Each person struggling with metnal illness is at varying places in their own recovery. But there is something that no matter how advanced or how new you are to the world of mental illness, we all do. It is basic, and the only difference that a person who has been working for 10 years on recovery versus a person who began their journey last week, is how many times they have done it. But that advanced person still does it. What is it?
If we are to be effective with our life we will never stop assessing ourself. With mental illness we know that we have challenges that we will face. Whereas what would be termed the 'typical' person, may not have to assess where they are with how many times they were able to get out of the house this last month, typical people or any person that lives effectively, mental illness or no, has at some point assessed and reassessed their goals; and continues to do so. We may just need to be more diligent at this assessment and we may do it more frequently to be sure we are headed in the direction we want to be going.
Assessing our current position with our desired outcome on a regular basis brings a refining to our lives, but it does something else as well. It gives a marker for self-validation. Especially if you happen to be a person that keeps written records. When life has really it the fan, and you are struggling to breath, reviewing your past assessments can give you that much needed pat on the back. A way to say to yourself, "Look self, I have come a long way..." Because to tell you the truth, when you are working hard and have been doing so for a year, then when you fall flat on your face, your body memories are right there saying, "See! I told you that you always do that!" you easily believe it. Self-validation is where you will be able to stop that body memory and effectively say, "NOT TRUE, I haven't used that behavior for a long time, I am merely having a relapse, this is not a pattern for me, I can FAIL WELL, look!" and of course your record of assessments will give testimony to that very fact.
So what does one do in an assessment?
Step 1 - Identify barriers to obtaining and maintaining meaningful effective living that are within your control of influence, list as many as you can identify. (notice that it must be within your control of influence - there are some things that you cannot control, clearly you can't list them, however there are things that although they specifically cannot be controlled by you, you can influence them. Like, your mate, as we have mentioned in posts past, that you cannot control your mate, but you can influence him/her. So if you list the barrier "conflict within my relationship" - that is something that is within your control, even if wise mind justified, it is your mate that has a lot of working on the relationship to do, because what you will be assessing is your contribution to that relationship conflict)
Step 2 - Select up to 3 (depending on your selection, you may only want to work on 1 at a time) Focus on these specifically, and leave the others there in your minds eye, you can 'back-burner' them, you are not ignoring them however. Focus on your selection and rate your current level of satisfaction. Use a rating system that you are comfortable with, like 5 stars or 0-10, whatever works. Under each item you are focusing on, write next to it or below it what behaviors are associated with it when you are the most dissatisfied. So if I were to say I want to work at my conflict in my relationship, I would give it a 5 on a scale of 10, because I am not totally disatisfied, yet I really want to see some major improvement. The behaviors that I notice that I do when it is at its worst is, yelling, screaming, slamming doors, alcohol abuse, sarcastic cutting words.
Step 3 - Decide where you would like to be: on that same scale, realistically. Then list the behaviors that you would like to see if you were where you want to be on that scale, again be realistic.
"The Chances of actually hitting your target, dramaticaly improve if you aim at it." - unknown
Be sure and keep your expectations reasonable. These 3 chosen items are not meant to be the "bigger picture"; they are your baby steps. The bigger picture is the first list you made.
That should get you started ... have fun, and remember you are not perfect and we all will be assessing and reassessing, this is an endless skill. But this will give you the outline so that you can start inserting the skills needed to get your two scales looking more alike.
THIS WEEKS GROUP TOPIC:
Thinking of your favorite movie, I want you to think about all that was involved in making it what it is. Think about it in steps. Before they started filming they had to have rehearsed, learned lines, hired an entire hard working crew to get every wardrobe right, every set constructed, etc. then what did they have before that? OK, so before all of that, they must have had resources to tell them what wardrobes to use, what sets to make, where the characters were to be standing, etc. They get that from a story-board, right? (in most cases anyways) Well, where did the story-board get its information? The screen-play right? And then where did the screen-play come from? Someone's imagination. Whether it was based on a real experience or not, someone had to 'think' to make a movie out of the experience therefore, someone had to write out a screen-play. So is the case with your safe-space visualization.
It starts with your imagination. If you can embed a place that is serene, peaceful, relaxing and inviting into your imagination, then you can visit it anytime you like. It will become one of the most effective first line of defense to a crisis on the horizon. You will be able to take a 'trip' there, to your safe-space anytime you need it. Of course, for your mind to believe it, you have to train your body to elicit the sensations that will bring about relaxation and peace.
You will want to get the idea in your head of where you want to go when you need to get to a safe place, immediately; and as a screen-play you will want to write out as many details about this place as you can. Be specific, are there bright colors? are visitors allowed? is this place a real place or purely imaginative? what scents can I find there? Remember, a screen-play gives even the tiniest of details, as to whether a character will be entering stage right, or stage left. Where in the room the person will stop, etc. You cannot possibly get too many details. If your mind is working against you, and at every turn it comes up with a reason that your place won't be safe or relaxing, give it another detail to negate that reason. Make it the place you want it to be.
Once you have your safe-space in mind and you have given yourself as many details as you possibly can, then come meet with us tomorrow @ My DBT Life @ 2pm PST (really meet with us anyways :) ) What we will cover from there, once we have each had an opportunity to share a bit, is how we start training yourself to react to this safe-space positively, so that when you are in distress, you will be able to readily go there and begin feelings its peaceful affects.
If you choose to share with us tomorrow, we will be asking that you complete each of these sentences:
My safe place is ....
My safe place makes me feel ...
Time permitting we will talk a bit about cue-controlled relaxation. (for those of you who have The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook by Matthew McKay, pages 31-35)
I look forward to hearing all about your safe space!
MJ ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
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