A lesson from the dishes- urge surfing!


As part of my Dialectical Behaviour Therapy my homework for this week is to practise ‘urge surfing’. I’m not sure if the term has anything to do with the John Kabat-Zinn quote of 2004: “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf” but if it doesn’t- it should!

Anyway, back to urge surfing. Like all the skills- I am not finding them quite as easy as they sound. Urge surfing, literally means stopping and noticing an urge- observe it, describe it, don’t prolong or extend it- notice what it does, where it goes. The urge might be to partake in a harmful/destructive behaviour or it might be the start of a downward emotional spiral. At this point, I do have to say, I am not an expert- rather a complete novice and these definitions are my working definitions- they might not be complete or perfect, but they are where I am at in the process. All other ideas most welcome.

One of the problems I have with urge surfing, is that I spend a lot of my time and energy trying to do the exact opposite. I ignore/dampen/disassociate those exact urges. To give them attention feels me with fear that they will then become so powerful I will not be able to tolerate them. The result being that I am able to exist for weeks and months on end not actually having any idea of how I am really feeling or what I am experiencing. I now can notice, that sometimes when I am in a particularly difficult time my answer to question “how are you” will normally result in a “yes” !!!! I find putting language to my emotions incredibly difficult and that is even if I have managed to notice and identify the emotion in the first place… So urge surfing is tricky for me- but like everything the process of practise will help.

photo.JPGSo the last few days I have been thinking about washing dishes! Washing dishes is something that I struggle with and for some reasons elicits rather intense emotions from me. However, I feel the need to make the following clarification- I very rarely wash dishes because

a) I have a dish washer

b) I rarely cook and therefore have few dishes to wash even if I did venture to the sink

c) I can make a plate last quite a few meals

d) if the dish washer is full, the lady who helps me clean will usually do the odd wash up and

e) if I have let the pan go beyond my cleaning ability (i.e. stuck on moldy food) I either

f) throw it away (sorry) or

g) manage to persuade a long-suffering friend to help me!!!! But the point is, I’m trying to surf the urge and dishes came into my mind! 

It is not the physical act of washing the dishes that I find so troublesome, rather it is monotony and the unrelentlessness of the act that I find problematic. In my darker days I am weary that even if I summoned the strength to wash the dishes, lo and behold, I would need to do the same thing the next day. I realise more and more that like many others with BPD, boredom can be a dangerous place for me… but I don’t find dishes boring per se,  however I do find my perceived futility of the act, and the incessant-ness potential triggers that can lead me on a downward spiral. The dishes have an insatiable quality that mirrors in many ways the depth of my heart- know matter how hard I work, no matter what I try- there is always more to do. I am recognising those triggers more and more… when I notice my despair over the dishes- I need to listen to the fact my mood is struggling- and take appropriate action… the dishes can teach me a lot about myself. But at this point I’m not quite willing to fully embrace washing dishes- I’m still happy to use the dishwasher!

Thanks for listening.



2 responses »

  1. So understand about the monotony of dishes. Ugh. I also find the same about putting them away, and washing and putting away clothes, especially with all the time it takes to fold them.

    • That is a good point. Up until today I have had someone help me with my laundry- so I haven’t had to face that one… but that is about to change. I will definitely have to apply some of my new skills if I want to stay on top of it all! More pepper-in-the-pan moments I think!

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