Reclaim the Life You Want to Live
A common goal in therapy is to learn how to handle painful emotions skillfully. We refer to this as building distress tolerance. It is important to learn how to be with difficult feelings because no matter how hard we try, the challenges that accompany this human life cannot be entirely avoided. Practicing distress tolerance reminds us that feeling discomfort does not always necessitate reacting…sometimes simply slowing down can help us be aware of impulsive urges and we can then be mindful about responding in a skillful manner.
If you have a history of trauma, you might have developed a coping mechanism of compartmentalizing your feelings. But, remaining cut off or disconnected from your emotions has consequences. You lose the joy that comes from intimately connecting with yourself or others.
It takes effort to remain compartmentalized and you might begin to feel like you have to keep working, eating, drinking, or distracting yourself to avoid feeling. You might fear that you if you slow down you will be overwhelmed by your emotions. Unfortunately, this can lead to a vicious cycle in which you begin to push away or avoid situations that might bring up anything painful or uncomfortable. But inevitably, something triggers the feelings and they rush to the surface and to escape the discomfort you might be quick to react by yelling, withdrawing, blaming another, or blaming yourself.
“Healing requires patience. I encourage you to reconnect to your emotions and sensations gently and at a pace that isn’t overwhelming for you. You can broaden your capacity to be with discomfort…but it doesn’t stop there. This increased capacity for distress tolerance becomes the foundation for many positive changes such as increased self-compassion and improvements in your relationships with others.”
–Dr. Arielle Schwartz