Chronically Living and how to make the most of it

When Do We Need to Get Some Creative Hopelessness Going?

September 13, 2021 Kelsey Season 2 Episode 12
Chronically Living and how to make the most of it
When Do We Need to Get Some Creative Hopelessness Going?
Show Notes Transcript

This week we're exploring the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy process of Creative Hopelessness to see if we can get ourselves to a place where we are open to trying something new and different when dealing with our physical and emotional pain. If nothing you're trying is working, and you feel hopeless about your situation, then this is definitely an episode for you to check out.
In this episode we talk about:

  • what creative hopelessness is
  • how to figure out if your emotional control strategies are helping you
  • what to do with the emotional control strategies that aren't working

TW: mentions of substance use and self-harm

If you're enjoying the show, please support it on Patreon.

Follow the show on Instagram @chronically.living_ and on Twitter @janevspain.
Sign up for Instacart using this link.

Kelsey Harris:

Are you someone who feels like they need to be in control all the time? Are you constantly trying to get rid of painful emotions, thoughts and sensations that come with your chronic illness? Do the experiences of avoidance and distraction resonate with you? If so, then this episode on Creative hopelessness is probably for you. So join me on this week's episode of chronically living. I'm Kelsey Harris, chronic illness warrior and psychotherapist on chronically living and how to make the most of it. We're providing tangible ways to improve the well being of spoonies. So get ready to make the most out of your life, even with that pesky chronic illness. I'm going to start off by saying that this episode is heavy on psychoeducation. I just really want to get you thinking about what is and what isn't working for you, so that you can begin to make some changes that we've been talking about this season. And yes, that kind of ties into mindset that Dr. Harris spoke about last week.

Dr. Richard Harris:

He thinks I'm a huge mindset person in the reason I started off with mindset is because as the mind goes, the body goes.

Kelsey Harris:

Most of this episode is adapted from an acceptance and Commitment Therapy strategy called creative hopelessness. As I learned it from Russ Harris's Yes. Harris, also not related. His book act Made Simple. And I've used it in my practice with my clients as well. So let's start by thinking just about thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations, memories, urges, or anything else that you've been trying to get rid of lately. I know for a lot of people with chronic pain, it is literally the sensation of pain we're trying to get rid of. Often we have emotions, such as sadness, or depression, anxiety or fear, even guilt that come along with that, too. or thoughts tend to dwell on why me or this is my life. Now. The truth is, we all want to be happy and pain free. That's the ideal world because all of these things are so difficult to deal with. What we need to do is to figure out what strategies that we've been using to deal with these thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations, etc, that are in are not working. So what is creative hopelessness? Exactly? I think Russ Harris sums it up nicely. It's a process in which one becomes aware that trying hard to avoid or get rid of unwanted thoughts and feelings, and sensations, tends to make life worse rather than better. This leads to a sense of hopelessness in the agenda of avoiding one's difficult thoughts and feelings, out of which can emerge a creative attitude toward finding new and different ways of dealing with them. Basically, what he's saying is that avoidance and distraction lead us to feeling hopeless, which is strongly associated with depression, because it is impossible to fully do this. So we need to get creative about how we're dealing with our thoughts, feelings, sensations, and so on. What we often use to get rid of these thoughts, feelings, sensations, etc, that we don't want are called emotional control strategies. Now, these are not to be confused with emotion regulation, which is actually really important to have emotional control strategies or behaviors both inwardly expressed and outwardly expressed that are motivated by experiential avoidance. They aren't necessarily good or bad, right or wrong, positive or negative. They're just ways of coping that you've been doing that aren't working for you. After the break, we'll talk about how to figure out what is and what isn't working. Hey, warriors, what if it was possible to get local fresh groceries delivered right to your front door, you could take a deep sea yoga with all that free time. Well instacart gives you unlimited grocery delivery for one low monthly fee. This is definitely better than paying for delivery on all those other apps. Forget that one ingredient you needed to make that super healthy smoothie instacart can deliver to your front door in as little as an hour. You can shop multiple stores getting all your favorites on a single order. instacart even highlights a deal so that you can save money. Get all the products you love hand selected by shoppers based on your preferences. They'll pick the freshest produce handle, keep your eggs safe to find everything you usually buy and get smart suggestions on new items to get free delivery on your first Order over $10 Follow the link in the show notes to let instacart know that we sent you, and help to help support the show. With instacart, you'll never step foot in the grocery store again. So we've been talking about creative hopelessness. And now it's time to think about what strategies we're using that are and are not working for us. So my first question is, what have you tried doing in the past or that you're currently doing? I know that I've tried distracting myself by watching TV, listen to music, video games. If any of this resonates with you, or you use other types of distractions, just take a mental note of that. I've also opted out of activities with friends in the past or avoided doing certain things or put them off until I'm you know, quote, unquote, feeling better. This could also be people or places or situations or events that you avoid, or anything that you procrastinate. So just take a mental note of what you opt out of. I'm also guilty of having tried positive thinking of the past and you know, minimizing my thoughts, feelings, sensations, and trying to push certain thoughts out of my mind. What about you guys? Or maybe you challenge your thoughts, try to think away your pain, criticize yourself, maybe just take note of any thinking strategies that you use. I've also tried to use a lot of prescription medications over the counter medications, marijuana, alcohol to try to get rid of pain. Cheesy, you know, even after breakups in the past, I've tried to eat that pain away. Like all you can eat sushi binge. Just take note of any substances you use. And yes, all the things I mentioned for myself, including food do count as substances. What about other strategies that you've done? Maybe you've seen a million doctors and specialists or switch doctors because you don't like their answers? Maybe you read tons of self help books or you've tried meditating. Or maybe you engage in self harm. Or maybe you just busy yourself with household chores, or perhaps you give up on everything. There are a million other strategies that we use to get rid of pain. Just take note if there are any that you use. So now that we know what we do, we need to try to think about whether they actually work for us. So first, what's giving you some short term relief? What about long term relief, which of those things actually have eliminated your thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations that are really difficult for you. What you'll probably find, especially if you're anything like me, and the people I've worked with is that these emotional control strategies mostly bring short term relief. And if they are bringing long term relief, like some exercise and meditation do for me, for example, then they aren't emotional control strategies, and you don't have to worry about them, right. But these emotional control strategies, they rarely bring long term relief. You may have even noticed that over the past six months, year or longer, that your pain, physical or emotional has gotten worse. If that's the case, just stay with me. Okay. So if any of these strategies from above are working long term, then please keep doing them. They are helping you live a values based life and that's fantastic. But let's explore the ones that aren't working. Let's think about how much time we spend distracting ourselves. And when you do this, are you feeling like you wasted time or that it's been really productive for you? Have any of your distraction methods lead to cost to your health work or relationships? What about opting out? Often this comes down to missed opportunities has often outlived cost to your health work or relationships. Think about how much time you spend in your head trying to think away thoughts and emotions and sensations is it causing you to miss out on things? Have thinking strategies lead to cost your health worker relationships. Now think about the substances you use as well as any other strategies have they lead to cost your health worker relationships too. Before we move on, I want to point out that all of these things that you're doing are making you the opposite of a lazy person. So don't let anybody tell you that you're you're trying so hard to make your life better. And I did all of these two and heck sometimes I even still do some of these things. Like I've been guilty lately. of Playing video games on my computer when I could be doing something else. So we all do this. Every person on the planet uses these strategies to some extent, we're actually all conditioned by our society to use these strategies, we're told that they work. Again, the problem with many of them is that they only give us the short term relief. So now it's time to think about whether these strategies are giving you the relief you want, the life you want to live, and helping you be the person that you want to be. So there are probably a lot of thoughts and feelings coming up for you right now. And that's to be expected. You might be feeling sad, angry, guilty, anxious, you might be having some negative self talk going on. All of these are normal responses to what we've been discussing. In fact, most of you, like me, probably are experiencing these. There's a whole community of you out there experiencing very similar things right now. And many, many other people around the world are as well. So let's just notice what our minds are saying to us. Remember, our minds are designed to help us. And yours thinks that yes, even with that negative self stop, that it is helping you. So just notice what your mind is doing. Maybe even think it for trying to help you. Thank you mind, or you're trying to help. Let's move on. So I'm going to recap using a quote from Ross Harris's book because, well, to be honest, I just like the way it's written. You've been trying hard for a long, long time to get rid of your unwanted thoughts, feelings, emotions, and sensations, you found a whole bunch of strategies that give you relief in the short term, but they either don't work or make life worse in the long term. And there have been some big costs for you. living your life this way has taken a toll. So given all that I'm wondering, are you up for something new? a new way of responding to difficult thoughts and feelings and sensations that's radically different from everything else you've ever tried? So if your answer is yes, or Okay, or let's do it or even, you know, I don't know, maybe this podcast is definitely the right place for you to be. Because all of these things that we're learning from guest experts, other spoonies and warriors sharing their lived experience, and the psycho education I'm providing in these solo episodes are likely radically different from what you're currently doing. And even if you're doing some of them, whether or not they are working, you can find more ways to try and improve your life. And please remember, change is slow. I know that was a lot of information and it may have given you a lot to think about and that's okay. We did some reflecting already. But let's do a little bit more. So again, just go back to what you notice for yourself during this episode. And now what are you noticing about that noticing? Next week, I have another guest on for you. So stay tuned for that. Until then keep making the most of it. Special thanks to Nicole sicuro for the original music and to charity Williams.