Tuesday, 22 April 2014

I'll Name that Feeling in One....

Trying to manage BPD symptoms is difficult for a number of reasons. The waves of emotions often come unbidden and are overwhelming so that most of my energy is invested in just surviving until the distress caused by them passes. One of the most confusing and distressing aspects of the condition is that often it is impossible to tell myself and others just what emotion is overwhelming me at any given time. The Emotion Regulation module of DBT begins with identifying emotions. There are a number of skills and tools that I've learned to use. First I try to slow the impact of the emotions down by just breathing. This seems to a) slow down the crashing waves of emotion b) gives me time to recognise thoughts attached to the emotions and then to begin to recognise what those emotions are.

In addition I have had to learn what feelings and emotions 'look' like. Learning about what feelings look like in others helps me to understand when my body reacts to the emotional storms inside. For me this has not been an automatic skill and I have had to work hard to do so. I have been pleased to come across some tools on t'internet which have helped me play around with recognising how emotions appear on my face. It also helps me to have a list of types of emotion to help me identify both happy and sad feelings. I thought I would share some of them with you. Some of the most fun and effective for me have come from counselling resources for children. But who said they have the monopoly on fun ways of looking at their problems?

I love these charts for showing facial expressions. Especially love the Muppets one - for some reason growing up I really identified with Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street. This has helped me to stop and consider the impact of my own mood on others. I have a face which is like an open book - no emotion is hidden from others. Funny to think back on the number of times I was surprised that people could read me. Thankfully now through life experience and DBT skills training I have learned to read others the way they read me.

This is a 'big girls' feelings tool. Starting at the middle with the basic emotion, it allows me to identify the nuances and little niggles which can often grow when neglected or stoked by me.

When I am able to give the feeling a label then I am able to use skills to manage the emotion and feel more in control. I can use self soothe to lift my spirits when feeling sad, or I can use exercise to run off anger or frustration. I'm still learning and sometimes I end up breathless and panicky because of the strength of emotion sweeping over me. But more often now if I can name the feelings I can use my skills to stop them from driving my life.

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