Impulsivity with Texting, Social Media, and Emails (and Suggested DBT Skills)

Yesterday on my Facebook page, we talked about when our emotions get the best of us and we behave impulsively, such as sending texts or emails that we later regret. Here was my original post:

Sometimes our emotions can be so powerful that we feel compelled to make impulsive decisions that we later regret -- like sending an email (or emails) that may not have come from the kindest place and/or should never have been sent at all. 

There are consequences for our actions, and a lot of the time, they show up as the residual emotions that we feel after we've engaged in a behavior that brings up shame or guilt. The more we practice pausing between the impulse and the action, the easier it becomes. With things like email, it is still a challenge for me. 

What are some strategies you use to avoid sabotaging on social media, email or with texting?

Today's quote: "I am thankful the most important
 key in history was invented. It's not the key to your
 house, your car, your boat,your safety deposit box,
 your bike lock or your private community.

 It's the key to order, sanity, and peace of mind.
 The key is 'Delete.'"-- Elayne Boosler
Many of you shared that you have experienced an unsettled feeling when you get the urge to send that message and that you think that if you don't act on the impulse, you'll "never know."  Some of you said that you would keep sending messages even if you received no response, even though you felt ashamed of your choice to engage in this behavior.

I understand this completely, because I've been there, and it is still something that I personally struggle with from time to time. As emotionally sensitive people, the effects of such behaviors can feel devastating, but there is hope.  Even though we may feel out of control in those moments, the truth is, we really are in control. We just need to learn how to slow it down and tap into this, and then we'll be empowered to make new choices that reduce our suffering.

Some things that I've found helpful around this issue:

1.) We can't control others' behaviors -- only our own. We can't make someone respond no matter how desperately we may want to hear back from them, and even if they do respond, we aren't guaranteed that they will reply in a way that satisfies us or makes us feel better.  Also, I read something somewhere yesterday that said, "If the person doesn't dignify you with a response, you need to dignify yourself by discontinuing your attempts to make contact."  I know that this is a lot easier said than done, but if one of your goals is to reduce your feelings of loss of self-respect, it's important to try.

2.) Sometimes we set ourselves up for the very thing we fear the most: rejection.  The problem with emails and texts is that it is SO easy to send that message. There's really nothing (other than learning to pause and quickly get skillful) standing in the way between us and that SEND key.  We can send messages so quickly and easily, just because I can.  I had my "a ha" moment yesterday and tweeted it from my second Twitter account, @DailyDBT:

Although it can be very difficult, indeed, to slow down before sending that message, doing so can be the game changer for us. If you can stop yourself long enough to think about or even WRITE DOWN what the possible consequences will be if you send that message (i.e., I'll feel even more anxious, especially if I don't get a reply...I'll have to cope with shame or disappointment that I didn't hold back....I may annoy or push the other person away...I may feel rejected or abandoned, especially if the person never responds), it can help us to realize the suffering we (and others) stand to endure if we follow through with this behavior and dissuade us from doing it.  

Next, you'll want to get skillful.  In DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), there is a set of skills called Distraction Skills.  These are ideas of things to do to cope with the distress or when in an emotional crisis. 

Here are some Distraction Skill ideas:

  • go wash the dishes or vacuum the house
  • go for a walk
  • study
  • go help a neighbor or loved one with a task
  • watch a good tv show or movie
  • start a Pinterest board of ideas that you can distract with when you need ideas

The idea is that taking time to PAUSE between that impulse and taking any action -- your difficult choice to step away from that electronic device and do something else to take your mind off of it for a little bit -- can be the difference between engaging in a behavior you'll regret and making a new decision. The more you practice the skillful choice, the easier it will become with time.

3.) If you gave in and engaged in this behavior, take responsibility and work harder to be skillful the next time the urge or impulse arises, but do not beat yourself up over it.  This does you no good. You are human. On top of that, you're emotionally sensitive, and there is CAUSE for your choice to follow through.  It's usually a complicated chain of all of the events that led up to this moment, including any positive results that you expected or hoped for by following through on this behavior.  If you made a mistake, try to show yourself some compassion.  It's important to acknowledge the behavior you want to change and make efforts to do so while at the same time not condemning yourself for a slip up.

Do you find it difficult to resist sending emails or texts when feeling impulsive? What has helped during these times?  What have some of the consequences been when you've followed through on the impulse? What might you try to do differently the next time it strikes?

As always, your comments are welcome and encouraged!

Thanks for reading.
More soon.


  1. Hi Debbie,
    I am really happy that you posted about this topic. It is so relevant, especially with BPD. I have a couple questions for you. One, I deleted my Facebook page about three months ago, and have found myself feeling so much lighter and happier. My relationships have improved a little and I feel less self conscious. I can also focus on my school work in a more effective way. I recently got back on for about thirty minutes and noticed myself going into a nasty depressive episode. After experiencing a slam of negative thoughts, luckily my wise mind kicked in and I could noticed what was cognitively happening. Anyways, I am currently making a blog that centers around creativity & BPD. I have thought about getting back onto Facebook to begin showing others that this blog actually exists, but am very scared of 1.) over sharing in my blog posts and 2. feeling all of that negativity slam back into my life by putting myself in a vulnerable place (i.e. Facebook.) Thank you so much, Debbie, for always putting your story out there and being so encouraging to the BPD community. You are a light in the darkness.

  2. It is not healthy; it is not helpful, but enforcing isolation is my method. It is prevention of making it worse by not hurting others. If they want to live in the illusion that everything is alright, they don't want to be bothered by what's troubling me, and they can't help anyway, I simply refrain from sharing. Every time I have shared before it had disturbed the person and they have pushed me away in self-defense and said that I was hurting them. That's not what I want to do. If I'm going to be pushed away anyway, I might as well withdraw. Then the person is more likely to be there when I'm feeling better, and I won't upset them.

  3. Instant messages and texts are my absolute worse type of impulsive moves. After reading your inspiring blog in regards to this I have had a vast opportunity to self reflect on past behaviors which were of true abandonment and spoken of my inner child (directed at one person in particular) my actions only drove this person away. It started a harsh chain reaction of arguments and fights and all in all made this particular person think of me as crazed and deranged as well as coated in drama. There was a time in this that even if I was harshly engaged in arguments with this person I felt that I was being validated in some way. Alas, if he was still talking to me he still cared about me -right? In the end, as I said, I drove him away and sent him running. He wanted nothing else to do with me because of my nanosecond texting/instant messages each and every time I seen his name pop up as being available on my messenger list. I cannot begin to even explain how bad it was, or should I say explosive!

    Nearly two years later, and after removing him completely from my lists and him removing himself completely from me, I came across him again. We have just started to communicate again both in person and online. In that time I have went through sheer hell detoxing from drugs and working my way through CBT and DBT therapy for BPD and other issues. He's once again on my messenger list. When I see his name available, when I see him pop online, and even in times I know he's on his lunch break, getting off from work, or online and awake at strange hours in the early morning my first impulse is to message/text him. I noticed my impulse and I noticed my initial pattern of continued behavior (just hours/days as he was added) and this blog has helped me to see such and look for alternatives. I tell myself "no" and use other methods of "self talk" to keep me from bothering him and pushing him further away. I know all in all that I will not get another chance to his friendship and if I push him away he'll be gone. So with that in mind I attempt to do various distraction methods I learned in DBT or I look up this bookmarked post and remind myself that I can't make him respond and that his response isn't going to be the desirable response I have mentally created it to me. I tell myself, he's busy. I tell myself, conversation is a two way street and he will make his own choice but I have the value of him being in my life again nonetheless. To me that's a win. (Just my little story)

  4. I also decided to delete my Facebook. As someone who is struggles with over-sharing (and BPD), I really could not restrain myself at times from posting explosive things. I was able to greatly reduce (tip: every time you want to send or post something negative, post something enlightening or funny instead... I liked to post funny pics when I felt that way) my outbursts, but they were still happening, and there was a lot of pressure building inside me to click send. So, I figured, why not just get rid of it? I realize avoidance isn't always the solution in life, but something that's slowly helping me heal from BPD is listening to my body (my reactions) and then tailoring my life to suit my needs. No one NEEDS Facebook. If it hurts more than helps, just get rid of it! I feel much better. I use to feel like people were watching me, but now those feelings are gone.



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