Tag Archives: reflections

Reflections: Struggles

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…it’s about learning to dance in the rain. ~ Vivian Greene

Struggle is an innate aspect of the human experience.  Difficult situations happen every day, whether related to the stressors of daily life, or to particular struggles such as skin picking or hair pulling.  If you suffer from Dermatillomania or Trichotillomania you are no stranger to difficulties.  But how you respond to any challenging situation is a choice.

People often tell themselves things like, “Life is so stressful all the time.  I can’t possibly work on changing my behavior until things calm down.”  But the simple truth is that life will continue to endlessly bring you more challenges, and if you are waiting for life to calm down before you make changes, you will likely have a very long wait.  Ultimately, telling yourself that you need to wait before making an effort to change is the same as saying “I can’t”.  This kind of negative self-talk only increases feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and feeds into “the storm”.

Struggles are all around us, and suffering with Skin Picking Disorder or Trichotillomania certainly adds an extra layer of difficulty to life.  Given this truth, you are better served by accepting the existence of all of the difficulties that life presents to you, and choosing more effective ways of responding to them.  For many, the mere idea of being willing to accept the unwanted difficulties that arise in life seems like resignation or surrender.  But to deny these struggles is to deny reality.

Everyone responds to difficulties and stressors differently.  While some learn to “dance in the rain”, others may respond with compulsive coping behaviors such as disordered eating, sex addiction, abusing drugs or alcohol…or skin picking and hair pulling.  In the short term, these and other self-destructive behaviors may serve as effective ways to avoid coping with the inevitable struggles of life.  But in the long-term, these behaviors are maladaptive, and will slowly destroy your self-image, your relationships, and your joy.

So how does one learn to “dance in the rain”?  The first step is to accept, even embrace, the storm.  It’s not going to stop, so you may as well accept its presence!   And an essential aspect of acceptance is accepting all of yourself as you are, including the existence of your unwanted urges to pick or pull.  Then your goal is to find different ways of responding to the storm – ways that include tolerating the temporary discomfort of your picking and pulling urges, without capitulating to them.

While it is certainly difficult to give up an action that initially provides comfort, gratification, and relief, doing so will better serve you in the long run.  With commitment and practice, you will gradually learn that you are capable of making these difficult changes, and you will then be dancing in the rain.

1. In what ways do you overtly or covertly tell yourself “I can’t” when faced with life’s struggles?

2. What self-destructive actions do you do when life becomes difficult?

3. What could you do differently when face with these struggles?

Tip of the week: This week, notice when you are telling yourself “I can’t”.   Challenge this self-defeating thought by gently reminding yourself that change is a process, and telling yourself “I am willing to accept that life is difficult right now, and I am doing my best.” While these may seem like minor changes, they will open you up to more acceptance, and improve your ability to change how you respond during stressful times.

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

Reflections: Peace

Peace is not something you wish for; it’s something you make, something you do, something you are. ~ Robwert Fulghum

It’s quite natural to crave a feeling of peace.  This is true whether you are experiencing a significant mental health issue, coping with a personal crisis such as a divorce or the death of loved one, or just trying to effectively manage the vicissitudes of every day life.  If you have Skin Picking Disorder or Trichotillomania, peace is likely something you have been “wishing” for throughout your struggle.  Of course, it would be wonderful if a feeling of peace would descend upon us just by wishing for it.  But in reality, peace requires action. If you are committed to finding peace, you must wholeheartedly agree to do the work involved in attaining it.

Sometimes, the urge to pick or pull can be so powerful that you might find it difficult to even have a few moments of peace.  In many ways, peace is a function of acceptance, in that it requires you to accept reality as it is, rather than as you would like it to be.  Some with Dermatillomania or Trichotillomania describe urges as being like a loud sound that can’t be ignored – as if someone has turned the volume of the urge up so high that it is the only thing you can pay attention to.  In order for you to move through and past this extremely distracting urge, the first thing you must do is to fully accept its existence.  If you spend your time attempting to control or avoid your picking and pulling urges, all you are doing is spending time engaging with something you simply cannot control.

Once you have accepted the presence of your loud and annoying urges to pick or pull, you can choose to engage in other activities.  When you do this, you will notice the volume of your urges decreases because they are no longer front and center.  They will still be there, but they will not be all consuming.  By choosing the action of doing something other than engaging with the urge, you take an enormous step forward in your recovery.

Choosing to act differently than you have in the past in response to your urges may at first feel quite difficult.  But keep in mind that peace is not just wishing or hoping – peace is “something you do”.  It is something that requires repeated practice.  And with effort and commitment, it eventually becomes “something you are”.

1. In what ways are you accepting, or not accepting, of your unwanted urges to pick or pull?

2. What actions might you take to further develop a peaceful, accepting relationship with your urges?

3. What are some activities that you find peaceful, and how can you implement them in your daily life?

Tip of the week: This week, try to be mindful of your thoughts, feelings, and actions at those times when you are able to accept and move through an urge without giving in to it.  Notice if there is a sense of peace after you accept an urge rather than trying to control it.  Practice this approach in order to develop a consistent, new pattern of responding to your urges with acceptance, action…and peace.

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

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

 

Reflections: Goals

When it is obvious that goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.  -Confucius

If you struggle with Dermatillomania or Trichotillomania, it is crucial that you establish concrete goals for changing your picking or pulling.  Equally important is that you have realistic expectations about achieving those goals. If you set a goal that you do not immediately reach, you may feel discouraged, ashamed and hopeless. These self-defeating feelings are likely a function of having unnecessarily high expectations about your ability to quickly achieve your goals. The disappointment you experience when you fail to meet an unrealistically high standard might leave you feeling like your goal is unachievable, and may ultimately contribute to a relapse.

But short-term outcomes do not define who you are as a person, and what you are capable of accomplishing. While it is important to create specific, concrete, achievable goals, it is just as important to examine the action steps you have or have not taken in situations in which you have fallen short of reaching your goal. If you examine the action steps that have contributed to not reaching your goals, and make corresponding adjustments in order to continue towards those goals, you will make steady progress in your recovery.

The more you understand what is and is not helpful, the more awareness you build. When you begin to build this awareness, you might discover some interventions work better than others in specific situations. Every person and every situation is different, and you will likely need to try different interventions and make adjustments. Furthermore, what worked for you last week may not work for you this week.

Ultimately, having flexibility and patience with yourself will be extremely helpful in reaching your goals.  If you do not reach a goal this week, adjust your steps accordingly and keep moving forward. Over time, changing your picking and pulling behaviors will help you to reach your goals, and to live a life that you find fulfilling and valuable.

1. What specific goals related to picking or pulling have you set that you have not yet achieved?

2. What action steps have you taken that you think may have contributed to not achieving those goals?

3. How can you adjust your action steps in order to achieve a new goal?

Tip of the week: Keep a log of specific, realistic, achievable goals for this week and how you plan on implementing them.  If you are unable to reach those goals, examine what factors may have contributed to the outcome. How can you readjust the action steps you take for the following week in order to increase the likelihood that you will achieve these goals?

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