General Information

Coping Techniques: Part I.

Coping Techniques:  Part II.



Further Resources


Image by: Natascha Roeoesli

Grounding is a set of simple strategies to detach from emotional pain (for example, drug cravings, self-harm impulses, anger, sadness). Distraction works by focusing outward on the external world rather than inward toward the self. You can also think of it as "distraction," "centering," "a safe place," "looking outward," or "healthy detachment."

When you are overwhelmed with emotional pain you need a way to detach so that you can gain control over your feelings and stay safe. As long as you are grounding, you cannot possibly use substances to hurt yourself! Grounding "anchors" you to present and to reality.

Many people with PTSD and substance abuse struggle with either feeling too much (overwhelming emotions and memories) or too little (numbing and dissociation). In grounding you attain balance between the two - conscious of reality and able to tolerate it.

No feeling is final - No matter how miserable a feeling, it can change even if it feels like it never will.

Pain is a feeling, it is not who you are - When you get caught up in it, you feel like you are your pain and that is all that exists. But it is only one part of your experience - the others are just hidden and can be found again through grounding.

  • Grounding can be done anytime, any place, anywhere and noone has to know
  • Use grounding when you are: faced with a trigger, having a flashback, dissociating, having a substance craving, or when your emotional pain goes above 6 (on a 1-10 scale). Grounding puts healthy distance between you and these negative feelings
  • Keep your eyes open, scan the room, and turn the light on to stay in touch with the present.
    Rate your mood before and after to test whether it worked. Before grounding, rate your level of emotional pain (0-10, where 10 means "extreme pain"). Then re-rate it afterwards. Has it gone down?
  • No talking about negative feelings or journal writing -you want to distract away from negative feelings, not get in touch with them.
  • Stay neutral - no judgements of "good" or "bad". For example, "The walls are blue; I dislike the color blue because it reminds of me depression." Simply say, "the walls are blue" and move on.
  • Focus on the present, not the past or future.
  • Note that grounding is not the same as relaxation training. Grounding is much more active, focuses on distraction strategies, and is intended to help extreme negative feelings. It is believed to be more effective for DID and PTSD than relaxation training

  • Practice as often as possible, even when you don't "need it, so you'll know it by heart.
  • Practice faster. Speeding up the pace gets you focused on the outside world quickly.
  • Try grounding for a looooonnnnnngggggg time (20 - 30 minutes). And repeat, repeat, repeat it.
  • Try to notice whether you do better with "physical" grounding methods or with "mental" grounding.
  • Create your own methods. Any method you make up may be worth much more than those you read here because it is yours.
  • Start grounding early in the mood cycle. Start when the substance craving just starts or when you have just started having a flashback. Start before the anger gets out of control.
  • Make up an index card on which you list your best grounding methods and how long to use them.
  • Have others assist you in grounding. Teach a friend or family member how grounding works so that s/he can help guide you in if you become overwhelmed.
  • Prepare in advance. Locate a place at home, in your car, and at work where you have materials and reminders for grounding.
  • Create an cassette tape of grounding message that you can play when needed; and consider asking you therapist or someone close to you to record it if you want to hear someone elses voice.
  • Think about why grounding works. Why might it be that focusing on the external world, you become more aware of an inner peacefulness? Notice the methods that work for you - why might those be more powerful for you than other methods?

Don't give up!

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