I LOVE metaphors. You may have noticed…DBT is jokingly referred to as the therapy of metaphors and I am admittedly a conformist in this regard. One of my new favorite metaphors about mindfully tuning into healthier thinking patterns. Here we go:
Imagine that you have two radios playing; one on each side of your head (or headphones on with a different station playing in each ear). Ugh…how annoying would that be! I get so anxious when I am hearing two messages simultaneously; when people are trying to talk over each other or someone is trying to talk over the television/radio. This is, in many ways, what it is like inside of the head of someone struggling with symptoms of anxiety or depression. One radio (typically the louder one) is shouting messages similar to: you aren’t good enough, why don’t you give up, why do you even try, no one likes you, you should stay home, you are worthless etc. The other radio or headphone is very quietly whispering one or two healthier thoughts: you can do this, you are worth something, people enjoy your company.
Mindfulness is about non-judgmentally accepting the present moment, and choosing where you will put your full attention. Huh??? Ok…stay with me…how this works is that you
- Acknowledge the mixed messages that you hear internally.
- Choose to turn down the volume on the negative messages. Visualize turning the volume knob down. This involves that you CHOOSE to stop clinging to the negative statements. Stop yourself from looking for reasons the thoughts are right, stop twisting reality. Imagine dropping the thoughts on the ground and walking away.
- Now choose to turn your attention TOWARD the volume knob on the healthier thoughts and turn the volume up! These thoughts may not be overtly positive; they may be neutral and that is ok. They could be maybe thoughts instead of absolutes (I.e. maybe I will have a decent day. Maybe I will enjoy the get together. Maybe today will be better than I think). The thoughts COULD even be positive! (I.e. I am excited to attend this event. I am proud of myself for getting out of bed. I know my family loves me).
I am NOT suggesting that you go from Debbie Downer to Suzy Sunshine all at once. Normal Nancy is a great gal! Come visit me in the land of average and see if you can turn away from pessimistic, negative, all-or-nothing thinking and turn toward neutral, content, average thinking. Bonus points for allowing yourself to think 1-2 optimistic thoughts!