Surfing The Urge - DBT skills.
Updated: Feb 26
Here I am again in January 2022 going back over DBT "surf the urge" skills.
The truth is I go back over this particular DBT skill quite often in order to try to remain mindful of these techniques and practices and the core skills because the wheels on my bus threaten to come off at regular intervals on my bumpy life journey.
When the wheels begin to get wobbly I have the maladaptive tendency to reach for all the impulsive unhealthy self destructive coping mechanisms such as alcohol, food, over sleeping, not sleeping or somewhat further up the spectrum, drugs and self harm such as cutting or punching myself very fucking hard in face. Pretty fucked up eh? I've been an impulsive bus wanker y'see.
Information on BPD impulsivity:
I have learned/am learning to use the surf the urge skills set to try and negate these types of deeply ingrained impulsive shitty behaviours such as out of control anger aimed inwards and outwards. That anger in me, left unchecked, can and has on many occasions turned into self hating all out psychotic rage and obviously still has the very real scary potential to catch me unawares.
Rage in the truest sense. Rage at myself which becomes rage acted outwardly at others. People I care about, all to often.
Learning and practicing all the Surf The Urge skills hand in hand with other DBT skills, some self love and compassion and care has helped me keep that toxic, impulsive, out of order shit locked down.
Unchecked BPD is ugly.
Don't be a cunt.
On of my incoherent rambling digressions:
This past week or so.
In a nut shell this past week I have been dealing with knob heads. The detail doesn't need to be disclosed in this forum post. I know I'm a knob head too but there are different levels of knobbery.
Let's just say I'm now prepared to loose some more people in my life by sticking to my guns for a change and not opting for my default impulsive people pleasing bullshit behaviour and feeling the need to appease. Fuck it. I don't need to prove myself or should I say impress in order to find my place in this life.
That's a positive corner I'm turning right there.
Cards on the table the.
💩 My bullshit behaviour.
And sometimes it is literally bullshit. I bullshit. Bullshit myself and bullshit others. Impulsively. Its pathological.
I stitch myself up and stitch other other people up by impulsively agreeing to meets, tasks and favours that are not actually doable time wise or due to my regular mental health blips and overloads.
I know I may not be able to commit because of my horrid crippling anxiety/depression that I can not predict timing wise or severity wise. And I fucking know this most oofthe time in the back of my mind when I agree to this shit.
I need to be mindful to say no to things, rather than commit to things in order to please and/or impress people to gain acceptance for my own gratification.
It's not calculated or Machiavellian. I think rather, that it's sometimes perhaps narcissistic somewhat. Delusional perhaps. It has taken me 40 odd years of hard knocks to come, fully, to this realisation.
I have been desperate to people please and fit in and find acceptance ever since I was a very damaged little boy. I still am. I'm trying to grow up.
I never did find it, the acceptance.
My desperate desire to find acceptance and identity developed into my toxic personality (disorders) over the years. My neurotic mental health.
It is a problem.
But I'm aware and I am trying hard to pull it back as far as I can. Damage limitation.
The realisation that I don't need other people's acceptance in order to have an identity has been a fucking revelation, a relief, a paradigm changing challenge and it is the mountain I'm attempting to traverse in my life currently.
Acceptance I don't really need.
People pleasing has been a very real and detrimental problem. People pleasing has in fact has led me to let a lot of people down. Some badly. I have lost some folks I didn't want lose. But who could blame them? I don't. I feel really bad about my moments of stupidity. I've been extremely toxic.
It's still a big problem. A problem I need to focus on as a priority. Impulsivity can be destructive.
I know where it comes from, I know the root of the problem and I know now, I must break the chain. My behaviours relating to letting people down are firmly founded in my own traumatic experiences of neglect and being let the fuck down during my child/teen and early adulthood.
Nuff said 'bout that.
And now I am in retreat, in hiding somewhat in order to focus on unpicking my stitch up behaviours.
Learning not to be full of 💩 at my age is embarrassing.
So there you have it. I ' fess up. In public.
I'm working on switching up my behaviour.
Surf the urge is one of the tools hand in hand with others I am practicing in order to be a better more honest and honourable man.
S u r f The U r g e
Surf The Urge is in part one of the tools I must learn to use more and to put into real life practice, mindfully, a damn site more than I have managed so far. On some levels I've employed it effectively. On other levels, other problematic behaviours, I'm only just beginning. I can't do it all at once.
Surf The Urge - the skills
Some materials, notes, thoughts and ramblings from our surf the urge online meet:
I was there ✅
She was there ⬇️ ✅
Says 5 reasons, I see 4 but I'll take that.
We all talked about the reasons and when to pull out the surf the urge took box.
We focused in on the 4 (5?) DBT reasons, however I can tell you there are a plethora of reasons I can identify, not just 4 or 5. I'm not going to go into them all because it's self explanatory to anyone with EUPD who wants change themselves in the name of self love and loving others, correctly.
If you are reading this group forum or my public blog entry (the edited version) , that's probably you.
Reduce our suffering - it's obvious that if we can learn to surf the self destructive urges that plague our lives the less we will suffer as a consequence of engaging in those urges. Obvious but not easy if you're as messy as I am. But a good enough reason to refocus and double down on nailing these skills. Suffering isn't fun.
Learn to change our behaviour - by learning not to blindly give into our urges we can change how we behave. Bad behaviour brought about by following my maladaptive urges, bad habits, bad behaviour and just being an ass hole has caused no end of misery to myself and to others. I have changed for the better quite a lot but I must do more and I have slid back somewhat into old urges, old routines. Old habits die hard. I don't want to misbehave.
Manage how we respond - intense emotions are not going go away so learning how to respond to all encompassing emotional overload is a critical life hack. Unfortunately for us borderline, we feel our emotions raw and hard and painfully and all of the emotions all at once. It's a cluster fuck. The only way to reduce our emotional sensitivity is to learn how to respond to them as best we can do. Learning how to respond in a mindful more rational way can save a whole load more suffering for all concerned than if we do not. A more healthy response can stop a chain reaction of head fucks in its tracks. I am still learning.
Thought associations - can be a tricky one. Strong urges are often linked to triggers, triggering emotions and thoughts and events etc. In my case alcohol abuse has been part of my life since my early teenage years. Booze is strongly linked to so many things in my life and the urge to drink comes at me at certain times of the week and for certain linked reasons. Same with food. Comfort food. Comfort eating, emotional eating urges and behaviours. All linked to my fucked up childhood. Habitual harmful coping mechanisms that I have done well in swerving since moving away from Boscombe.
It really does feel like a wave building up inside when an overwhelming chain of emotions takes hold of you. Especially when you feel all the feels all at the same bastard time amplified up to 11.
You can feel the wave coming and arriving one way or another, quickly or gradually. The gradual waves are easier to surf. Either way though, waves arrive. These waves can all to often come out of, seemingly, nowhere at 300 hundred miles per hour for us emotionally unstable borderlines.
When the waves come at you thick n fast, the emotion increases in intensity and all of a sudden you're a the peak of a wave about to thoroughly melt down.
It's at this point we need to learn how to surf the peak of the emotional wave and surf the urge to behave in detrimental self destructive ways and in my case all to often, come crashing down into a boiling sea of salty red hot anger, piss and vinegar and end up stuck in a horrid loop of borderline rage and regret.
Kicking off ruins everything.
Trust me my previous total ignorant lack of insight and inability to surf the emotional waves of emotion and cope with peak emotions and fall out like an adult ruined my life. Literally. It was dark. And it disrupted the lives of those I loved and lost.
Trust me, learn to fucking surf! It might just save your life.
Self sabotaging behaviour is the key phrase here. Not dealing with our disorder, leaving BPD and any comorbid diagnosis unchecked is daft. Don't be daft.
Emotional meltdowns sabotage our lives and other peoples lives around us. My meltdowns have been fucking insane. I'm ashamed when I think about them.
I don't kick off like I used to. I haven't self harmed in years as in self mutilation. I learned to urge surf and/or identify my emotions and distract myself using DBT skills when the self hating intruding borderline psychotic thoughts and "noise" tries to take control.
I don't put cocaine up my nose like I did after my life fell apart to try and numb the pain and mental noise in my head. The Peruvian marching powder became a real problem for a short while. A lot of that was to do with hanging around with other damaged and deranged people. I put an end to that.
Leaning to surf my urges ultimately changed that whole life dynamic though, socially, culturally, health wise, financially etc.
Surfing the urge to drink and get blatted is a key skill. Getting blatted would often lead to joining in with the waffle dust and other exotic substances that was rife in my ex social circle and ex chosen den of iniquity.
I am a problem drinker. Not necessarily an addict. I don't think so anyway. But my drinking behaviour is problematic.
It's not that I would drink all the time or even too regularly but more like when I did/do drink, I would/will binge drink.
I don't seem to be able to control my consumption behaviour. I can't do 2 or 3 pints. I will smash 10 or more and get fucked up. And then in my drunken stupors the other substances would be partaken.
Alcohol is the gateway drug.
Alcohol is my Achilles heel.
Not so much any more. Measures have been taken successfully but I have slid back somewhat over the past year. But I know why.
The time has come to redouble down on sobriety.
Learning and Practicing this life skill of resisting and coping with emotions and urges is a hard slog. Most neuro- typical people have it encoded into them from their early childhood and they don't even have to reference it.
We borderlines do though and it hurts but it's so worth the time, pain and effort.
This skill set has helped me see through, complete and graduate from DBT path once already and it enabled me to give up alcohol entirely after using it as a crutch since I was a young teen ager along side other substances periodically such as Billy (speed), Charlie (coke) and edibles and seriously strong skunk (weed) through a little brass pipe I made when i was 17 because I've never smoked nicotine.
All that is thing of the past and so are the people and scenes that come with it.
Right now I just need to double back down on the alcohol and pub habitual behaviours.
My plantar fasciitis injury has healed and the gym and running and cycling must begin to replace the pub behaviour as it did before that fuckin injury, to brilliant effect.
I know why I slipped back into alcohol and the pub and that's okay. I can forgive myself and move on from that.
The urge no longer rules me, I rule it.
I dominate my day, not the other way around.
Urge surfing. It works:
Find a spot where you will not be disturbed or distracted for a little bit.
Get seated comfortably—on a chair or on the floor—and close your eyes so that you can focus your attention on the exercise.
In your mind, steadily scan your body to find spots where you are experiencing physical sensations that might be connected to the cravings for drugs or alcohol.
Once you have identified a sensation, bring your attention to it and calmly describe it to yourself. Start with the most intense sensation and move to each subsequent sensation. Describe each sensation as objectively as you are able. Go slow. There’s no hurry.
When you are finished going through the sensations, shift your attention to your breathing. Just breathe as you normally would and focus on the rising and falling sensation.
In your own time, go through the scanning process again. If you are still experiencing strong physical sensations connected to your cravings, go through the slow and steady process of describing them to yourself again. Once you have finished, go back to focusing on your breathing.
You can continue this process as long as is necessary, feeling the cravings subside like waves on the ocean getting smaller and smaller until they flatten out and the urge diminishes and goes away.
It takes work.
A good article
A non sweary sensible assessment of Surf The Urge is copy and pasted below that actually makes sense by a professional, unlike my ramblings. Copy and pasted from Portland psychology who has given me full permission to use their work in my blog post. I have re formatted it and made a few edits for my own better understanding and guidance going forward.
Riding the Wave
Using Mindfulness to Help Cope with Urges:
Changing a habit is hard.
Anyone who has tried to change their eating habits, quit smoking, start an exercise program, or stop drinking or using drugs can tell you how difficult it can be at times to change old habits.
In my last post I discussed how slipping (i.e., falling back into an old habit) can sometimes set us up for a relapse (i.e., continuing a habit beyond the initial slip) due to a phenomenon known as the Abstinence Violation Effect.
In this post, I’d like to talk about a technique that can help you before you slip, a technique called “urge surfing.”
What is Urge Surfing?
Urge surfing is a technique attributed to the late psychologist Alan Marlatt, Ph.D., a pioneer in the field of addictions treatment. We can think of an urge as an impulse to engage in an old habit, such as drinking or using, and they are often experienced as physical sensations in the body. Urges are like waves in that they rise in intensity, peak, and eventually crash.
Here’s a brief exercise you can do to explore this technique:
Stop for a moment and think about an urge that you recently experienced. As you think about this urge, see if you can notice all the sensations that come up as you think about it; see if you notice how these sensations shift across time. Use your breath to help you ride out the waves (i.e., the urge); like a surfboard, you can simply observe your breath as you ride out each wave that arises.
You just successfully surfed your first urge!
Urges usually peak between 20 – 30 minutes, if we let them.
What I mean by this last phrase is this: if we adopt an open and curious attitude about the urge and watch it without doing battle with it, then the urge will subside.
However, if we go to battle with our urges (e.g., “I can’t stand this urge! I have to get rid of it right now!”), they will subside more slowly. Worse, by giving into urges we can actually strengthen them and we can lose confidence in our abilities to change our old habits.
How to Surf an Urge
There are slight variations of the urge surfing technique, but most include the following steps:
Take a few moments to notice where you experience urges in your body. You can do this by taking some time to sit in a quiet place, and if you are comfortable doing so, closing your eyes, and just allowing your attention to go to the place(s) in your body where you tend to feel urges. For some people they notice that urges are most connected to sensations in their abdomens; for others, they notice urges in their mouth (e.g., their mouths water when experiencing an urge to drink). There is no right or wrong place for an urge to be located. What is most important is that you notice where in your body you most notice urges when they show up. If you are having trouble noticing urges, think back to a time when you experienced an urge to engage in an old habit. If you are concerned that thinking about a particular instance when you had an urge will lead to doing the habit, pick a situation where the urge was less strong or you successfully prevented yourself from acting on the urge. Picture the situation as clearly as you can in your imagination. Once the situation is clear in your mind notice where in your body you are experiencing the urge.
2. Once you have noticed what part of your body is most connected to the urge, focus your attention on it (if you notice that more than 1 area of your body is connected to an urge, start with the place that you most intensely notice the urge). Take note of the sensations you are having in this body part. What do the sensations feel like? Does it feel like pressure, tingling, warmth, or coolness? How much space do these sensations take up in this place in your body? Try to draw an outline around the place where the sensations are felt. See if the sensations have any movement. Some people tend to associate sensations with colours or temperatures. Check to see if you notice any colours or temperature associated with these sensations. For some people it can be helpful to silently describe the sensations in an objective and non-judgmental manner (e.g., I notice warmth and tingling in my belly). If more than one part of your body is associated with an urge, go through this exercise with each body part.
Bring your attention to your breath. You do not need to change your breathing at all. Notice your breath for the next 1-2 minutes. Some people find it helpful to bring their attention to a particular place in their body where they notice their breath (e.g., the abdomen); some find it helpful to say phrases like “breathe in,” “breathe out” as they inhale and exhale.
Gently shift your attention back to the part(s) of your body where you notice the urge. Allow yourself to notice whatever sensations come up in these places. If it becomes overwhelming to notice the sensations, gently return your attention back to breath for a few moments and then go back to noticing the sensations connected to the urge. You may find it helpful to imagine sending your breath to the parts of your body that are associated with the urge (e.g., you can breathe into your shoulders and let your breath fill up that part of your body). Notice if and how the sensations change as you watch them. Be sure to practice this step for at least 1 minute, but longer is probably better.
This next step is optional, but I have found it to be helpful in my own life and in working with people with addictions. Imagine that the sensations connected with your urge are a wave. Watch the wave rise and fall over and over again as the intensity of your sensations peak and subside. Your job is to use your breath as a surfboard to ride these waves. No matter how big the wave gets, no matter how much you feel as if the wave will consume you, you are a skilled surfer and you will use your breath to ride each wave as it comes. Practice this for at least 1 minute, but again, longer is probably better, particularly the first few times you practice this.
As you’re riding the wave (or just noticing the sensations), you may find it helpful to silently describe the sensations in an objective and non-judgmental way (e.g., I notice warmth in my belly that is increasing…the warmth in my belly is decreasing and my belly feels cooler).
When you are done surfing the urge, take a moment to thank yourself for taking the time and being willing to do something different with your urges. You can also use this time to set your intention for the next few minutes, hour, or day.
With practice urge surfing gets easier and you may discover that you are in fact an excellent surfer.
You can practice this technique in two ways:
You can start urge surfing whenever you notice yourself having an urge. This can be a particularly useful technique when you notice urges to go back to old habit that you are trying to break.
You can practice this on a regular basis by setting aside time to practice using the technique. Many people find that listening to an audio recording of the technique is useful at first. Through this kind of formal practice, you can get better at urge surfing so that you’re better at it when you need it.
You’ll find that, with practice, urges will become easier to ride out. You may even start to feel a sense of pride or accomplishment as you successfully surf urges and act according to your values, instead of according to your urges.
With thanks to portlandpsychology.com
Mental Health Illness Is Physical.
More reflections, materials and things from our DBT group session:
It's a physical illness.
Mental illness is all physical. It's not in the sky or some spiritual thing in the ether. Its physical.
It is in the body, in the brain. The brain is physical. Our brain chemicals and grey matter and all of the electro chemical activity that informs our consciousness is physical.
So many cock wombles still fail to recognize that mental illness is a physical ailment just as brain cancer is or a broken leg or heart disease or whatever is.
The only difference is it's in the brain. Mental illness on the whole is not a weakness. There's a huge difference having weak character and actual mental health illness.
It's not some attention seeking plot as I have had levelled at myself by idiots.
If someone is showing attention seeking behaviours, more often than not, they need fucking attention and it can literally be because something in the brain is "broken".
It needs fixing. Broken things need to be fixed and that requires attention. Just as brain cancer needs attention in order to be hopefully fixed.<