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'Riding the wave' of painful emotions

*This post mentions self-harm and suicidal thoughts*

I am writing this from the middle of a wave of extremely uncomfortable emotions.

I feel the emotional equivalent of wanting to physically throw up. I have a grim concoction of disgusted, ashamed, angry, alone and upset churning inside of me.

I am having thoughts of self-harm because I want to 'rid' myself of this intense unease I feel. Instead of hurting myself like I used to in the past, I am doing what I have been learning to do in therapy: 'sit with' the painful emotions, rather than acting on them.

In terms of DBT skills, this is called 'riding the wave'. The theory is that an emotion is like a wave; its intensity will rise then reach its highest peak, and after that will it will fall like a wave reaching shore.

I am streaming a piece of music that lasts twenty minutes long and I have told myself to wait until that finishes before making any decisions or doing anything. I have the urges to self-harm, but I am going to ride this storm out.

Reflecting on why I feel this way, I can see that these difficult emotions have been activated by a few things that have been happening around me. One of these things is to do with with texting and not getting replies from specific people. This is something that can trigger feelings of shame and worthlessness in me.

The other thing that has triggered me is to do with something that is happening in the life of someone close to me. I easily take on the emotions of others around me.

I am going to do a meditation on one of my apps now and I hope that will help me to accept my emotions and possibly even soothe them. Because I feel helpless and desperate, my urge is to send lots of texts- apologising and expressing how ashamed I feel.

But I must wait until this wave passes before I make any decisions. It is painful, but it will pass.

Useful book about DBT with lots of detail: DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets by Marsha M. Linehan. Guilford Press; 2nd edition (9 Dec. 2014).


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