Refections: Willingness

The goal of willingness is to feel all of the feelings that come up for you more completely, even – or especially – the bad feelings, so that you can live your life more completely.   ~ Steven Hayes

Quite often, those struggling with Dermatillomania or Trichotillomania have developed picking and pulling in an effort to control or avoid uncomfortable emotions.  Engaging in these impulsive behaviors provides a way to “check out” emotionally, and gives the sufferer temporary relief.  But the more unwilling you are to feel your uncomfortable emotions, the more suffering you will actually experience.  For example, if you pick your skin after a stressful day at work, you may briefly escape reality, but you will likely be more distressed because your skin will be bleeding, and your feelings of self-loathing will be in overdrive.  When you are “unwilling” to experience your uncomfortable feelings, you are making the decision that certain feelings are intolerable.  Conversely, when you are “willing” to accept all feelings, even – or especially – the “bad” feelings, you make the decision that your feelings are, in fact, bearable.

One helpful way of viewing willingness is as a stance, or a point of view, that a person chooses.  Willingness means you are choosing to make room for, and agree to let your self have, all of the unwanted inner experiences that are a part of Skin Picking Disorder and Trichotillomania – all of the uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, sensations, and urges. You will experience many of these uncomfortable inner experiences throughout your recovery, which is why it is so important that you be “willing” to accept all of them as a normal and expected part of the journey.

Willingness is also an action that you take.  Willingness means you are willing to take any necessary or appropriate action, even (or especially) if that means not picking or pulling when you have strong urges, or when you are experiencing very uncomfortable thoughts, feelings and sensations.  Willingness also means that you are willing to take proactive steps to respond more effectively to all of these unwanted inner experiences. That may mean using logs, habit blockers, or other behavioral techniques that have been found to be so helpful in the treatment of these conditions, even if doing so is irritating, time-consuming, or just plain uncomfortable.

Ultimately, willingness is a vital skill for real recovery from Skin Picking Disorder and Trichotillomania.  It is a skill that helps you to choose to experience all of life – the bitter and the sweet – and to take healthy actions, even when doing so isn’t the easiest way to respond to the curve balls that life throws you.

1. In what ways do you currently practice willingness?

2. What thoughts, emotions, sensations, and urges are you truly willing to experience in order to recover?

3. Once you have decided on what you are willing to experience, what actions are you willing to take to ensure that you reach your goal?

Tip of the week: Notice throughout the week when you are, and are not, truly willing to experience all of your uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, sensations, and urges related to picking or pulling.  Keep a log of these times, and ask yourself what actions you are willing to take to more effectively respond to these uncomfortable inner experiences.

Written by Kelley Franke, BA and Tom Corboy, MFT
© 2014 OCD Center of Los Angeles


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