I hope you all have found the past weeks material on the factors that reduce effectiveness, as a re-cap: First of all, are you lacking a skill and therefore are being ineffective? Second, are your worry thoughts getting in the way? Third, has indecision gotten the better of you? Finally, your environment. What is in your environment that is in your control and what is out of your control?
We have talked extensively about our mates or loved ones and how they impact our environment. Although we are not able to change them, we are able to train them (and ourselves). With each positive moment we make building blocks for positive experiences, then in turn with those positive experiences we build positive effective lives with the people around us.
What else about our environment? One of the things that can drastically reduce the suffering you experience is being mindful of your personal triggers. No one else can possibly know what all of your triggers are, and you cannot either. But what we can do is, using our tools, namely mindfulness, we can become more aware of the things that tend to trigger us. Once we have identified them, we of course avoid them. This sounds really basic, but there is a reason I am spending an entire post on it.
I am going to be really generic here, of course if this were a real life experience there would be more weight to it, so please pretend with me, because I do not want to trigger anyone by using ones that are more realistic.
Let's say I know that the aluminium cans trigger me. There being a blanket of things that could trigger me under that one, like walking down the wrong aisle in the grocery store, or going over to a friends house for a barbecue. It is quite large, and most of your large triggers you no doubt are painfully aware of too. Maybe you know that you cannot sit next to a window when you are at a restaurant, so you avoid it. Naturally we will avoid what hurts us, but what happens if you have spent a large quantity of time in protecting yourself from this known trigger of aluminium cans, just to have what seem to be random episodes when you brush your teeth, another when you are shopping for shampoo, perhaps another when it is time to buy a new shirt to replace one that you can no longer wear. Now you have a series of episodes that you cannot put your finger on. You are puzzled because ordinarily you enjoy shopping for little things here and there for your wardrobe. What is the underlying environmental factor? This one is particularly puzzling because tit isn't something that is obvious and you can simply walk away. This is also yet another reason why BPD sufferers have a difficult time with employment in the first stages of learning to cope with their illness, the triggers are so widespread. So under-the-covers that they are hard to ascertain.
So, what does teeth brushing, shampoo purchases and t-shirt purchases have in common in your mind? If we are practicing our mindfulness exercises often enough, we will have become more skilled at being able to identify what those three things do have in common with one another, and in this particular case it is not something in your environment that you can eliminate. So in this particular case, this trigger would have to be identified by your environment, and tolerated in your environment. In some cases of course, if it is too distressing, leaving the environment is possible but at some point you will need to return. The interesting thing about a trigger like this is, it is environmental in that every time you brush your teeth you do not have an episode, rather only certain times. So what is it?
The trigger is when you are mindful of having to 'care for your needs' you have an episode. If you brush your teeth on a regular basis, you do not have an issue, but some times when you brush your teeth, you melt down. This latter case, you emotionally were feeling a bit more fragile and it triggered this, 'caring for myself' trigger. Same is true for the shampoo and t-shirt, this idea that why would anyone care for me? I simple cannot be well liked enough to deserve this 'extra care' floods your mind and you have an episode. What about the environment can you change while standing in the store to move you from melting down to a more steady experience. Something to distract long enough to know whether you will be able to return to choosing which shampoo or whether you will need to go home. You have options. I know my scenario is just plain silly. However, for purposes of not setting anyone off, I chose something silly. THe points all still remain the same though, we can't possible know all the triggers, some may be so deep seeded that we can't scrape the top layer, but they are there and we will need to be mindful of what is in our environment that can help or hinder. Go back to the grocery store now, I felt my heart plummet to my toes when I tried to read a label of a shampoo that I don't normally use. My thought was to maybe get a different kind, but this is too disturbing for me and I start to sweat, using my skills, I am going to A) begin a mindfulness exercise to see if I can identify what it is about my situation that is upsetting B) go over the factors that reduce effectiveness - skill-worry-indecision-environment. In this case, I may have the skill I may not, chances are I do, I just need to know what the trigger is so that I may grab the right skill, under these conditions though I don't have the luxury of plotting out an entire chain analysis. Worry thoughts may be present, but it certain isn't the driving factor here in the store, indecision may have a bit to do with it, especially since I do not know which shampoo I intend on buying, I doubt however it is that small of an indecision causing the episode lurking inside. In this case, I would shift gears, go do another bit of shopping while I sorted things out in my head, if I don't feel I can return to the shampoo aisle, then I can go home and problem solve a bit and then revisit it another time. With a little bit more preparation. See, leaving home I may have reduced as many vulnerabilities as possible, but eventually we will come against something that wasn't on our "preventable" list, and what are the factors in those moments that are reducing our effectiveness? I hope this series of posts have given us all a little something to take away and make even the tiniest of changes!
This brings us to the next line of thought. . . what do we do if we have spent as much time as possible in prevention methods and yet we find ourselves in the throes of yet another episode? How do we learn from something that seemingly came out of no where? Ya, I got something for that! Well, Marsha developed something for that too. I have taken that hard work of hers and have made a worksheet that can be used. I will share that with everyone next week.
So, about our changes. Our developing team (aka husband & self - o.k., so he has turned to the assistance of a professional web consultant friend to get ideas) anyways, :) we are currently working on integrating a fully interactive forum with live chat. We are very excited about this, DBT skills training is very effective in making a life change, and it becomes that much more a part of our lives when we can learn it, teach it, live it. This site has offered a lot of opportunity for me to keep these skills fresh in my mind so that when the need may arise for me to use a skill, I am more likely to obtain it. It has been useful for some of you out there that are struggling with "sticking to" DBT courses, or still others that have expressed their positive feed back because they are unable to "go out" and get group lessons. We all have our own situation that is benefiting from this site, now we will be able to add to that benefit. We will be able to share our successes and failures in real-time, with one another. This will be invaluable. The whole point of peer-support is the idea that someone 'like you' is going through or has gone through what you are. So it just makes sense that we use a forum that we can hear from everyone, sharing our experiences will make this journey that much more enjoyable. Sharing one another's wisdom can be quite fulfilling.
This week we hope to be up and running, and we welcome all to participate. However, our first "GROUP", live chat will be Monday, July 5th, 2010. We have a date off a few weeks yet, because like I said, we are stilling working the bugs out. Your patience is appreciated.
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