The STOP Worksheet
Now let’s imagine this situation while you experience the benefits of using the S.T.O.P Skill. As you enter the house, your partner approaches, and begins the accusatory attack. Pushing you on where you have been, and what you have been doing. Because you have been building your mindful awareness, you notice the shift in your system and sense that you are about to get really angry. Your first impulse is to fight back with words. however, you want to deal with this situation skillfully, in a way that keeps you in line with your own values and beliefs.
This time, instead of reacting, you stop, then take a step back from your partner, and breathe mindfully. You notice the presence of your angry child, and you acknowledge its existence in your system, describing it, nonjudgmentally, and letting it know that there’s nothing wrong with being angry, but anger will only make this situation worse. As you observe the external circumstances, you begin to notice that your partner appears to be under the influence of a substance, and as you scan the area, you can see that there are a lot of empty bottles of beer in the kitchen. You know from past experience that when your partner has been drinking, there’s no point arguing, and its better to deal with it in the morning when things have cooled down. So, you proceed from a mindful perspective, validating your partners feelings, and explaining the car trouble you had, providing the evidence that this is a fact, and calming your partners emotional reaction. You then go to bed, postponing the discussion until the next morning.
I am sure, if you really take the time to think about it, you have probably experienced many times in your life when taking a step back has led to an effective outcome in what seemed like difficult situations. If you spend some time discussing your past experiences of this with the people in your support network, they will probably give you examples of their own too. The evidence for the effectiveness of this skill is all over the place, its just learning how to use it that is the problem we face. When it comes to implementation of the S.T.O.P skill, it takes practice, practice, practice, and when you think you’ve practiced enough, practice some more.
The problem is, if you wait until you really need to use the S.T.O.P skill in order to practice it, you won’t be able to access it, because it’s not engrained in your behavioural responses as a habitual thing to do. This is a bit of a conundrum with many of the behavioural changes we are trying to create, so we have to develop ways to rehearse the use of these new skills during times when we don’t need them, so they will be there when you do. I do this by setting reminders in my phone to check in with myself multiple times in a day. Then, when the alarm goes off, I simply Stop, Take a deep breath, and ask myself the following questions:
1. What am I feeling right now?
2. What am I thinking right now?
3. What are my physical sensations right now?
4. Is there an urge for me to do something right now?
If I have the time, I document this by putting pen to paper, and the worksheet attached to this lesson has examples of how to do this. I highly recommend setting these alarms in your personal phone at random times throughout the day, right now, so you don’t forget to do it later. Practicing this every day, will lead to you beginning to recognize your own emotional base line. This in turn will help you notice when things begin to shift, and the earlier in the process you can spot this the better the results of using this skill will be. Remember practice does not make the skill perfect, it makes the skill permanent!!