How do you feel on the inside?
That question is what my therapist asks me whenever I question a choice, action, or reaction to a triggering event/experience. She calls it my internal litmus test.
The first time she asked me this question, I was so shocked that my voice dried up. My brain stopped. Everything blanked out, and she had to bring me back with grounding questions and comments. Then she explained how the test worked: if I feel happy and positive about my choice on the inside, it was the right one; if I feel unsure or uncomfortable, the choice could be a mistake and something to learn from; if I feel bad, angry, negative, guilty, etc., it was not the correct choice.
I felt awful about my choice the first time she asked me that question. As we discussed the whys in session, I started to understand what felt wrong and how to fix the mistake. No matter my answer, though, the test always works.
This test helped me work on the following topics:
- Stop and Think objectively
- Get perspective
- Trust my instincts
- Learn from my mistakes
- Make alternative plans to correct mistakes
- Feel compassion for myself
- Learn to be gentle with myself
- Listen to my alters as they communicate
- My alters listen to me as I communicate with them
- This test challenged me:
- To work with my backlash instead of against it
- Recognize and ask for help in coping feelings of shame and guilt
- Discover new ways to use my existing coping skills with backlash instead of falling back on self harm
- To work with my alters as a team to face our fears and recovered memories
- Build my alters’ confidence in communication and switching so they stopped feeling shame every time they came out and defended us from perpetrators, bullies, and people from the past
- Be assertive and set boundaries for internal and external living to promote a healthy self
- Let go of toxic relationships without shame and guilt
- Remove toxic people from our life
- Not get into relationships with toxic people
- Be open to reconnecting with family members who are willing to respect my boundaries and build a relationship based on acceptance and respect of who we are now
- To test present reality against the thoughts and feelings overwhelming my inner self
The internal litmus test is scary and full of potential pitfalls. It requires honesty and persistence and resilience in shattering the denial and lies that prevents me from moving forward with recovery. Every time I or one of the alters uses this test, we know that the results are honest and true. Finally, the test offers us a safe way to experiment with challenging our triggers and monsters within a supportive framework (counselor, coping strategies, respective).
Thanks for reading