Tuesday 26 June 2018

Emotion Regulation Therapy: Session Five

By the time session five had come round, I'd had a lot of different thoughts and feelings. I was supposed to try and tune in to my true feelings, and among feelings of agitation, irritability etc, I'd been very low. Instead of staying with those feelings though, I'd been doing anything I could do distract myself. I also avoided letting myself cry, especially in front of other people. I worried about how I'd react if I really did let myself sit with all these feelings. To me, it was a big risk to take.

I've been reading through the book these sessions have been based around i.e. "Living Like You Mean It" and found that I really do fear my feelings. I'm uncomfortable when I feel happy, I turn away from people when I feel low, I isolate myself and turn my anger on myself and so on. I don't try to "ride the wave" of emotions.

My support worker said that emotions were like waves; they peak, then dissipate. Because I constantly distract myself from my feelings, all I can imagine is the peak, not the dissipation, so it seems as if the feeling won't go away.

My homework from last week was about noticing that I am having feelings, try to tune in to what they were, and to notice how I react to them. There were some suggestions for the kind of ways we avoid showing our emotions e.g. physically turning away from someone when upset, being dismissive of your own feelings etc. I could relate to a lot of things and started to notice when I did them. 

The worksheet called this "Becoming aware of your defences" and categorised ways we avoided/showing feelings into Interpersonal defences, and Intrapersonal defences. 

Prior to this session, I'd found out the decision about my medication review. The nurse prescriber had decided nothing else would help my depressive feelings or mood swings, so I was to stay on the same medications and same doses. I was disappointed about this, and found it hard to accept. I noticed that this had been a main factor in my low, hopeless feelings. It felt as if nothing was going to get better, and that I wasn't trying hard enough in therapy. The nurse had said that therapy would be my best bet, but I honestly thought that I should've progressed more noticeably by now.

I told my support worker this, and together we summarised my thoughts and feelings, as well as deciding which were thoughts and which were feelings. The trick was to see if a sentence I made started with "I feel like" or "I feel that". If that was the case then I would try to replace "feel" with "think". If it still made sense then I was expressing a thought not a feeling. What we then realised was that I thought the situation (no new meds, not much improvement) was hopeless and I thought that my future was bleak. What I actually felt was low, disappointed, and tearful. 

Back to the worksheet. The next part spoke about how feelings themselves can be defensive. e.g. someone could respond to something with anger when they actually feel hurt or sad. We know a feeling is defensive if it does not go away and we ruminate over it. We have to try and find out what else is going on for us. What are our core feelings? Only then can we tune into them, "ride the wave" and eventually feel some kind of relief. 

My homework for my last session was to read through the worksheet again, and use the tools on there to tune into feelings, see which were thoughts instead of feelings, and learn how to deal with coping with what I find. This involved being gentle with myself, not putting too much pressure on myself, and using breathing exercises to slow myself down.

After this session, I recorded a vlog to talk more about the book "Living Like You Mean It". The link is below, if you'd like to hear more.


Thank you for reading (and watching my video, if you did!). My next post will be about my last session of Emotion Regulation and how I've been feeling since.

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