Arguing with the Devil

In this post I wrote about externalizing my illness and labeling the disordered thoughts as definitively not me. I can’t say enough how important I think that it in recovery (and how hard it can be but more on that in a different post).

Identifying disordered thoughts is a key skill in CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) but CBT would have you take it several steps further. We got work sheets in CBT groups in treatment that had us identify which category of cognitive distortion a disordered thought fell into. We then had to write down evidences for and against the disordered thought. The idea was that you would be able to come up with a lot more evidence against the disordered thought than for it and would therefore be able to prove to yourself that it was not true.

I always had a lot of trouble with that exercise. I always thought it was a bit like trying to have a rational discussion with a tantruming toddler. On steroids. The disordered thought and the voice that is shouting it at you (aka the disorder itself) do not listen to reason. They are not rational. They do not play fair. Coming up with proof that it is wrong is never going to convince it to stop shouting at you. In fact for me it was often the opposite. The more I talked back the louder and nastier the voice got. It didn’t matter whether I could come up with five pages worth of evidence that the disorder was lying to me. The disorder doesn’t need evidence. It has anxiety and fear on its side and will use that as emotional blackmail. And that’s just not something you can fight with logic.

For me it has always worked better to just get the fuck out of that tree.

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2 thoughts on “Arguing with the Devil

  1. I have found the same thing regarding disproving distortions. Your assessment of the voice as a tantruming toddler on steroids is pretty accurate. Any attempt to disprove the distortion only makes the voice louder and more adamant. I think I’ll work on getting out of the tree. 🙂

  2. I third that thought. In fact, the one useful thing my local EDU taught me three years ago was that arguing with ED thoughts was utterly pointless at best, harmful at worst, since giving them that time and energy just further convinced your brain that they were worth listening to. I wrote about it a year or so later on my blog and a I got a fabulous comment from a friend which I just had to go and search for:

    “I agree that the thoughts are symptoms of a disease, and indulging the distortions can give them power that they don’t warrant. I’ve heard it said that an eating disorder is like a tiger in a cage – every time you enter it to fight you lose. The solution isn’t to keep fighting, the solution is to stop entering the ring.”

    Awesomeness 🙂

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