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Lessons from Relapse Warning Signs: BPD and Stinking Thinking

April 4, 2012 Becky Oberg

Alcoholics Anonymous has many wise teachings, even if you're not an alcoholic. One particularly useful one is the importance of checking your thoughts, looking specifically for "stinking thinking". These thoughts warn us of a likely relapse (alcohol, drugs, self-injury), and it is recommended you change your thoughts.

One of my problems is unrelenting standards--I expect too much out of myself and other people. So three stinking thoughts I think are "I become impatient with myself and other people," "I get angry and argumentative frequently over small matters of little or no significance," and "I have very high expectations. Even if they do sound unrealistic, I expect to do great things."

"I become impatient with myself and other people."

There's an old joke that says you should never pray for patience because God will send you all sorts of trials to teach you patience. You should instead pray for the wisdom to be patient.

The Serenity Prayer also applies here--"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." Why get upset over something you can not change? If you can change it, do so; if not, learn to live with it.

That's easier said than done. That said, when you learn to accept what you can not change, you'll feel a tremendous weight lifted from your shoulders.

"I get angry and argumentative frequently over small matters of little or no significance."

Ask yourself "Will this matter tomorrow?" If it won't, there's no reason to become combative. Ask yourself "How important is it to hold my ground?" If it isn't important, be open to compromise. Understand your irritability, then use self-talk to calm yourself down. If it doesn't matter, there's no point in getting upset.

This does not come natural for me. Medication has been a big help in my lightening up, but I've also had to learn how to work it out in therapy. The same may be true for you. It is important you understand why you get angry and argumentative over petty things--for me, it's all about having control over the situation. When you understand why you get this way, you have the tools necessary to change your attitude and conduct. When you understand why you become angry and argumentative, you will know how to be calm and accepting.

Remember--if it doesn't matter, there's no point in becoming upset.

"I have very high expectations. Even if they do sound unrealistic, I expect to do great things."

There's nothing wrong with aiming high. That's how you accomplish your goals. However, if you expect too much of yourself, you won't be able to handle disappointment. Learn your strengths and weaknesses, and adjust your goals accordingly.

This doesn't come naturally for me either. I don't know what a realistic goal is. However, I do know how to look at my progress and adjust my standards accordingly. This strikes a balance between aiming high and being realistic. I can handle disappointment because I realize I may have expected too much in the first place.

Learning to live with it

Identify your stinking thinking. Write down your negative thoughts down on paper--this will get them out of your head and help you analyze them and compare them to reality. Sometimes just seeing your irrational thoughts in print can help you recognize them as lies and exaggerations.

Ask for help with a reality check. Talk to someone you trust, and ask if your thoughts or conduct are realistic. An independent point of view can help shed light on the lies we tell ourselves.

Take it easy on yourself. Instead of being your harshest critic, try to imagine what you'd say to your friends and family if they were in a similar situation. That's the self-talk you need to hear.

Quit the stinking thinking, know how to keep it in check and how to fight back, and your recovery becomes that much easier.

APA Reference
Oberg, B. (2012, April 4). Lessons from Relapse Warning Signs: BPD and Stinking Thinking, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, October 4 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/borderline/2012/04/lessons-from-relapse-warning-signs-bpd-and-stinking-thinking



Author: Becky Oberg

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