Coping With Distressing Thoughts (i.e. Disordered Thinking, OCD, BPD)
Many of us can relate to finding ourselves on the hamster wheel, with repeated, intrusive, even disturbing thoughts that distress us. Here are some common thoughts that many people with Borderline Personality Disorder (as well as those with eating disorders/disordered eating, OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and anxiety experience.)
- Distorted thoughts about food, eating, and body image
- Frightening thoughts about self-harm
- Worries about being abandoned or rejected, even when there is no “evidence” that this is or will happen
- Fears of being alone
- Radical Acceptance: Radically accepting is saying “I accept that I am having these thoughts right now. There is cause. I’m having them for a reason, even if I don’t understand that reason.” This is probably (at least for me) the most DIFFICULT skill to practice when I’m feeling anxious and distressed over unwanted, troubling thoughts. What? You want me to ACCEPT this is happening? Well, to be honest, not accepting them doesn’t help much. And, accepting does NOT mean that you’re saying, “I enjoy these thoughts. I feel just swell that I’m experiencing these thoughts.” No. Accepting does not mean you approve, enjoy, or appreciate the experience. Accepting is just the first step of recovering. We must accept “what is” before we can change it if we want or need to. We must be honest and acknowledge the reality of our experience first.
- Opposite Action: Every emotion has an associated action. For example, when we are sad, the action is often to retreat. When we are afraid, the reaction is often to run or avoid. With Opposite Action, we identify the action associated with the current emotion and then do the OPPOSITE. This, in turn, helps to change the emotion, if that is what we are seeking.
- Self-Soothing: Sometimes we cannot change the issue at hand that is causing the distress. During this time, think of yourself as a child who needs your loving care, attention, and soothing. Soothe through activities that please your senses, such as a warm fleece blanket (touch), scented lotion (smell), looking at art or nature (sight), listening to soothing music (sound), eating a piece of your favorite hard candy (taste).
- Put it on the shelf: This is where you get to push away the thoughts if they get to be too much. You’ve already accepted that they are present, but if they are relentless, you might imagine giving yourself a conscious break by imagining placing the thought on a shelf to be tended to later. In the meantime, you can distract by watching a good television program, reading a book, going for a walk, or something else that gets your mind off of the issue.
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