Sunday, 28 September 2014

Unlike Burping, Thinking is NOT always 'better out than in'!

You know the moment, that one when the belcher states with satisfaction to the belchee 'oooh, that was better out than in!' Etiquette aside, I think we can all agree there are few things that are more irksome than trapped wind. Enough said. What about 'trapped thinking'? Impulse control has always been an issue for me, particularly when I have been emotionally overwhelmed.

In the past I had a reputation for lobbing conversational 'grenades' into social gatherings. It has been damaging to me and damaging to those on the receiving end. Much of this has centred on two things that I have always struggled with. 1) My inability to read social situations appropriately and 2) My need to find a way of managing the crescendos of difficult emotions. I've come to think of these moments as my BPD having a verbal 'burp'. As with other impulsive behaviour associated with BPD such behaviour was ultimately self defeating and actively prevented me from building sustainable relationships. I mean if your opening gambit is 'Hi my name's Alma, I was abused as a child, how are you?' it's hardly surprising that most friendships ended before they began, with potential good friends stuttering away from me as they headed to the hills.

Such impulses I see as the 'burps' that have arisen from my emotional turmoil inside. Along with my expectation that others should be able to read my mind and that I, in turn, could tell what other people were thinking about me, such outbursts were a way of de-cluttering the mess of thoughts that were running around in my head. I have had to learn to filter myself a lot more, I'm still tactless at times and often say what everyone else is thinking, because I don't always follow the rules of social restrictions, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

The skills that have helped me to do this start with mindfulness. If I take a moment to breathe before I speak, especially when meeting new people, then that allows me time to notice what I am thinking, before I 'burp' it to the outside world, unfiltered.

Other methods I use, especially when I notice difficult memories and thoughts is to use thought diffusion exercises - such as turning the thoughts into leaves or clouds and watching them pass me by without having to articulate or cling onto them. In times when I have needed clear space to do this, I have made my excuses and retreated, literally from the room. Ultimately, if I can remember to ask myself, 'would this thought help me or the others around me if it was on my lips instead of in my mind?' this can act as a useful net to catch any damaging thoughts before they cause any harm. In Northern Ireland there is a saying 'catch yerself on' which basically means, 'would you have some sense, please?' This needs to be a reminder to myself to keep thoughts that are best kept in - in, until I can deal with them appropriately.

A helpful way of bringing this process out of my mind is to draw or create a head with a large circle for the mind and a large mouth. If I can write down examples of thoughts on pieces of paper and place them in either the mind or the mouth, as appropriate, I can teach myself to recognise which thoughts are 'better in than out'. This picture is one example of how someone has used this method to practice filtering their thoughts.