Yesterday I returned to my regular DBT Skills Group after a two week break post holiday. 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 Teleological Thinking (explained in this post here), having to complete the Checking The Facts worksheet was certainly relevant.
This skill is there to help you work out whether a challenging emotion or situation has been caused by a prompting event (something external), one’s subjective interpretation of this event (something internal), or indeed both. Getting the facts straight can help reduce your distress level, although rationalising doesn’t always have this effect. What checking the facts can do, however, is boost your ability to problem-solve more effectively.
Here is a copy of the worksheets we had to complete:
Because I struggle generally in relationships, it has been hard to know whether the feelings around my therapist have been warranted or not. What I mean by this is that although my responses to certain interactions between us have felt very real, it is hard to truly know whether I have been over-reacting or not. It is hard to know what is my stuff, what is her stuff, and what is a mix of both.
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 Threat I described was the impact of the rupture on our relationship, being one that is important to me. The Catastrophes my thoughts took me to were that I would have to terminate therapy with her altogether or that she would leave me. 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. These were the threats.
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. 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 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.