Sunday, January 3, 2010

January 3rd - 10th 2010

THIS WEEK:

Thank you for the comments, I encourage this to be a way to communicate our lives with DBT; and communication isn't much if it isn't going both ways. So keep the comments coming!

We've recently discussed taking a detectives approach to our lives, observing ourselves and putting those observations to words. Describing our experiences with a non-judgmental point of view. These skills, if practiced, become vital in making effective choices. As a part of an effective life, you will notice that there are ample opportunity to step back from our experience and start running a commentary in our minds. What is that I notice about what is happening to me? How does that impact the way I am feeling about it? Asking these questions and sticking it out long enough to get answers from yourself, is what the DBT text-book refers to as participating in your own experience. A recap: Take a non-judgmental view on your experience, observe it, describe it and then participate in it.

The participation can be effective or ineffective. Either way, you are still participating. Of course we all desire the participation to be effective. In order to improve our chances of effective participation we do all of the aforementioned steps, mindfully; this will ensure that we will have effective choices to pick from. 

It seems reasonable to consider: what would it look like for me to non-judgmentally observe, describe and participate mindfully in my own experience? This will look different for everyone. That is why when describing the 'wise mind' to beginners of DBT I often reiterate to them that deciding on how much logic and how much emotion is needed in any given situation depends solely on the person. For me, dealing with a member of my distant family may include 80% logic and only 20% emotion. Whereas for you, perhaps you don't have the same triggers when the 'fam' comes to visit; therefore you can have a healthy dose of emotion, say 60% and then the remainder would be 40% logic, enough to keep your wits about you and keep your mental illness at bay. Or in some cases where mental illness isn't even a factor their balance between the two logic and emotion will be different yet.

In order to determine what your recipe is, you do not need to have an extensive list of circumstances and the ratio of emotion/logic. Rather you simply need to know how to balance what your body and mind needs. The only way to get the general idea of what your basic recipe is, is to practicing being mindful. Once you get your basic recipe, you then can tailor your 'wise mind' for any given circumstances.

The most basic mindfulness practice is breathing. As you become more skilled, try out other forms of exercises. In fact you can get books on the practices, or you can dream up your own. We will also cover a variety. The idea is anything that gets you focused on what is happening to your physical person in the moment you are in, now. How does the chair feel under you? the floor - is it hard flooring, carpet? What noises do you hear? What sensations is your body experiencing? ~ So on. So start with breathing. Count them in/out, or say in/out; anything to get you focused on your physical body and it inside of your environment. Leaving behind what is distressing you, or simply the demands on you. Take 5 mins and do these exercises regularly. This will help you to balance yourself and with balance and practice you will begin to see a picture emerge. This picture will give you insight into what wise mind looks like for you at baseline. Once you can clearly see what wise mind looks like there, you can start to compensate for too much or too little emotion or logic based on how far off of baseline you are getting.

Believe it or not, mindfulness is ultimately the skill that will be your temperature gauge so to speak. When you practice mindfulness during distress or during baseline, you will build knowledge about yourself and what that self needs emotionally or physically. Once mindfulness is on board as a skill; when you turn to your bag of tricks it will include so many new skills.

TRY THIS: set yourself in a calm, quiet room. Sit comfortably in a chair or on the floor, or even lay down on a bed. Close your eyes and breath deeply. With each breath in count, 1. Breath out, 1. Breath in, 2. Breath out, 2. Keep doing this, if you find that you have lost count, start over at one, but do not stop breathing or break the concentration, keep your eyes closed. After you have done this for 3-5 mins. open your eyes and ask yourself, What did I notice? Was I anxious? Afraid? Did I have a hard time concentrating, did my mind wander? If it did, where did it wander to? You do not need answers to these questions per say, they are for you to get an idea of the experience for you. Practice.

Mindfulness for when you are in distress: whatever you are doing, notice the rising emotional temperature and tell yourself, I notice I am getting elevated. Then, if you are washing dishes start talking to yourself about washing dishes, 'my hands are in water that is hot, luke warm, cold. I feel the slimy soap and when I touch a pan it feels rough. I am holding a spoon, it is oval-shaped with an odd reflection.' Keep describing everything you notice about what you are doing until you can feel the distress reducing. Your description should include what every one of your senses is doing. What do you smell? Feel? Taste? This may seem odd, but no matter what you are doing, you can do this exercise. Whether you are driving, walking the dog, laundry, shopping.

Try these practices out, do them often over the course of this week, I will send out reminders to practice via Twitter. So if you aren't yet signed up to receive those, you might want to do so. No matter how ineffective mindfulness practices may seem at the time, there is always something we can learn about ourselves and overtime you will see the impact it will have on you and your ability to dial in on what you really need in the moment, you might be surprised!

MJ