Start off the New Year with DBT Skill of Contributing

We recently talked about the important role of self-care in our well being, and I continue to maintain that this is a priority.  While we are doing doing that, we can still serve others, but from a place of feeling like our own cup is full, or in the example of air travel, that our own oxygen mask is securely in place.

I get that often the last thing we think will help us when we are suffering is to put our situation on hold to help others; however, with the DBT Skill of Contributing, this is exactly what we do, and it can have profound effects.
You may be overwhelmed at the thought of giving when you are feeling in so much need yourself. But, with the skill of contributing, you needn't do something of epic proportions in order for it to be effective.

Here are some very BASIC ways that you can practice the skill of contributing:

If you're feeling up to doing a bit more but are apprehensive about making any type of long term commitment, consider:

  • One Brick -  a website that allows you to volunteer on a project-by-project basis with no long term commitment.  Feel up to doing some organic planting in a community garden? Sign up, show up, contribute, and feel better about  making a difference and getting your mind off of your own problems for a bit.  Other opportunities exist as well, and they vary by region.  I've seen tasks such as helping to clean litter along the ocean shore and serving a meal at a soup kitchen.  If you know of other sites like One Brick in your area, please do share in the comments below so that I may update this post with those listings.

If you'd rather make a difference and volunteer from home (or if health reasons make it difficult to leave home, consider:

  • Volunteering OnlineThis website list a number ideas for opportunities to volunteer and make a difference right from behind your computer screen.  If your schedule is very tight or you have difficulty leaving the house, this may be a good place to start.

If you want ideas to make a difference today that can have ripple effects:
  • Smile at others
  • Hold the door open
  • Offer to take a shopping cart back to the store
  • Offer to help an elderly person or a Mom load groceries into the car
  • Offer to walk someone's pet
  • Offer to babysit to give a couple a night out
  • Make a nice meal for someone
  • Send a card or a handwritten note to someone who may be lonely

Here are some additional ideas for random acts of kindness that involve very little time and money:

What other ideas do you have to practice the DBT skill of contributing?

Thank you for reading.
More soon.

In kindness,

The "Skillful Splurge" and Self-Care

Years ago, long before we had Facebook walls to share images, quotes, etc., I remember an email that was being passed around about a woman who had a very special and expensive bottle of perfume.  If my memory serves me, her husband gave it to her as a gift on a special occasion. She adored the perfume -- the beautiful bottle it came in, its scent, the luxury of having an item from a designer line. She vowed to cherish each drop and save it for use only on what she considered very special occasions.
Years later, the woman passed away, and when her loved ones came across the bottle of perfume, they noticed she had never used it.  She had evidently never deemed any occasion special enough and therefore never allowed herself to enjoy the perfume.
I'm not sure if this email was based on a real story, but I suspect that there are many of us out there hoarding away perfume or other things or not treating ourselves to something special because we are waiting for some elusive moment.
Life is happening now, in this moment.  Sometimes, I believe, it's okay to "Skillfully Splurge."  What do I mean by this?  If you have issues with compulsive or impulsive spending, that's one thing -- but if you rarely treat yourself to something special and have been feeling the urge to do so (and can afford it without causing yourself or those around you financial hardships or emotional distress), I say go for it!
If it's not wise to splurge right now, there is still great fun that can be had in allowing yourself to fantasize about what it would be like to have the experience. Or, perhaps like the woman in the story, you have a bottle of perfume, a piece of jewelry, some expensive lotion -- something that was given to you or that you purchased that feels like a luxury, and you don't ever use it.  Why not allow yourself the experience?
So, what item comes to mind for me? I have always thought it was so silly to spend over $30 on a lipstick, until this email came to mind recently.  Yes, it is an awful lot of money for something that I usually buy at the drugstore for under $10, and truth be told, I'll probably end up doing the fantasizing option over the actual purchasing.
It's from YSL line.  For some reason, the packaging of it reminds me of a mix of royalty, renaissance, and luxury.  There is something special about this one that caught my eye quite some time ago, and it often comes to mind when I feel the urge to splurge.  Interestingly, I never have.
Even just thinking about splurging on it and treating myself feels good. Perhaps it's my Wise Mind that knows I'll probably give myself a hard time for "foolishly" spending the money on something like this, so until that worry or concern is not present, I probably won't follow through on the purchase.  But I do have other things at home -- like a gorgeously scented vanilla and citrus milky body wash, and some Miracle perfume from Lancome that I use so sparingly.
For those items I already have, I plan to skillfully splurge this week -- to use the items and enjoy them. I'll enjoy their soothing scents and the tactile sensation of applying them.   I'll remind myself that I'm worth it and that this moment is special enough for me to treat myself kindly and even pamper myself a bit.
Can you relate?  Are there some items you have that you don't use because you're holding out for just the right moment?  What about an item that you've been thinking of gifting to yourself? 
What can you do this week to pamper yourself, just a little bit?
Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

Choices and Borderline Personality Disorder

One of the things that I like to be sure to tell my new students is something that I hope will leave them feeling empowered and motivated.  It's something that they may have never been told before and something that they may have difficulty believing, and it's this:
"You have choices.  Even though you may feel like BPD or being emotionally dysregulated causes you to be completely out of control, this is just an illusion.  Every moment is a choice."
It can be really difficult to hear this and nearly impossible to initially believe it when you have Borderline Personality Disorder, are a very emotionally sensitive person, or if you suffer from chronic emotion dysregulation.  I remember when first heard it while I was in the thick of the intense symptomology of BPD. 
I was hurt and offended that someone seemed to imply that I was CHOOSING my misery.  I was appalled that they thought I would CHOOSE to make the same mistakes sabotage myself and important relationships.  What kind of monster did they think I was?  The truth is that they didn't think I was a monster. 
They thought I was, (and I extend this same compassion to many of my students today as I get to truly know them), a hurting person who was living to a large extent unconsciously on a number of levels. I don't mean this in the sense of ignorance as stupidity, but as of truly not knowing better -- and boy was I there for many years.  I wasn't fully aware of who I was, what I wanted, what my intentions were, and how my actions impacted not only myself but also others around me.
It was with time and learning DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) skills that I began to understand what was meant by this concept that I had a choice in every moment.  As I began to learn the core concepts of DBT Mindfulness, I learned skills that helped me to understand how shifts in perspective could help me change my life.
Maya Angelou's quote, "When you know better, you do better," aptly captures the concept of choices and BPD for me.  Up until now, you've been doing the best you can, where you are, and with what you have.  As you learn new skills and alternative, more effective ways of coping with your emotional distress and pain that cause less suffering than your current behaviors, then you become more accountable to be responsible and begin practicing these newly learned skills. 

It doesn't happen overnight, and if you're like me (determined but imperfect), you might fall down a few times before you really get consistent with living skillfully.
Always a sensitive person (since childhood), I was quite easily and frequently dysregulted emotionally when I got into my twenties.  Things that others might pass of as offensive slights felt like wounding daggers to my psyche and nearly non-existent sense of self.  I told myself stories all the time about why people did the things they did.  I believe these stories often without checking the facts.  I thought that if I had a thought or a feeling, it had to be true, and I acted in accordance with this belief, often causing myself and other upset and pain.
I didn't realize I had a choice.  I was in constant fear of spiraling of control, of losing everything (which I ironically did a number of times), and of being alone.  That fear kept me in an almost constant adrenaline rush/survival state.  I was afraid to slow down.  Afraid to be alone with myself. Afraid to feel my feelings and face myself.

As we learn Mindfulness, we discover ways to slow down our thoughts, and more importantly, our REACTIONS to those thoughts. We put a buffer of time between the initial thought or intense emotion and taking any action -- especially actions that we often later regret (which involve self-sabotage or harm on any level.)

As you go through the rest of the week, when you notice an intense emotion or upsetting thought, try just noticing it.  Notice that you can have the thought or feeling with the option of choice of acting on it.  Try with little things at first to build up your confidence.

For example, let's say someone cuts you off in traffic.  The immediate tendency for most of us is to tense up, tell ourselves what an idiot the other person must be, and maybe to even give them a rude gesture.  Look for opportunities like this to just notice, observe, and describe your experience without taking any action. Make a different choice. Think higher.

"I was just cut off by that person. I notice this makes me angry. I notice I'm feeling tense.  I can release this. It has passed. I can move on. All is well."

Every moment is a choice.

I hope this helped you in some way today.

Thanks for reading.
More soon.

In kindness,

Emotionally Sensitive & The Holidays

"Why aren't you working?" "Why did you move back home?" "Are you not well?" and other triggering questions emotionally sensitive and people with Borderline Personality Disorder might hear this holiday season (and some ideas for coping.)
Editing issues led to an audio only video with a distorted Christmas tree.
Happy Holidays :-D .... I took into consideration your requests for this month's topic.  Less than six minutes of your time might help you get some ideas for coping more effectively this holidays season.

I hope this helps you in some way.
Thanks for watching and reading.
More soon.
In kindness,

Four Ways of Letting Go and Reducing Suffering (with DBT Skills References)

I was so happy to come across this lecture by Buddhist monk, Ajahn Brahm,  on "Four Ways of Letting Go."  The principles tie in quite nicely with Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), a treatment that is often very effective at helping those with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and other emotion regulation issues, and I'll elaborate on that more below. 
1. Let go/release the past and the future.

Radical Acceptance is a major part of DBT, and this monk's description of it bewildered me at first. He describes with some analogies on how to let go of burdens. He makes it sound so simple.  It made me question, "Is it possible that it is that simple and that we just complicate things by refusing to accept them and moving on?"  I'm definitely reflecting upon this concept. 

One thing that he said that definitely hit home and made sense was that when we let past hurts go, we release the power that the situation or person had over us. If we hold on to past hurts, they continue to hurt us over and over again while life (and often the other person) have long moved on.

Accepting that past events happened (while not necessary approving), is Radical Acceptance in action, as is trusting that we will have the tools, resources, and abilities needed to handle anything that may come our way in the future.
2. WANT to be here.

Ajahn Brahm describes any circumstance, relationship, health condition, etc. that you are resisting, fighting, or don't want to be in, as a prison.  He talks about how we make conscious choices around where we choose to be in our lives and whether we live in ease and in harmony with our circumstances or fight against and live in resistance and struggle.  This is a very interesting concept to me. 

One of the examples he uses is being stuck in traffic. Rather than get upset, curse, and complain, which never really accomplish anything good for our mental or physical well-being, we can find a way to want to be in the traffic.  At first, I laughed and thought that this would be nearly impossible. Imagine being stuck in traffic, running late because of it, and needing to be somewhere important...and somehow shifting your state of mind to wanting to be stuck in traffic.  And yet, I found myself in this very situation today.

A friend and I were heading to the airport, and she needed to catch a flight. We got stuck behind a truck whose driver kept stepping on the brakes. At first, we were frustrated, complaining to each other about this person's awful driving, and even snickering about what a less than intelligent being this person must be (that's the PG-13 version of the conversation).

I then realized what we were doing and recalled this segment from Ajahn Brahm's talk.  I told my friend about it, and we began to make a game out of the brakes lighting up every time the driver stepped on the pedal. We guessed when he would do it and laughed when we right and when we were wrong. It changed the whole experience.  My friend ended up making it on time, too.
3. Give with no expectations of return.

There is rarely an act that is completely and totally altruistic.  We almost always gain something from our kindness, even if it is a feeling that we are a good person or knowing that someone smiled as a result of our act.  But, still, the less we expect in return for our giving, the purer it is.  It's not about recognition or getting the credit.  There is something about giving with no strings attached that helps us to let go in other areas of our lives.  It's one of the most beautiful things we can do for one another, whether for a loved one, an animal,  a stranger, or a person in need on the other side of the planet.

In DBT, there is a skill called "contributing."  One of the benefits of contribution, even when we are not expecting anything in return from the person we are gifting or helping, is that almost inevitably we have the blessing of removing the attention away from our problems and issues for a little while, and we realize that we matter and can make a difference, even if our lives are not "perfect."
4. Have a Teflon mind.

We talk about the Teflon mind in the online DBT classes that I co-facilitate.  Until hearing this monk's explanation of the concept, I hadn't fully gotten it.  I knew that Teflon was the non-stick black coating on pans that keeps food from sticking, but I had never really thought about this DBT concept as meaning to not let thoughts, moods, feelings, etc. "stick" in our minds.

Another aspect of this skill that he illuminated for me is how, when we let things stick in our minds, we can miss the present moment.  He mentioned that we tend to get so caught up in our preconceptions and what we "know" about people, situations, and circumstances, that we often bring our prejudices and "knowing" to the present moment, and we miss out on the possibility that this conversation, this day for this person, this situation - though it looks and feels so familiar to others I've had - could be different

When we approach situations as if they are happening for the first time, without expectations that are clouded by prior experiences, we open the door for the possibility to be in the very present moment.

I really enjoyed Ajahn Brahm's presentation, and I hope you did too, as well as my own reflections.  I look forward to your thoughts.

Thank you for reading.
More Soon.


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