Acting opposite is about engaging in opposite to emotion action. It comes into play when you are experiencing an emotion that is not a rational response to the situation.
To determine if an emotion is irrational:
- Examine the facts of the situation
- Ask yourself if someone else in the same situation might feel a similar feeling
- Ask for help from someone you trust if necessary to determine if your feeling is appropriate to the situation
When feeling irrational FEAR
-Do what you are afraid of doing…over and over
-Approach events, places, tasks, activities, and people you are afraid of
-Do things to give yourself a sense of control and mastery
-When overwhelmed, make a list of small steps or tasks you can do
-Do the first thing on the list
When you feel irrational GUILT or SHAME
-Do the thing that makes you feel guilty or shameful…over and over
-Approach, don’t avoid
When you feel irrational ANGER
-Gently avoid the person that you are angry with rather than attacking (avoid thinking about him or her rather than ruminating)
-Do something nice rather than mean and attacking
-Imagine sympathy and empathy for the other person rather than blame
If you are feeling a rational emotion, but the feeling has lingered longer than it needs to, this skill can come in handy. For example, there is no reason to be upset and shameful for forgetting a lunch date three weeks after the fact.
When guilt or shame is justified
-Commit to avoiding the mistake in the future
-Accept the consequences gracefully
-Work on letting it go
When sadness has gone on too long
-Get active and approach what made you sad, do not avoid it
-Do things that make you feel competent and self confident
Anyone with an eating disorder who denies having irrational emotions is a liar. It’s as simple as that. I was not only scared of food, I was terrified of it. Remuda staff did a lot of work on trying to get us to examine our irrational thoughts; well that is, after they got us to recognize that some of our emotions were irrational. It is crazy to think that for some time I actually thought that shaking in my boots at the thought of a hot dog was normal. Once I was able to realize that my fear and loathing and guilt associated with food was not normal, my re-feeding process was a bit more easy. (Notice that I do not say that the process was easy. Nothing about recovery was easy.)
I had an extreme amount of guilt in my recovery. I felt guilty about the lies I told and the lie that I was living. My lies ranged from “oh, I’m not hungry. I ate before I got here” to ” I only weigh ___” to piling on as many clothes as I could when my mom made me step on the scale at home. It was so difficult for me to put away that guilt and shame over the turmoil that I caused my loved ones. Only recently was I able to realize that I can make it up to them by showing how far I have come with the help of their support. Yes, I still feel guilty about all the money that it caused to get me back to health, but I have to keep remembering that the money spent on my life could have easily been spent on my funeral.
Some days I will still have irrational emotions. Sometimes it is about school, getting too stressed about an assignment. Sometimes it’s about spilling a drink at work. Usually these emotions revolve around getting too upset about something. What normally helps me is not thinking how another person would feel in the situation, but how I would react to someone else in the same situation as mine. Fore example, when someone spills something at work, I don’t think down on them, I see it as a mistake. After all, to err is human.
Feeling guilt, shame and sadness for extended periods of time is a big thing that I need to work on. Whenever I think I’ve upset a friend or Javier with something I say, I beat myself up about it for days, even if the person shows no sign of anger. I will beat myself up for weeks over a low grade. I will feel resentment over being forgotten by a group of friends who I used to hang out with. It’s not a nice feeling, having emotions piling up for long periods of time, but it happens. One way that I help myself deal with it is by asking myself what good would come of harboring these feelings. Nothing. Nothing good at all. Why would I want to believe that the friends that have stuck around would be mad at me and not tell me? Why would I want to believe that Javier, the one that professes his love to me whenever he gets the chance (and I to him) would resent me for forgetting to make sure I’d pressed the ‘send’ button? Those feelings are crazy, but those questions I ask myself help me to get through it.