So relationships... OK, so many of us find that our symptoms of mental illness truly come out when we are interacting with others. It takes skill to learn how to communicate with others, in general and in conflict. Especially conflict; and it takes that much more skill to do it with the handicap of mental illness. Rest assured though, as many of you are learning, it can be done!
If things are not going well, it does us well to ask ourselves first and foremost, What is reducing my effectiveness? Factors that get in the way of effectiveness are:
~You simply lack the skill to get through the moment
~Worry thoughts have overcome you
First one, you lacking the skill. I am sure all of us have found that there are many areas in which we lack the skill to get us through effectively, but after-all; that is what we are doing here right? Learning. The classes some of you are going through, therapy, DBT programs, or independent research is all about expanding our education on ourselves and our mental illness. (or in the case of the readers out there that are doing this education program for loved ones that are still in a bit of denial, this applies to you too) We are all making progress in that we are learning or practicing new skills! So ask yourself whether you poses the skill, if you do, move on in the list and make an effort to understand why the skill isn't working at the moment. Is it being used properly? Are there some adjustments that need to be made? Maybe just a time-out. If you find that you do not have the skill at all, well then pat yourself on the back for the work you have done so far, commit to doing research on how you can learn the skill, what to do in the moment until you can use the proper skill and carry on.
Back to your assessment, if you have decided you do in fact have the skill, go to the next, are worry thoughts interfering with your progress? Are you terrified of what might happen? Are you worrying yourself sick over how this scenario has played out in the past? This is what they call “time travel”, you are living in the past, in that you are suffering the pain from what has happened in the past; and from that past pain you are living in what you perceive to be in your future, or the outcome of this situation purely based on what has been the case in the past. Some have found that if worry thoughts control your thinking a simple effective way to get a hold on them is to train yourself that there is a time to worry and a time not to. Give yourself a specific worry time and a specific worry place. Let's say you tell yourself that each day at 5:00 pm you will take your list of worries and give them consideration for 15 minutes. After which time you will “shelve them again” until the next day at 5:00 pm. Commit to only worrying in a quiet room, or your back porch, etc. This training is quite effective in learning when it is appropriate to worry and when it is not.
If worrying isn't preventing effectiveness, then consider this: indecision. Is this moment happening because wise mind justified, you need to say “no” to a request, or maybe wise mind justified you need to make a request of someone, and you can't decide whether to say “no” or to ask?
Marie wants to ask that Larry, her husband, gets off work earlier so that they can have dinner together. The past few months they have grown further and further apart. She has been struggling a lot with her mental illness, getting to know her symptoms and identifying the reality of her illness has taken a large toll. She is tired a lot, nervous, scared and feels that she is making her husbands life a little bit like hell. She wants deeply to do some repair on their relationship, they have had so much conflict and pain. They have built a habit of certain responses that each of them know all too well. Larry has been coming home later and later from work. There is so much tension and stress at home and he is finding it difficult to want to be there. They both have agreed that dinner time will make a nice step in the right direction for a little “repair” to their communication. But it seems that he has not made much of an effort to get home in time. Marie is faced with this, does she ask him to get off of work earlier again and chance an argument, since they have had this discussion in the past and have argued about it. Larry doesn't appreciate the implication that he isn't trying hard enough. Or does Marie not make the request and spend her resources in a different way to help improve the situation? Which one is wise mind justified?
It is amazing to do a little deeper searching and see how often we really do find ourselves in this “indecision” mode. Perhaps we are the type that are always saying “yes, yes, yes and more yeses” and spending most of our time and energy helping out others that we have not had sufficient enough time to spend on our recovery. You are struggling to keep your loved ones close to you, you are spending a lot of time in therapy, classes and personal studying on how to make things better and you are feeling tired and overwhelmed, but at the same time, you are watching your neighbors kids before and after school as a “favor”, driving a friend from here to there because they are in need, running errands for a family member, organizing family recreation for aunts and uncles because, who will do it if you do not? Any one of these things in and of themselves are not wrong or improper, but the point of course is not whether you do these things, but do you do them in place of taking care of your recovery progress? Are you doing them in place of making that effort with Larry and your communication? Are you doing them when it really would be wise mind justified to say, “No”? Are you able to say “No”?
Many persons that have a mental illness already think very little of themselves. Their self worth is already at zero or in the deficit, and in many cases these persons find that if they “do” for others at any cost, somehow they will be more of a valued person. They will “make-up” for all the problems that they cause people around them. Or they may find that they don't make requests of people because they don't want to rock the proverbial boat. They do not want to burden others, or they believe they do not deserve for someone to “do” for them. All these reasons are valid, but they are not wise mind justified. You cannot justify them if you are using your wise mind. Period.
So what do you do, right? How do you know if you should refuse a request or make a request? How do you eliminate some of your indecision? Once again, as with many of the skills we learn in DBT, there is a check list! Yes, as simple as that... a checklist. Of course once you know which to do, say “Yes” or say “No”; ask or do not ask, the actual doing is another skill altogether, but let's get one step closer to that skill!
Check with us next week for that check list...
But here is this weeks writing submission. Thank you for sharing!