Part of having Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) or being an emotionally sensitive person is the experience of having difficulty regulating your emotions. Our nervous systems can become activated and launch us into an upward spiral in what seems like an instance, and it can take something that seems so little or minor to other people. A recurring example of this in my life when I was in the thick of my experience with BPD symptoms was impulsive emails. Even today, if I am emotionally vulnerable due to feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or under the weather, I must work harder than the average person when it comes to impulsive email prevention.
In fact, the tool I’m about to share with you was born out of my own need as well as that of many of the students in my online DBT class. For me, my emotional vulnerability increases during PMS time when I experience PMDD, a severe form of premenstrual syndrome. When you are super emotional, it is NOT the time to reply to an email that has upset you in any way. I’ve learned the hard way, and it took a number of times before it really sunk in and I learned my lesson. It is just all too easy to type up something and hit send, but once it’s gone, it’s gone, and if you have regrets, the consequences can be irreparable. So, there must be a willingness to step away from the computer and distract the mind with another activity until the urge comes down, which it inevitably will.
So, what can you reasonably do if you receive an email (or even a text message or social media post for that matter), notice that you’ve become emotionally activated, and you do NOT want to self-sabotage or do something you might regret? For these situations, I’ve created something called the Emotionally Charged Email Prevention, or ECEP. While not an actual clinical or therapeutic tool, it is something I’m finding helpful, and as a peer in recovery, I thought many of you out there who have this issue may like it as well.
Here’s the idea behind it: In Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), there is a worksheet in the Emotion Regulation module called Emotion Regulation 1a (4a in the newer manual), and it is used when you notice an intense emotion. You put some time and space between the triggering or activating event and any action you take. In the past, I have gone from having an intense emotion to the knee-jerk reaction of acting on the urge or impulse that came with it. I wanted to feel better NOW in THIS moment, and I dealt with the consequences afterward – and there often were consequence that made things so much worse. I had to go into damage control mode and often felt so exhausted that I didn’t want to try, which left relationships damaged (sometimes beyond repair), jobs and educational opportunities wasted, and more.
The knee-jerk reaction with upsetting emails and texts is often to respond in a way that expresses your upset and possibly that is an “attack” on the other person. To slow down this process, when necessary, I use this worksheet. It allows me to SLOW down, step away from the computer, and truly THINK THROUGH the situation using my Wise Mind. But, boy, does it take willingness! It’s just TOO easy to sit there and start typing like a ninja and send off that message, but I know all too well that I don’t want to go there – especially with the progress I’ve made under my belt.
Here’s a copy for you:
So, do you struggle with impulsively responding to emails, texts, social media posts, and the like? Do you think you could realistically have one of these forms handy and give it a try to prevent an impulsive response? If you give it a try, let me know how it goes. If you have other methods that help you stay effective and skillful, I would love to hear about them as well.
Thank you for reading.