DBT Self Help

Week 33: Understanding Emotional Regulation

While BPD and Bipolar are two VERY different disorders they are both treated with Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), which I am trying to teach you inside these self-help pages. The reason it works so well with people with those disorders is the emotional regulation part of its teachings because with both BPD and Bipolar it is the emotions that cause people the most problems. If you can learn to understand this part of DBT teachings you will be able to get things under control. Sure, you won’t be cured as such, but with strong emotional regulation in place, you can once again live your life rather than just simply surviving it…

Week 33: Understanding Emotional Regulation

Emotional regulation is in fact made of two parts of the DBT module which are mindfulness and distress tolerance and it all starts with identity and label your emotions or more importantly your key trigger points. This starts by understanding how your emotions work…

The process of your emotions…

  • 1. An Event or Trigger Point Happens
  • 2. Minds Interpretation of That Event
  • 3. Fight or Flight Sensations Happen
  • 4. Body Action if Needed
  • 5. Mind and Body Return to Normal

Using the road map above, let’s take a memory of a traumatic event as that can be quite a common trigger point for those of you with BPD.

The process of your emotions of that example event…

  • 1. Memory or Traumatic Event
  • 2. The Mind Interpretats Emotions Felt at The Time
  • 3. Fight or Flight Sensations Happen Even When it is just a memory
  • 4. Feelings of Sadness and Depression occur

But that is not the end of the story when it comes to someone in poor mental health. From “Feelings of Sadness and Depression occur” this process of events normally happens…

  • 4. Feelings of Sadness and Depression occur
  • 5. A feeling of anger at the memory, or yourself for feeling it
  • 6. Deeper levels of sadness and depression occur
  • 7. A feeling of anger at yourself for getting more depressed
  • 8. The depression spiral continues

This cycle of depression continues to the point that the original event or trigger point is often forgotten and your emotions are suddenly spiralling out of control. What most people don’t know is that with BPD it works the other way as well with a happy moment spiralling into the client being out of control and becoming over impulsive. That is why emotional regulation is so important. By learning what those trigger points are you can stop your emotions from reaching those highs and lows you will so often see. There are no master-level skills needed here, it is all about noticing those emotions and learning to acknowledge the two main possible actions from them…

Week 33: Understanding Emotional Regulation

This example shows what those two reactions might look like. One is obviously going to make you feel a lot better than the other, so why do those with mental health issues often go for the first creative state? It’s because you are not noticing the emotions, not thinking about them. By noticing that your memories are becoming negative means you need to distract your mind and think about something else, or if a situation is getting too heated you should consider removing yourself from it. I know this is deep stuff and can be hard to take on board, but it really is the key to seeing the benefits from talk therapy. By simply asking yourself the following questions you can indeed gain control of your life again…

1. What event triggered my emotion?
2. What interpretations or assumptions am I making about the event?
3. Does my emotion and its intensity match the facts of the situation?

I get that this line of thinking is not always going to be possible, but it really is all you need to do to prevent that spiral of depression or impulsiveness from happening. Practice really is the key to doing this in day to day life. Maybe having a card with those 3 lines on will help, or maybe just have them memorised by linking them to a happy memory. With some time and effort, you really can start to regulate your own emotions even powerful ones caused by your BPD or Bipolar, then once you have those under control you will feel able to do anything.

Week 33: Understanding Emotional Regulation

This Week’s Homework: With life being a rush most of the time I would like you to take a little bit of time to grab some air and slow down. Maybe feed the ducks or watch one of your favourite programs, or just listen to some music you enjoy. No matter what you do even if it’s 5 deep breaths just take in everything around you and notice it all. The smells, the sounds, the feelings, the textures of something, just be present for a little while. When you are a little kinder to yourself your mind will reward you with much kinder thoughts.

Week 32: Maybe Week 34: Say P.L.E.A.S.E


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