I had a slight spring in my step as I walked into my therapist’s office this past Wednesday. Group had been bittersweet, having had to say goodbye to the only member who’d been attending longer than Rebecca and myself. But I was feeling good. We were the Big Kids now- DBT veterans. The newer group members seemed to look up to us for guidance, for direction; we were the shining beacon of hope that all this garbled nonsense and endless terminology would perhaps one day make sense. And there was something empowering about that.
In fact, I was pretty certain that I was ready for the Advanced DBT class. Marsha Linehan had served me well thus far, but we were starting to cycle back through the mindfulness segment again (the one we started with) and I was beginning to feel there wasn’t anything left to learn that I hadn’t already. I’ve been filling out a diary card nearly every night for the past 27 weeks. I’ve checked the facts, tested my thoughts, analyzed behaviors, used problem solving skills, monitored negative judgments, and thanks to our weekly check-ins, have successfully burned damned near all 39 listed coping strategies into my brain. I was cured, alright…
So it was much to my chagrin that I found myself frustratingly wiping away tears as my therapist clotheslined me straight off my pedestal. What started as an update on all the positive changes in my life (got that job I applied to! David and I are a couple now!) quickly turned into catastrophizing. “You’re not practicing mindfulness or radical acceptance. I had no good answer; I shrugged.
“Just give it 30 days. Let yourself be present. Don’t worry about all the ‘what if’s and going a million miles an hour. Your problem is that you’re scared of not having control, but control is an illusion. Nobody has total control over anything. You need to slow down. Be present, and use your skills. You’re on the right path; you’ll get there. Just give it 30 days. Can you do that?”
If Full Metal Jacket were about Nihilism, she would have R. Lee Ermy’s role in a heartbeat, I’m telling you…
Being my DBT partner-in-crime, I brought all this all to Rebecca. “Are you leapfrogging, then?” she suggested. “Skipping over today’s problems and focusing on tomorrow’s instead?”
In retrospect, it seems so obvious. To the point that I sat at my laptop, slow blinking for several moments before saying “Well, shit”, to no one in particular. Even when I brought this epiphany body slam to a close friend of mine, I fully expected a Picard facepalm gif in response. None came, but he did second the theory, recounting past conversations we’d had. “It was like you were trying to cross the finish line without crossing the starting line.” Double whammy.
Maybe I’m not “radically accepting” the way my past/current situation/life in general is, because I’m too hung up on seeing things as fair/NOT fair, I thought. And so I put all my energy into creating this Utopian future for myself to live in once I’ve learned ALL THE SKILLS and am completely in control of every little circumstance and happenstance and my emotions NEVER overwhelm me again. But I don’t realize that I’m just avoiding today’s issues to disaster-prep for a future I’m literally creating by neglecting to take care of the now.
It’s a vicious cycle, and one that I feel far too many of us fall victim to. Even if you don’t feel that you’re squandering your “now” to worry about the “then/when”, chances are you could still use to be more mindful. We all could, really. But don’t take my word on it– there are countless studies and articles on the concrete scientific evidence of the benefits of mindfulness. Like, for example, this 27 page document from the American Psychological Association that I found under scholarly articles on Google, so you know it’s full of science-y shit.
Because Rebecca is a genius (and had the forethought to check the calendar), we came up with the idea of making September a month of mindfulness. My therapist asked for 30 days, September has just that, and everyone knows misery loves company! So pull up your bootstraps and get ready for an influx of accountability posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Want to join in on the action? LOL! K, WEIRDO. Follow and tag #mindfulnessbootcamp on all your favorite social media platforms. Maybe there’ll even be a prize for somebody if they actually check in with their own experience each day!*
But not like “the prize is inner peace” or some bullshit…
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*Seriously, please don’t let me do this alone…