This week’s lesson in emotion regulation focused on further discussing the steps for increasing positive emotions – but not until we had reported out on what we’re doing to reduce vulnerability to negative emotions. I said that I’m trying to keep a more consistent sleep schedule, which is true. It’s boring and feels lame, but it does seem to help (as well I knew it would.)
Building on last week’s exploration of ways to build positive experiences in the short term, we also talked about long term positive experiences. Apparently the key is working towards goals, maintaining relationships, and avoiding avoiding.
I always have a hard time with the question of goals. I don’t like to set goals, perhaps because I can be disappointed when they don’t work out. I get the point of having and working toward goals, but setting truly long-term goals seems to be a bit hard for me. I don’t want to commit to something I might later change my mind about, because then I’d resent the commitment but feel bound to it if I’d already been working toward it. So yeah, I have issues with setting goals; maybe that’s a topic for my therapist.
Maintaining relationships is another one where I’m only doing so-so. I’m just not great about keeping in touch with family and I have no social life outside of my two days a week in the office and DBT, which doesn’t really count. My relationships are fine, but I’d probably benefit from spending time with friends every once in awhile, right? To be honest, I never make or receive social phone calls. I go out with a friend for coffee or bubble tea maybe once a month. OK, I admit, I make pretty much zero effort to keep in touch with anyone, except electronically.
I’m also really bad at avoiding avoiding. Although the handout says to avoid giving up and I am indeed persistent, my mind immediately interpreted that as an injunction against avoidant behavior. Avoidant behavior is one of my worst habits and creates more stress than just about anything, and yet I keep on doing it. I don’t know what I’m afraid of that I’m so desperately trying to avoid, but there is a sort of base desperation to it. So taken all together, it seems that increasing long-term positive emotions is something I could stand to work on a bit more.
We also talked about being mindful of positive experiences. That means not just focusing on good things that happen (mindfulness & living in the moment and all), but also refocusing when your mind wanders to less happy stuff.
The last instruction is to be unmindful of worries, particularly those attached to positive experiences. In particular, we should distract ourselves from thinking about when the positive experience will end, whether you deserve the positive experience, and how much more might be expected of you as a result. The thought pattern that I need to work on is the first one – waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s silly to worry (to excess) about when the next rotten patch will turn up, but there you have it.