Yesterday I returned to my regular Saturday DBT Skills Group after a two week break post Mallorca. Continuing to work through the Emotion Regulation module, we were introduced to a new skill known as “Checking The Facts”, which I will outline below.
Considering I have recently been struggling with a lot of Teleological Thinking (explained in this post here), having to complete the Checking The Facts worksheet was pretty relevant and beneficial to my process.
This skill functions to help an individual decipher whether a challenging emotion or situation has been caused by a prompting event, one’s subjective interpretation of this event, or indeed both. Getting the facts straight can lead to a reduction in one’s levels of distress and an increased ability to problem-solve effectively, especially if it is realised in hindsight that a prior situation has been misjudged.
Here is a copy of the worksheets we had to complete:
Because I have been experiencing some paranoia and potential cognitive distortions within my current interpersonal relationships, it has been hard to know whether my emotional and mental experiences with my therapist have been warranted or not. What I mean by this is that although my responses to certain interactions between us have felt justified based on the evidence I have gathered, it is hard to truly know whether this “evidence” is based on fact – not projections and teleological thoughts on my part.
So, what I decided to Check The Facts around was the current tension I am experiencing with her and my beliefs surrounding that.
Following the worksheet, the Prompting Event I described was an interaction between us which occurred yesterday in our session. In this interaction I had felt unheard, bulldozed, misunderstood and unable to get my needs met effectively. The emotions I wrote down as being attached to this situation most strongly were shame, hurt (sadness) and anger at an intensity of around 95/100. My interpretations of this interaction were that my therapist could not deal with me, was angry at me, was provoking me purposefully, was disappointed with me, hates me, cannot help me, and that I am beyond repair.
The Threats I described were ones related to my emotional and mental wellbeing, as well as the potential impact on a therapeutic relationship that is important to me. The Catastrophes my thoughts took me to were regarding the possibility that I would have to terminate therapy with her altogether. This would also mean having to leave my DBT Skills Group. Ultimately I would be stripped of a pivotal support network within my life, left largely to my own devices, without a back-up plan, and during a challenging time in my recovery at that.
Overall, my interpretation of this interaction with my therapist went from the fact that it was a challenging and frustrating session for me, to the (flawed) belief that I must be destined to a life of incurable and tormenting relational pain, and that I have no hope of ever recovering.
Talk about CATASTROPHISING!!
Checking The Facts over and over with each step of the worksheet enabled me to step back and gain a little perspective on a highly emotional situation. This situation, which had previously led me to jump to conclusions and catastrophise without necessarily having an accurate interpretation of the circumstances, was serving only to perpetuate the difficult emotions I was experiencing instead of actually enabling me to find an effective solution to the problem at hand.
In the penultimate section of the Worksheet, it asks what Coping Strategies and actions could be put into place, in order to more accurately manage the situation.
Afterwards, I spoke to the two therapists running the group during the break to share my thoughts and get their opinion. By the end of the exercise and after speaking (ranting!) to them, the emotional intensity specifically of the anger had decreased to a much more manageable 40, and I felt much better equipped to go about the rest of my day.