Saturday, July 5, 2014

Emotion Regulation: Fear

I'm learning so much about this thing called DBT. It's weird because the woman I was locked up with -- self-admitted with a heroine problem -- told me about DBT.  She was a psych student, and the more we talked she said she could tell that I would respond well to DBT. She happened to have come to the ward with her school books, and I learned that DBT is a modular work exercise-driven approach to un-crimping all of the wonky circuits in your brain. She was right, and now that I'm into it, I can see how DBT and CBT would certainly help the right kinds of people.

In the "Emotion Regulation" module of DBT, there's a list of myths about emotion, and the number one myth is that there's a right way to feel in every situation. When I first got out of the hospital I was afraid of everything that used to be normal. Going to the grocery store for the first time was, in a word, terrifying. It makes no sense, but I was walking around the place like it was a haunted house. I have a memory of actually shaking with fear and trying to hide it from Joe. I felt overstimulated, and I felt confused and didn't know what to do. I walked with Joe and answered questions. Yes, let's get salsa. Okay, hot dogs for the baseball game tonight sounds like fun. But I was terrified. Fearful is not the usual way to feel in that situation, but there was nothing I could do about it but work on it.

When the "Emotion Regulation" module talks about fear, it says that the way to combat fear of things like that is to do those things, over and over and over. It's called "opposite action." So I've been going to the store, alone. It works. Today I started off the day by going to the store, alone, and after a few months I'm not afraid of the store anymore. What this shows me is that I am getting better, it's really happening. I have other things I'm still fearful of, but I will work on those, too.