in-between.
Learn more about splitting:
Revisiting, revising, rephrasing and recapping this blog
The original blog post rambled on rather incoherently, angrily and bitterly going over what was discussed in the session and how it related to my own stuff. I blogged while angry sat on my own little pity potty. A childish thing to do and I have learned not to do that. And I've stopped feeling so fucking sorry for myself and being so bitter.
A lot has changed since that entry and huge leaps forward have been made. Lots of learning, forgiveness, self actualisation, skills practices and being calm and collected.
Anyway, revisiting that angry resentful time of hurting in my life is not why I have touched on and revised this blog entry. I kept the above bits in to honour that moment in my journey. It was an important time. Honouring grief is important in order to move through and past it.
What I need to revisit fully in the here and now though, is the check the facts skills nitty gritty and the related skills sets and remind myself why these skills matters.
Getting your facts checked, lined up and in proportion is key to negating catastrophic negative thinking and reinforcing those pesky pessimistic skewed thought schemas.
I have the need to re-address my FACTS skills hand in hand with other skills in this area because my head has been a bit wonky (very wonky at times) and intruding anxiety and paranoia to an extent, has been poking me in the brain. When I am at most anxious and paranoid it is no exaggeration to describe my condition as schizophrenia lite. Intruding thoughts that became borderline psychotic. Its hell. If you know, you know.
That little demon sat on my shoulder whispering in my ear telling me that everyone hates me, that I'm useless, that people are bad mouthing me and I should do something bad to myself.
People are not doing these things. People don't care. they have lives to lead and other shit to think and talk about. I know this but that intruding little demon voice doesn't want me to be mindful of that. Schizophrenia Lite!
Those few people that do in actual fact do judge, gossip, twist shit and gaslight others into having a negative view of you can simply fuck off. end of. No drama.
I'll expand this entry and add in some new things I have learned about the FACTS DBT skills practice and other hand in hand skills alongside the old stuff. It's morphing into a new entry altogether essentially.
More extracted (oversharing personal cringe edited out) from original blog entry:
Into the actual session then, to warm up we did the conveyor belt mindfulness exercise, helping us to practice the correct observation of thoughts and identifying the correct corresponding emotion. It's all about identification of thoughts, feelings (including physically) and assigning them to the correct corresponding emotion. Observe thoughts come in and observe them go out and away knowing exactly what they are and where they belong. The conveyor belt exercise is a useful analogy to practice with as a basic introductory mindfulness practice.
I digress, as I do .....
Someone told me this is all childish.
To the well adjusted, emotionally rounded and adapted person (normal neurotypical person) this is just straight forward everyday thinking and requires little to no effort. They have that shit locked down and probably have had it locked down since about the age of 12. It's automatic and they are well adjusted in life to emotional stimulation. They have been well nurtured and/or their genetics are probably on point or vice versa. Their brains work well! I'm happy for them too.
Our brains, us mental emotionally discorded lot, our brains don't work well all the time in certain respects and mindfulness practices are vital to keep our shit locked down and to help us own and take accountability for our behaviours. If that's childish then I'll keep being childish and keep using my childish imaginary thoughts and feelings conveyor belt and all the other childish mindfulness practices I am being taught.
Childish! Pfft. Nice. They seriously have no idea.
From first hand experience many neurotypical people really don't understand or have limited empathy for people with the type of emotional disorders that involve discorded emotional thinking and responses. To a degree who can blame them? I have been a fucking nightmare to live with when my disorder was unchecked and unaddressed properly. It's not hard to see why the stigma behind BPD exists. But there are buts that need to be talked about.
It's important that people that people know that it is an illness, a disease and its not a choice. There are backstories to these disorders and they can, only with the right and appropriate therapeutic help, support and medication, overcome these potentially destructive illnesses.
The stigma is real but that's a whole other blog entry in waiting, because facts fucking matter!
I went on a proper manic vent mission originally and on and on I waffled trying to make sense of it all. Its embarrassing to read back but I've edited most of it out which is why this blog entry is so disjointed.
But the conveyor belt exercise thing above is a key DBT practice to begin with. I still use it now in 2022 but incorporating a more advanced method of meditation.
More original waffling:
To the likes of me when I'm in a wonky mental place an anxious head fills my mind with an internal war within myself and an overwhelming mental noise and often a horrible thick brain fog that feels like my capacity to think has been reduced by at least half. It all fills my entire being with sadness and anger and confusion and at times disassociation (see below). It can be hell inside, again, no exaggeration.
Hell on earth can be inside your own mind.
The ability to filter thoughts and emotions and reactions is just broken. The filter is broken. Fucked. It's not a decision or choice or game. It's just broke.
To be taught and guided and counselled properly, professionally by real trained DBT therapist alongside a peer group input about these skills and practices along with the practical mindfulness sessions, I tell you they are a God send. I kid you not. It's a game changer. Anyone that has unchecked BPD really need to find some DBT help ASAP. Don't be fobbed off as I was for so many fucking years with substandard support and care and therapy.
I have been practising these mindfulness exercises daily. It's hard work and takes determination and focus to remain mindful and try to reverse the ingrained detrimental negative thought schemas but the work HAS to be done.
It takes work. Shadow work. No pain no gain.
It's all about the neural rewiring. Neural plasticity. Google that stuff.
When the 'fight or flight' response fails to protect us, it increases our chances of becoming traumatized. One of the body's most basic responses for survival has failed, leaving us with no options but to shut down, or play dead. The more that our fight of flight response fails to keep us safe, for example, after repeated or re-occurring traumas, the less effective it is. The brain begins to learn that 'fight or flight', one of your body's most basic ways to keep you alive, is failing. Fight or flight is not effective, and therefore will immediately revert to most basic and final survival mechanism, to play dead and surrender. This means, you dissociate.
It ain't fun.
The group discussion
From the original blog entry:
The next bit of the session was discussion based and we touched on some personal shit and had a general chat about the subject matters touched upon.
We discussed how trauma creates patterns of thinking and how and why that forms patterns of emotional and physical responses, otherwise know as schemas. We looked at how these schemas present themselves in our own personal triggers and the shit show that can occur after a trigger. We learned about the skewed thoughts that distort our view of the world and situations and of people around us, usually the people we love and how the manifestations of skewed thinking (such as angry kick offs or disassociation periods of isolation) sabotages our lives and potentially the lives of others, again invariably the ones we love and desperately do not want to lose. The irony is cruel.
Trauma is the root of these horrid traits. Trauma damaged our neural network.
Trauma is the root cause that needs to be addressed in order to fully address the here and now.
These discussions were raw and hit a nerve, all of the nerves. I felt great shame, regret and resentment.
A hard discussion but we did it.
Check the FACTS
Once we moved through and past that segment of the session Debbie began to teach us the CHECK THE FACTS DBT skill and all the what's, why's and therefore's:
Thoughts vs Facts - Feelings vs Reality
Our need to discern between perceived emotional fact (feeling) and actual stone cold hard fact (reality).
Reactions - choose your pain
Our reactions to emotionally stressful situations colour our life. If we react appropriately our lives will be far less dark and far more colourful.
We can reduce suffering in our lives by choosing the right type of pain to cope with to a large degree.
Skewed thoughts = suffering
Pain and resistance = suffering
Reacting to inaccurate skewed thought patterns and accompanying physical manifestations keep you stuck in loop of triggers and bad interpretations. The loop just perpetuates. Spirals. Reinforces it's self. The loop needs breaking and rewiring correctly. It is literally rewiring your neural connections.
Those painful things are largely avoidable if situations are dealt with in wise mind, thinking mindfully at a sensible pace with your facts in the correct order.
Pain = ordinary pain, less suffering.
Critical acceptance = far less suffering
Wise mind. Zen mind. In the middle.
Other things can colour the way one might be thinking and feeling in the moment such as everyday things like lack of sleep, poor diet, head ache, bad day in general etc. Check in with those things. Attain and note the facts about those things and it will help change your perception for the better a bit or maybe even a lot and help turn your pain around. All facts count. Every real fact counts!
Automatic thoughts and judgements
Be mindful of jumping the gun. Be mindful of those patterns of thought and the automatic negative destructive thoughts and feelings that come to you. Challenge them with stone cold light of day facts! Keep checking your self. Facts matter.
FACT CHECK that shit!
Challenge those intruding schizophrenic lite automatic thoughts with facts. The whole self perception picture will change with practice and factual positive reinforcement and affirmation.
Positive self affirmations are vital.
And remember, when we do fuck up, it happens. No one is perfect. Shit happens. Put your cards on the table and your hands in the air and 'fess up and learn from it. Shit. Happens.
Avoid the knee jerk over reactions and catastrophising and kick off's by CHECKING THE FACTS using DBT skills.
The DBT STOP skills are hand in hand. Slow down, fact check.
DBT STOP skills are here:
6 steps in fact checking
We then went on to discuss far more in-depth the check the FACTS skill practice and how to approach and practice this DBT skill when in emotional distress.
We looked at and then discussed the six steps and practiced some exercises to assist us in learning how to mindfully check for facts and keep the skewed emotional mind out of judgement calls and decision making as much as possible.
All 6 of these check the facts fact checking skills are vital and must be practiced to aid the rewiring of our minds and to unlearn and relearn how we think, react and behave.
A real life 6 steps practice I needed to engage in is published further on down below as an example.