Skillful Distraction & Problem Solving & Random Blogging (notes to self).
Updated: Dec 9, 2022
Skillful Distraction & Problem Solving
< Holding myself accountable with some public blogging. All shared to my DBT group forum and here, obviously. >
I need to go over some old DBT ground again and it won't be for the last time either. This never ends. It just changes shape and scope.
As far as DBT skills are concerned, right now I need to dig deeper into distraction practices and Surf The Urge practices in order to swerve the black hole I can see up ahead and in order to change up some old routines I have fallen back into, all be it willingly and mindfully and indeed strategically but its time to change it up again and re tool my routine.
What we have here is a mixture of ripped, cut and paste materials from our DBT session and from our forum interspersed with plenty of my own rambling sweary monologues.
As ever, its all very random and disjointed but it all help me wrap my head around these things.
First thing is first. I need to remember to keep my reactionary big mouth and temper under control and keep my shit locked down when "triggered" even if my frustration feels fair and just.
Intruding thoughts about certain things/people have crept back in. These stuck thoughts on loop can make situations seem far larger and more important than they really are. This problem has caused me a lot of trouble and loss in my life. I am determined to get on top of this current bout of unwanted intruding head fucks.
Keeping quiet and stepping away while experiencing intruding thoughts and/or angry emotions is something I have vastly improved upon and built upon over the past 4 or 5 years. Until very recently. Fucked up a bit. Therefore I need to look at this and work out what is going wrong.
Some if which is not for public blog publication. Some personal shit will be edited out for my own personal public blog.
Fact is when I am emotionally triggered and those fucking dark intruding thoughts are battering me and most definitely when I am feeling the red mist raise up through my being, I need to step the fuck away.
Just walk away. When I'm in a state of heightened anger I literally cannot think rationally or appropriately and my behaviour follows suit. Borderline psychotic behaviour. I literally disassociat. I have so many blacked out gaps in my memory its not funny.
Its caused alot off harm Im ashamed to admit.
I disassociate, I split, I quite literally experience psychosis if my dissorder is left unchecked not treated properly.
I must make more effort to remember and be mindful to nip the bad reactionary acting out behaviour in the bud by stepping away before I say and do shit I always regret and in many cases feel disproportionately bad about for a disproportionate period of time afterwards. Even if I am experiencing a justification righteousness anger.
● Step Away - distract myself in another space.
I need to be practising these skills mindfullyto catch my anger early on in the chain reaction of emotion and behaviours and nip that bullshit in the bud before I act out and/or harm myself. Mindfull daily practice of these skills is vital especially when I am experiencing intruding thoughts and feeling triggered and angry ("the rage train") towards a particular few.
The very few that I am more likely to rage against than other people are people I love. It's no secret that those of us with deeply ingrained trauma response disorders such as BPD and PTSD act out towards those who are the closest and/or love the most.
It's a cruel irony. Even more reson to be mindful and willing to practice these skills.
Material from DBT session:
Wise Mind A C C E P T S
There are four groups of crisis survival strategies:
Improving the Moment
Pros and Cons.
All of these are strategies that help us to get though difficult feelings and situations, to tolerate .......
........ the things that we can't immediately change.
This is one of the keys to DBT skill usage, to find some of these skills and techniques that work for you, to practice them until they are part of your everyday life and you can call them up whenever you need them.
The first of the four distracting skills is ACCEPTS.
This is an acronym to help you remember "Wise Mind A C C E P T S" :
Distract with Activities: Do hobbies, watch a video, go for a walk, play a sport, cook, garden, go fishing, go shopping. What other activities can you think of that you can get involved in and distract yourself from your distress? Make a list of your activities and put it up on your refrigerator, so you can find it in a hurry.
Distract with Contributing: Contribute. Do volunteer work. Babysit so a friend can go out. Do something nice or surprising for someone. What have you done this week to contribute? What can you do next week to contribute? Plan something in advance. This takes you away from your pain and puts your attention on your concern for someone else.
Distract with Comparisons: Compare yourself to people coping the same as or less well than you. If you are doing better than you were a year or two or five years ago, make that comparison. The manual suggests that you compare yourself to others' suffering, watch weepy soap operas, read about disasters. Some people find this helpful, others don't. Just do what works for you. What do you think about comparisons?
Distract with opposite Emotions Read emotional books, go to emotional movies, listen to emotional music. For this to work, you need to read or watch or listen to things that have an emotion opposite to the one you are feeling. If you are sad, watch a comedy. Watch a scary movie. Listen to silly music. I think that the reason this works is that it kind of jars your feelings loose. If you are sad or angry, watch a silly or funny movie, and bust up laughing, you have changed your emotion and put yourself in a different place.
Distract by Pushing Away a distressing situation by leaving it mentally for a while. Build an imaginary wall between yourself and the situation. Imagine yourself pushing it away with all your strength. Block the situation in your mind. Each time it comes up, tell it to go away, or put some other thoughts in its place, perhaps some more pleasant thoughts. Refuse to think about it. Try putting the pain on a shelf, or in a box, to contain it and get it out of the way. I use the technique of putting my distress in a locked box on a shelf in a closet. I can get it later, but right now I can let it go. All of these are techniques to give you a break from dealing with the pain all the time. They haven't resolved the painful situation, but they have put it away for awhile so that you get a break and a chance to live some part of your life without it.
Step the fuck away - verbally, physically, spiritually
Distract with other Thoughts Some examples are counting to 10 or counting the tiles in a floor or the panes in a window or the stars in the sky, anything to keep your focus on the counting. This is a good one to use in a sudden emergency, when you need to pull something out of your bag of tricks really quickly. Other ways of distracting with thoughts are reading, watching videos or movies, doing crossword puzzles or jigsaw puzzles, writing poetry, if you can keep your thoughts away from your pain. Can you think of some other ways of distracting with thoughts?
Distract with other Sensations. You might hold ice in your hand or apply it to the back of your neck (I used to use a bag of frozen peas against the back of my neck - the sensation was kind of shocking, and it shook me out of my tangled up distressing feelings), put a rubber band on your wrist and snap it, listen to loud music, take a hot, hard shower, a cold, hard shower, or swim in very cold water. Any strong physical stimulus like this can kind of jog loose your connection to your pain and distract you from it. After you try one of these activities, you may want to go on to another distracting activities, such as one of the activities described in the last lesson.
The next time you feel like getting angry, stop and take 3 deep breaths, then count to 10 Try some of the alternate rebellion ideas on this website linked here. Create your own holodeck in your mind - like in Star Trek. Why not Star Trek? I fucking love star Trek. And who doesn't want their own holodeck?
In your private holodeck, create experiences that you would like to have happen in your life, like having a pleasant conversation with your mates or partner or being in nature and feeling peaceful. Take your mind to those peaceful places.
Imagine the things you want to happen in your life in the long term, like being in a peaceful committed relationship or making lots of lovely raw art sculptures, in my case.
Create your own movie theater in your mind. I do this in bed. It helps me stop the negative thinking that can get caught on loop at that particular time. And it really does help form my vivid dreams.
Try replaying scenes from the day. Talk to the actor that is you and give him advice about the situation he is in as if it really was an actor.
This type of visualisation really does help negate the negative stuck thoughts loop about your past or present or even your future.
Fuck them thoughts.
Note to self:
I have log sheets to help me record and monitor the above and track my progress. I I need to start using them again.
Note to self:
I need to re engage with this approach more often in my journal. Almost get back to basics I guess. The basic approach really works well for helping make sense of the everyday head head fuckery things.
There are certainly some noisy head things I need to journal. Journalling helps me straighten mental clutter out a bit and slow the pace of intruding thoughts down in my mind.
Task: get back on the hand written DBT informed journalling. ❗
To print and implement into my routine:
Downloadable distraction problem solving sheets PDF ⬆⬆
Im good at distraction (until I'm not and then I'm really not). I've been pretty good at this over the couple of years to be fair. I rarely suffer boredom (in my own company) because my mind is active and curious so distraction comes fairly easily when I'm not too stressed out and/or ill. My problem is when I am/becoming particularly stressed out. I only loose interest my healthy distracting interests when I'm becoming a bit mentallyfragile or I've become properly ill. That's when the intruding thoughts, emotionsand behaviours manifest and it all goes to shit.
It's all hand in hand, joined up, connected. One thing slips and the rest starts to slide too. Slip slide.
It's when I'm at that getting fragile phase that I need to be mindful of using distraction techniques to ensure I don't go into that lurking event horizon black whole zone where my mind gets "locked" into a continuous looping cluster fuck of intruding thoughts (and psychotic thoughts that have been auditory at times), negative self thinking, paranoia, anger and so on.
A dark and grim head space.
Distraction, healthy distraction at the right time, is a vital tool to steer my mind away from that place into a "distracted" far more rational place. Maybe not a happy place altogether but a place where I'm not harming myself or other people with horrible behaviours.
That nonsense ruined my previous life.
I've done well with this since rising from the ashes of mental illness. Not quite like a phoenix, more like a scruffy fat less depressed pigeon, but hey ...... .......
I will keep fine tuning these distraction skills. Its an ongoing process and things change shape as life does.
I just need to be mindful if my new found ability to slow myself down essentially and not loose my shit and self sabotage my life. I've done rather alot of that.
I'm at a point in my life again now where I need to retool my distraction skills back to where they were in 2021.
2022 has seen me fall back into some routines I jettisoned in favour of a healthier life style since my move out of Boscombe.
A Plantar fasciitis injury put the skids on all that 2019 - 2021 progress and embracing introversion for almost a year. I replaced it all with the pub culture again to a certain extent to stop myself going mad with lonliness. And that's okay. I did so mindfully. I have made some new friends along the way and have a shoe in, in a new social setting.
Now it's time to reset back to where I was and concentrate on the outdoors, my sports and art and work. However, the new pub social scene must not be spurned outright. I must also be mindful of not thinking in black and white terms. Some balance, a bit of both worlds is okay and probably infact for the best.
My black and white thinking processes do me no favours.
We discussed the helping others thing in my distraction ACCEPTS DBT things.
Voluntary work is a thing that I do from time to time anyway at the moment and a thing I need to be doing more of I feel.
Task: Get on the voluntary work and sign up for some community work. ❗
My thing recently just for the record sake has been fixing up bikes for a local church and the bikes go to skint families for free. It actually genuinely helped people out. I'm no church goer but it was a delight to help out and it helped me distract myself from myself and filled some spare time.
A discussion about perspective and gratitude as distraction tools re DBT session slide above.
When in times of gloom and doom and that sneaky black dog is creeping up on me or near by or infact properly knawing away at my soul, perspective can get utterly lost. Gone.
Everything no matter how insignificanly small feels like a fucking WAR in my mind. Anything remotely challenging can feel hellish and take me into genuine suicidal territory. Literally.
Learning DBT skills to anchor my thinking process into perspective and gratitude helps me to circum navigate those traitorous rocky shores avoid my thoughts sinking into the deep cold bleak waters of rage and depression.
If I don't practice these skills mindfully and daily I risk becoming the hideous wreck I was a few years ago.
We discussed this topic in our group forum and explored how gaining some perspective and gratitude back into our thinking and lives can distract our negative thoughts and redirect them into a more mindful and grateful place and therefore, hopefully, a more positive, calmer place. A happier place. Not just for ourselves but also for everyone around us.
That's the goal.
This is all very obvious and goes without saying to most emotionally well adapted people in life, certainly to those lucky neuro-typical people and apparently to some participants in our DBT group. Some find discussing this a bit patronizing. As if it's teaching us to suck eggs or a bit kinder garden as one person angrily put it.
Kinder garden. Yes. That's the crux. Most of us BPD diagnosed bunch are in fact very emotionally immature. Certainly I have been.
In my opinion it most certainly is not patronizing to be going over these seemingly obvious topics. To remind each other and ourselves of such simple and basic skills and ideas is absolutely vital. We need to learn or relearn these skills.
Honest discussion and encouragement is key to recovery.
The skills we lack, which actually when you get down into the nitty gritty of it all, are really not "simple" basic things at all. Its incredibly complex. It boils down to neurology and neuroplasticity and they are not simple subjects!
This is all about crucial skills we were not taught as children and/or skills that got distorted by trauma early on in life, completely skewed.
Non of us choose to go through this.
Anyway, perspective yeah.
We all get into that place where it's all woe is me and we feel a bit or very sorry for ourselves or perhaps even psychotically fucking hate ourselves and so we all need to mindfully practice reminding ourselves of the seemingly obvious things such as perspective informed gratitude and ensure we touch base with those DBT tools to help us avoid and/or dig ourselves out of those shitty horrid places.
Especially us emotionally unstable mentals who get stuck into one broken psychological gear from time to time.
#gratitude is a wonder drug.
Distraction handout conversation.
I wrote up a bit about a discussion I had with a young teenager BPD but not the actual conversation:
I don't need this handout sheet. I found my "things" long before entering into DBT as a middle aged man. This sheet of tips was handed out in the DBT session I shared with a young fellow BPD dude.
We got into a big positive discussion about this sheet and what's its for and what it means on Skype.
We talked about how some people who are searching for distracting activities and/or their "thing" that makes them tick (that isnt booze and drugs or other self destructive mechanisms) may find these suggestions helpful. I think this sheet and the session and the home work it belongs to had him searching himself far deeper than he was prepared for. It got him asking himself some far reaching questions.
He asked me some questions about how and when I found the interests that grabbed my attention.
I explained to him I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the world of art and craft whilst in psychiatric care at Leven House. I was still alot older than he is at that point and still searching for the real thing(s) to satisfy my mind and distract my insane hectic thinking.
I explained how I owe Leven House a debt of gratitude for all the facilities they provided and the encouragement and distraction. The therapeutic value of all of that creative distraction and mindfulness will never be lost on me. Tim Russell is a legend of a man. He knew exactly what was happening when I didn't understand it.
We spoke about how before I discovered that hidden creative quirk in me at the age of 25ish at Leven House the only identity and distraction I had other than alcohol, drugs, toxic relationships and other dross was through work. My job. Work I fell into on autopilot trying to survive.
It didn't then and still doesn't make me "tick". It's just a means to an end.
I can imagine myself pre Leven House looking at this list of distractions feeling somewhat bemused and overwhelmed not knowing where to start. Not knowing who I am. And I didn't.
I still don't if I'm 100% honest. Not like "normal" people. But I know how to distract my thinking away from those crazy dark places through my interests and DBT techniques hand in hand better than ever.
I admitted to him though that around the year 2013/14 I became very ill and dissorded again and my ability to distract and cope with my shit had completely broken down. I became a horrible cunt. At that point I hadn't been through DBT and the only way out of that period of illness was through medication and hospitalisation. That didn't come until it was too late. 2017. DBT didn't come until 20 fucking 19. And even then I went private.
Discussing all of the above helped him understand a few things I think and he discussed his stuff and shared some of his story. We found common ground.
Distraction through interests. Some call it occupational therapy.
We agreed that you gotta start somewhere and try these things out to suss out what works for you and what doesn't. Everyone has there ground zero and starting point. Even if it's plucked off of a DBT tips sheet.
When you find the thing that grabs your attention and makes you "tick" you'll be off and running with it in no time.
For us BPD bunch with for the most part, with a lack of self identity, an empty hole inside where knowing and loving one's self should reside and the added challenge of having a rotating selection of different personalities, the task of finding what we are really about and finding that "thing/things" that we can truly throw ourselves into and use to truly distract our noisy, hectic, self hating, self doubting, paranoid damaged minds can be a truly daunting experience. But a necessary one.
These type of sheets may seem somewhat glib at the beginning of a DBT/BPD recovery/life journey but it is infact part of one of the most important journeys and pieces of work you will ever embark upon.
If you don't already know, finding out what makes you tick and what works for you becomes a game changer.
And that's part of your shadow work.
I enjoyed our discussion. We got deep.
Art and craft is mediation for me. A huge distraction from all the mental chattering in my mind and from the general hum drum of everyday life. It's a massive help in my ongoing healing and recovery process. Probably the main therapeutic element in my life alongside being outdoors amongst the nature and elements. Exercise is all hand in hand with that too. The more active I am, the happier I feel. We all know why and how that works.
Great healthy distraction tools. These tools are used hand in hand with Surf The urge tools/practices. I will post up a thing on Surf The Urge soon.
I just need to be disciplined and keep the mindful practice of these things up.
Self-Soothing Distraction Techniques:
Some of us may recognize these techniques as things that we already use. But many of us have never learned how to self-soothe, how to do those often simple things that makes us feel better.
These are mostly very physical techniques, that use different body senses. Some of us have never had the feeling that we could do things to make ourselves feel better, calmer, feel relaxation or pleasure. I urge you to experiment with these techniques until you find some that are comfortable and helpful for you. And when you find these, practice them. Use them when you are feeling distressed, when emotions feel overwhelming, when situations feel like you can't stand them any more.
Instead of doing something that hurts you (self harm, drugs, pub, arguing etc), try something that gives you pleasure and comfort.
SELF-SOOTHING has to do with comforting, nurturing and being kind to yourself. One way to think of this is to think of ways of soothing each of your five senses:
Walk in a beautifulpart of town. Look at the nature around you. The light, the shadows, tge colour. Take your camera, look for those winning captures.
Go to a museum with beautiful art or whatever makes you tick. Buy a flower and put it where you can see it indoors. Appreciate its beauty. Sit in a garden. Watch the birds hop about in the hedges, watch the snowflakes decorate the trees during a snowfall. Light a candle and watch the flame twist and curl in the dark. Look at a book with beautiful scenery or beautiful art. Watch a nature or travel documentary.
Listen to cathartic, beautiful or soothing music. Listen to recordings of the ocean or other sounds of nature. Appreciate the sound of hapoy baby gurgling or the sound of an animal. Sit by a waterfall. Meditate on the sound of water trickling by in a stream. Listen to someone chopping wood in the distance. When you are listening, be mindful, letting the sounds come and go.
Smell breakfast being cooked at home or in a cafe. Notice all the different smells around you. Focus on them, name them. Walk in a garden or in the woods, maybe just after a rain, and breathe in the smells of nature.
Light a scented candle or incense. Bake some bread or a cake, and take in all the smells.
Have a special treat, and eat it slowly, savoring each bite. Cook a favorite meal. Drink a soothing drink like herbal tea or hot chocolate. Let the taste run over your tongue and slowly down your throat. Meditate on the flavours. Go to a tapes place, and eat a little bit of each dish, mindfully tasting each new thing. Taste can be a great calming distraction tool.
Take a hot shower with your favourite soap. Pet your dog or cat. Feel the love. Put on a soft shirt or comfortable PJs and feel its softness and smoothness. Sink into a really comfortable clean bed. Float or swim in a pool, and feel the water caress your body.
Many of us may feel like we don't deserve these comforts sometimes and may find it hard to give pleasure to ourselves in this way. I struggle with this.
Do you have these feelings? Challenge them. Do something pleasant for yourself.
Some of may also expect this soothing to come from other people or not want to do it for ourselves.
Have you experienced this feeling? Extend yourself the compassion others often don't or wont.
You may feel guilty about allowing yourself some pleasure in this way. It may take some practice to allow yourself to experience these pleasures. These are really simple human pleasures that everyone has a right to and that will give us some good tools to use when we are feeling like shit.
Try at least one of these self-soothing exercises this week when you are feeling a bit or very rubbish.
You may want to choose a whole group of things, say all the visual things, or you may want to choose a single thing to try. There are no rules.
As you do what you have chosen, do it mindfully.
Breathe gently and try to be fully in the experience, whether it is walking in the woods or watching a flower or taking a shower or smelling some fresh-baked bread in the bakers.
As you begin to overcome your feelings that perhaps you do not deserve this, that bullshit guilty vibe, start to enjoy one or more of these activities, you will be learning very useful tools to help you deal with negative feelings and cope with difficult situations.
CONTROLLING SELF HARM IMPULSES BY STARTING SMALL (DBT ICE CUBE DISTRACTION SKILL)
Stolen from Debbie.
Early on in my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder and until I really got into the skills of DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), I had a pattern of quickly jumping from an impulse, thought, or emotion to an action.
I felt anxious, so I would run or freak out. I felt angry, so I would yell, throw something, or drive recklessly. I felt depressed or anxious, so I would self-sabotage or self-harm in some way.
As a result of this unfortunate lack of mindfulness and no resources or tools learned to cope, I had an automatic response of reacting. I have experienced a lot of regret and suffered a lot of consequences (in relationships, in my career, and my health) because of this pattern.
Because I would experience major dysregulation of my emotions, in an attempt to feel better quickly, I would take actions that made me feel better in the moment but that would shortly thereafter (and sometimes for the longer term) make my circumstances and overall feelings worse.
One skill that helped very early on with this issue is the DBT skill of holding an ice cube. It may sound silly or very simple, but once you try it and find that it works, you may think there really is something to these DBT skills.
I was first introduced to this skill in therapy. Our group therapist brought ice cubes into the room and asked each of us to hold one as long as we could. We were asked to just notice and observe the sensations and thoughts we had as we held it, to hold it as long as we could tolerate it, and we discussed the experience afterward.
Everyone, of course, had a different experience, but most everyone agreed that the ice cube provided an excellent distraction and that the intense physical sensations drew all of their attention.
This was my experience as well. Over the course of the week from that class to my next, I had several episodes of intense emotions, and during one of them, I decided to hold an ice cube over the sink. It helped! It created an intense physical sensation without causing any self-harm, and all of my attention was focused on it.
I held the ice as long as I could. It melted quite a bit into the sink before I let the rest of it go. Holding the ice cube allowed me to put time and space between the initial intensity of my emotions/thoughts and any action I took as a result. It was an ice cube intervention, and it worked.
If only some one could have told me about these skills years and years ago when in care or the psyche hospitals or Leven House but no! NO! How did they fail to teach me these simple skills? How? I don't get it. That mystifies me.
May have helped me out a whole fucking lot. Never going to understand that. Utter failure. Ho hum 🤷♀️.
I know now. To late but I know now.
Anyway that long old rambling post is an over view of a DBT session, forum discussion and what skills i'm going back over right now.
Time to get back to the nuts and bolts of DBT journaling and keeping a regular gratitude diary again up to date.