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Re: Well, apparently I have poor tolerance Dinah

Posted by alexandra_k on October 21, 2005, at 18:35:28

In reply to Well, apparently I have poor tolerance, posted by Dinah on October 21, 2005, at 17:56:49

> That's the conclusion of T2 and T3 both shared in the second meeting.
> It's not like T1 hasn't told me this a million times. It's just that it's easier for me to tell him to go take a flying leap...
> So I suppose there's a consensus. :)

Or... That makes it three against one.

> They think I have a hard time tolerating anxiety or other strong emotions, so I use less than ideal ways of distracting myself.

> I'd rather have less pain, not tolerate the pain I have better.

Okay. So you agree that painful emotions are a problem because you use 'less than ideal ways of distracting'?

So the disagreement is over whether they should help you
1) Reduce the painful emotions so they aren't so painful anymore.
2) Teach you how to better cope with those painful emotions.

They like the latter and you like the former.

> I'm supposed to add to my self soothing repertoire, though for me it's hard to distinguish self soothing from distraction, except one is admired and the other disapproved of.

I think that both should be admired!

I did a skills training module on 'distress tolerance' when I did DBT. The difference between 'distraction' and 'coping' (self-soothing)... Distraction is about focusing your attention on something other than the emotion. If you are upset about something then if you go do some physical exercise, watch some tv, or do something else basically then that counts as distraction. There are more or less healthy ways to distract. Physical exercise is probably a more healthy distraction than self harm, for example.

Long term... Distraction doesn't really work. But as a short term getting through kind of thing it can work pretty well. Sometimes we just need to distract ourself and the situation sorts itself out. Other times, in the long term... Distraction can be harmful because we are basically avoiding whatever it is that is upsetting to us. And in some cases avoiding the source of the upset only leads to the situation getting worse.

Self soothing is different. If you are feeling sad then taking a long hot bath with candles or something like that is self-soothing. It doesn't really distract you from the emotion but you are taking special care to comfort yourself while you are having the emotion. Self soothing can result in a reduction in the felt distress of the emotion. So grief is an example of an emotion that it can be unhealthy to distract from long term and self soothing can help the grief seem manageable so one is able to feel it and it is less likely to knock one back by catching one by suprise when you really need to be focusing on other things.

I have been reading about emotion...

Current thinking is that there are two appraisal systems. The first one produces an automatic (involountary) physiological response and an affect program (changes to your facial expression, tone of voice, posture, etc). These responses are short lived.

This appraisal system (for the 'basic' emotions of sadness, anger, fear, disgust, and happiness) can operate independently of the other appraisal system. That means that these basic emotions are not amenable to being changed by thought processes. No matter how much you rationally know the urine is sterile you are still going to feel disgust at the prospect of drinking it. Phobias can be like this too where rationally you know spiders are harmless and yet they still continue to trigger a fear response in you.

We just can't prevent these emotional responses.
Your t's can't help you (rationally) learn how to prevent these because that just isn't possible.
On the upside these emotional responses are fairly short lived and not typically debilitating.

Then... There is another appraisal system. Most theorists like to think that the more complex emotion episodes (that really interest us) are built out of basic emotions (like how water is built out of hydrogen and oxygen). But you can't just add together the different basic emotions and physiological responses and affect programs to make the more complex emotion episodes so more must be going on here...

Some theorists think that there is more of a cognitive componant to these more complex emotion episodes. This seems to be the case for some of them. Guilt and shame seem to be the result of more of a cognitive appraisal / judgement / interpretation. If you lift or alter the judgement, or change the interpretation then the emotion typically lessens in intensity and / or vanishes altogether.

I don't know... It gets complicated.

It seems to me that there are two things we can do with our emotions.

1) Change them (which seems to be where you are focused)
2) Accept them (which seems to be where your t's are focused)

IMO it is wise to cultivate BOTH strategies. There are many techniques for cultivating each strategy.

Linehan is one theorist who really emphasises the acceptance of distressing emotional states.

The way I found best suited to me was mindfulness meditation. I could feel my emotion but also be aware that I was not my emotion. My emotion was one thing that was going on and there were many other things going on as well (my breathing, my thought processes, my sense of sight etc). This awareness and acceptance of my emotional state...

Well... Paradoxically if you can really accept that you are having a distressing emotion and see that it is okay (because you are not your emotion your emotion is just one thing that is going on inside you) If you can really come to see that... The paradox is that accepting it actually does result in a change to the felt quality of it. It doesn't seem TOO distressing or unmanageable anymore. You can feel it and it might hurt a bit, but not heaps. It is maneagable. It will pass when it is ready.




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