DBT Interpersonal Skills: DEAR MAN Objectives Effectiveness

The first set of interpersonal effectiveness skills in DBT consists of three skills that help us obtain objectives effectively:

  • objectives effectiveness
  • relationships effectiveness
  • self-respect effectiveness

With Objectives Effectiveness we use the acronym DEAR MAN to communicate assertively in order to have our rights and wishes respected. Learn about objective effectiveness and DEAR MAN in the video below.

DEAR MAN: DBT Interpersonal Objectives Effectiveness Skill

This transcription was auto-generated by YouTube. I’ve only added minimal editing, so I apologize for any errors, run-on sentences, etc.

In this video we’re going to learn how to communicate more assertively by using one of the interpersonal skills from dialectical behavior therapy called objectives effectiveness, which refers to getting what we want or need from another person by being assertive. Rather than passive, aggressive or passive aggressive. So first let’s look at these four main communication styles.

Passive communication is often no communication at all. We don’t ask for what we need. We don’t speak up about things that are bothering us. Maybe we’re intimidated or lack confidence or fear conflict or confrontation or all of the above. So we just stay silent, often growing more and more resentful, but keeping our feelings bottled up and not letting people know that we’re upset or what’s bothering us.

Aggressive communication is the opposite of passive. We make demands, give orders, blame or try to control others, raise our voices, or even start yelling and screaming. And sometimes we start off with passive communication, but then once we can’t keep things in anymore we explode and start communicating aggressively.

Passive aggressive communication involves expressing how we’re feeling, but doing it passively rather than directly with some sort of veiled aggression. If we’re mad at our partners we give them the silent treatment or we get really sarcastic. If we’re annoyed with a friend we don’t say anything to them but we show up for coffee half an hour late.

With assertive communication we are direct about what we want while still being respectful to the people we’re communicating with. Assertive communication is key to objectives effectiveness. The more assertive we’re able to be the more likely it is we’ll be able to accomplish our objectives. And the types of objectives we’re trying to achieve are things like: getting someone to do something we’d like them to do; having our rights respected; saying no to things that are unreasonable or that we don’t want to do; resolving interpersonal conflicts; getting our opinions or points of view to be taken seriously.

The assertiveness skills we use to obtain our objectives form the acronym dear man so let’s look at each of these.

Describe: we describe the situation we’re talking about as neutrally and objectively as possible, just sticking to the facts. The goal is to simply let the other person know what we’re talking about without provoking any defensiveness or emotional reaction. So try phrasing things along the lines of, we were supposed to meet at 9 30 and you showed up an hour late without texting me, instead of something like, you’re so disrespectful and irresponsible you never show up on time.

Express: we express how we’re feeling about the situation. We don’t assume the other person knows how we feel or can read our minds, even if we think it should be obvious. We tell them how we feel directly. And if you’ve ever heard about eye messages, that’s what we want to do here: express how we’re feeling with an I message when you do a i feel b. So when you show up late without letting me know, i feel neglected and hurt. Or when you’re not here when you say you’d be, i worry that something happened to you.

When we use I messages, since we’re just speaking about our own experience, it’s easier for others to hear without reacting negatively. If we say, when you show up late you’re being disrespectful, the other person is likely to start arguing with us or get defensive. But if instead we simply say, when you show up late, i feel disrespected, then that’s less likely to provoke an argument since we’re not judging or blaming or criticizing the other person but just stating how we feel.

Assert: then we assert what we’re asking for or want from the other person. And again we don’t expect them to be able to read our minds. We let them know what we want directly. If you’re going to be late, I’d like you to let me know. And again use an I message. I want you to text me and let me know when you’re going to be here, instead of a you message like, you should text me, or you need to let me know when you’ll be here, because i messages are less likely to provoke an argument or defensive reaction, and nobody likes being told what they need to do or should do.

And sometimes asserting involves saying no. We’re asserting that we’re not going to do something that someone requested. So when we are telling someone no we need to be clear about it. I’m sorry but i can’t do that. No beating around the bush. Not, well you know, I’ll do my best to try to be there, but yeah, i really don’t know if i can make it. Be clear with your message. I’m sorry but I’m not going to be able to come.

Reinforce: and then we reinforce the behavior or result we’re looking for. In psychology reinforcement is a reward that encourages desired behavior, so when a dog sits we give them a treat. But here we’re reinforcing in advance and letting someone know what the reward will be if they cooperate. If you can just let me know when you’re going to be late, then i won’t be so moody when you get here.

So the dear part of dear man is the process we use to make a request or to say no. We were supposed to meet up at 9 30 but you got here an hour late. When you don’t let me know you’re going to be late i feel hurt and i worry. So next time I’d like it if you could text me if you’re going to be late. And then i won’t be in such a bad mood when you get here.

Last night you criticized me in front of our friends. When you criticize me in front of other people i feel embarrassed and hurt. If you have a complaint I’d like you to bring it up with me in private. And then I’ll be happy to discuss it with you.

And sometimes that’s all that’s needed, and they respond, i promise I’ll text you next time. Or i shouldn’t have done that in front of our friends, next time I’ll bring it up in private. But sometimes it’s not that simple and dear initiates a discussion or dialogue, at which point the man part of dear man kicks in.

The m stands for stay mindful. We stay mindful of and focused on our objectives. We don’t allow ourselves to get distracted or to let things get off topic before we’ve achieved our objectives. One way we can do this is by using the broken record technique, which involves repeating your message or opinion over and over like a record that keeps skipping back and playing the same passage over and over.

If you’re saying no, then every time they try to convince you to change your mind just repeat, I’m sorry i can’t do that. But you’d really be helping me out. I’m sorry i can’t do that. Come on i don’t know who else to ask. I’m sorry i can’t help you. Just this once. I’m sorry i can’t.

If they attack or insult us or try to change the topic we just keep repeating our point. I’d like you to text me if you’re going to be late. It’s not like i was that late. Please just text me if you’re going to be late. What are you my mother? I’d just like it if you could text me the next time you’re going to be late. You don’t text me when you’re late. Please just text me next time. You’re being stupid right now. I’d still like it if you could text me next time.

Appear confident: speak in a confident voice. Maintain eye contact instead of looking down at the floor or your eyes darting around the room as you talk. Don’t whisper or hem and haw or say things like, I’m not sure, i guess. And if it’s not regarding an issue that’s just come up in the moment, you can try writing out a script of what you want to say in advance and then practice what you want to say beforehand to help you appear more confident and comfortable when you bring it up.

And finally negotiate: just because you’re making a request doesn’t mean the other person has to comply. People are more willing to cooperate if they get something in return, or at least get to participate in coming up with a solution instead of just being told what to do. You can offer other solutions or reduce your request. It’s fine if you’re only going to be 10 or 15 minutes late but anything longer than that I’d really like it if you could text me to let me know. I’m sorry i can’t do that for you, but if i have the time i would be willing to help out with something else.

But only offer alternatives that you’re okay with. Don’t suggest something you don’t really want to do just because you’re feeling uncomfortable and want to end the conversation. Or we can invite their input” do you have any suggestions? Is there something else you’d like to try?

So dear man is a great way to communicate assertively and will often lead to a solution that everyone’s happy with or at least can accept. But there are times where it’s a little more challenging. If you or the person you’re talking to, or both of you are starting to feel angry or frustrated or hurt or reacting emotionally, then it’s a good idea to take a break, set things aside for a while and give yourselves a chance to cool down.

And you can do this with the dear technique. We’ve been going in circles for an hour. I’m feeling tired and annoyed and i don’t think we’re gonna get anywhere if we keep talking about this now. I’d like to take a break and talk about it later once I’m not feeling so emotional.

Or if the other person isn’t being cooperative—i keep saying no to you and you keep asking me again and again. I’m feeling very frustrated right now and I’d like it if we could just drop this. I’m sorry that i can’t help you out—and in this case maybe there is no reinforcement. We just want to say no and be done with it.

And our own views about ourselves and the world can sometimes get in the way of our ability to be assertive. Marsha Lnehan who developed dbt describes a number of myths that can make it challenging to be assertive including things like: i don’t really deserve to get what i want or need. If i ask someone for something it’ll show that I’m weak. I have to know someone is going to say yes before i ask for something. If i ask for something or say no i can’t stand it. If someone gets upset with me if they say no it’ll kill me. Making requests is really pushy and rude saying no to something is selfish. Obviously the problem is just in my head; if i would just think differently i wouldn’t have to bother anyone else. If i don’t have what i want or need it doesn’t make any difference. I don’t really care.

So try not to fall for these myths instead see if you can adopt something like the personal bill of rights from the anxiety and phobia workbook by Edmund Bourne.

With Relationship Effectiveness, we use the acronym GIVE to build and maintain positive relationships, and end destructive ones. GIVE stands for:

(be) Gentle
(act) Interested
(use an) Easy manner

With Self-Respect Effectiveness, we use the acronym FAST to build and maintain positive relationships, and end destructive ones. FAST stands for:

(be) Fair
(no) Apologies (for asking for something, or having an opinion, or disagreeing)
Stick to your values
(be) Truthful

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them on the YouTube video page.

Emotion Regulation and Checking the Facts in DBT

In DBT, there are a number of emotion regulation skills that help us change our emotional responses. The first step in changing these emotional responses is Checking the Facts.

Emotion Regulation and Checking the Facts

This transcription was auto-generated by YouTube. I’ve only added minimal editing, so I apologize for any errors, run-on sentences, etc.

In dialectical behavior therapy there are three main skills that we can use to help us change, or I prefer the term influence, our emotions and how we feel: checking the facts, opposite action, and problem solving. In this video we’re going to learn how to check the facts.

Checking the facts stems from a similar premise to cognitive behavioral therapy, and that is our emotions aren’t the direct results of situations or events we experience. These events trigger beliefs, thoughts, assumptions, and interpretations, that then lead to an emotional consequence. In cbt we call this the ABC model. Checking the facts involves looking at the beliefs, thoughts, assumptions and interpretations we have about things that happen to us or situations we find ourselves in, to see how accurate they. Are we ask ourselves, do these beliefs, thoughts, assumptions and interpretations fit the facts?

And if they don’t we change them so they fit the facts better. And when we do, this since we’ve changed the b in ABC, the consequence the emotion we experience also changes to reflect the change in b, usually by reducing the intensity and duration of the negative emotions we’re experiencing, but we may also begin to experience a different less negative emotion altogether.

So that’s the first reason we check the facts. When our beliefs, thoughts, assumptions and interpretations of events aren’t that accurate, they affect our emotions in a negative way. When we check the facts and make these more accurate, we generally start feeling at least a little bit better right away.

And the second reason we check the facts is when we get to the end of this exercise, if it turns out our emotions don’t fit the facts, there are certain steps we can take to regulate our emotions and help ourselves feel better. And if it turns out that our emotions do fit the facts, there’s a different set of emotion regulation steps to take. And so do my emotions fit the facts is the first question we ask ourselves on the flow chart to figure out how to change our unwanted emotions that we’ll talk about in the next video.

So on the checking the facts worksheet we start by identifying the emotion we want to change or influence. And we just write it down with a one word descriptor like sadness, anxiety, anger and so on. And then we rate the intensity of this emotion on a scale from zero to a hundred.

And then we ask ourselves, what is the prompting or activating event or situation that triggered this emotional reaction: the who, what, where, and when of the situation. Who was I with or who else was involved? What happened? What did I do? What did other people do? Where was i? When did it happen? And we want to make sure we stick to the facts with as neutral a description as possible. We describe the situation as if we were just a bystander watching it, without attaching our own interpretations or emotions.

So after we write down our description we read it over and ask ourselves, does it fit the facts? And if we find any exaggerations or assumptions or judgments or interpretations or emotional statements we rewrite the description to remove these and make it more accurate by sticking only to the facts. And one thing that often creeps up in these descriptions are what we call cognitive distortions, which are exaggerated and negatively biased thoughts that lead us to perceive reality inaccurately. So in other words they don’t fit the facts. So be on the lookout for cognitive distortions and make sure to remove them when rewriting your description.

So if our description is something like, john was supposed to meet me for coffee, and like usual he didn’t show up on time or text me because he’s so selfish and disrespectful, so I gave him the silent treatment because I don’t deserve to be treated that way. Well just writing that down is probably going to make us start feeling angry again, or if we’re still angry it’s going to make us even angrier. So then we check the facts and we remove any exaggerations, assumptions, interpretations, judgments, emotional statements or cognitive distortions. And then we rewrite the description and stick to the facts.

I was meeting up with john for coffee at three o’clock. He showed up at 3 30 without letting me know he was going to be late. I didn’t talk much to him after that and made an excuse to leave early. And when we stick to the facts it’s not going to provoke the same sort of emotional reaction as the original statement we wrote down. So just by keeping our description neutral and making sure we stick to the facts we can already start feeling a little bit better, because by making our description less emotionally charged we start to calm our emotions.

So let’s look at another example and say we’ve written down a description like, I texted my partner about something important and i’ve been waiting all day and I still haven’t heard back from them yet. They never text me back. They’re so inconsiderate. If they cared about me they wouldn’t treat me this way.

When we check the facts we find that there are exaggerations, judgments and assumptions in this description, so it doesn’t actually fit the facts, and we need to rewrite it with something more accurate and neutral: I texted my partner an hour ago about something important and they still haven’t texted me back, and I’m worried they might be upset with me.

And then in step 3 we ask ourselves, what are my beliefs, thoughts, assumptions or interpretations of the situation or event? They’re ignoring me. They’re sick of hearing from me. They must be mad at me. If they cared about me they would answer my texts.

Now we check the facts by listing all of the other interpretations of the situation we can come up with. Maybe they’re just really busy and haven’t had time to text back. Or maybe they’re in a meeting and their phone is off. Maybe they didn’t even realize I was expecting a reply right away.

So now we reframe our interpretation of the event taking into account all of the various different interpretations we’ve come up with, and write out an interpretation that’s more accurate and balanced and better fits the facts than our original ones, which might be something like: I’m not sure why they haven’t texted me back yet. They’re probably just busy and haven’t had a chance.

So that’s the first part of the check the facts worksheet, which is all pretty similar to a thought record in cbt. And once you’ve completed this first part you’ll probably feel at least a little bit better, because your emotions will usually be a little less intense, because now your beliefs, assumptions and interpretations of the event or situation fit the facts better and aren’t as emotionally charged.

So then in step four we start off by asking ourselves am I assuming a threat and if so what is the threat what is it about this situation or event that’s threatening to me what am I worried or expecting will happen what outcome am I afraid of so maybe the threat is I’m worried they’re upset with me and they’re not going to want to talk to me again or they just don’t care about me anymore

And then once again we check the facts, and we list other possible outcomes. Often the threat we’re worried about is the worst possible outcome. So we want to ask ourselves, what are some other possible outcomes, including what is the best possible outcome. So the best possible outcome might be, they’ll text me back as soon as they’re not busy anymore. And other possible outcomes would be things like, they’re annoyed because I text them so much when they’re at work so they’re just going to wait a while before they respond. Or they’re mad about the argument we had this morning and they don’t want to argue over text so we’ll talk about it when they get home.

And then we check the facts and assess the accuracy of the threat we’re worried will happen and see if there isn’t a more probable outcome that fits the facts better, in which case we write down the most probable outcome, which might be: they’ll text me back as soon as they’re not busy anymore. Or if we’re not sure what the most probable outcome, is we write down a more likely, less catastrophic outcome than the one we originally wrote down. And again this helps calm our emotions because now the threat that we’re worried about isn’t so severe and may not even be much of a threat at all.

And then in step five we ask, what’s the catastrophe if the outcome I’m worrying about does occur? And we describe in detail the worst possible outcome we can reasonably expect. And so it’s probably not that they don’t like us anymore and they’re never going to talk to us again, because while that might be the most catastrophic outcome, it’s not very likely. So in this case maybe the worst outcome we can reasonably expect is they are mad at me and they’re not going to want to talk to me all day, and I’m going to be anxious and worried and have to wait till they get home to find out what’s going on, and maybe we’ll end up in a big fight or argument tonight.

So then we ask ourselves, if this catastrophe did happen, what could we do? And we describe ways that we could cope if the worst case does occur. So maybe these are things like: if I start to worry too much about what’s going on, instead of texting them over and over looking for reassurance, I could do something to distract myself. Or call a friend or meet up with someone for coffee. Or go for a walk or get some exercise or use any of my distress tolerance skills.

And then when they do get home if there is an argument, I can do my best to listen to what they’re upset about without reacting emotionally. And then use my objectives effectiveness skills to let them know how I feel about the situation and what I’d like from them. And this helps calm our emotions because we know that even if the worst case scenario does occur there are things we can do to help ourselves cope.

And then finally in step six we ask ourselves does my emotion fit the facts so first we go back to part one where we wrote down our emotion and rated its intensity. And now we re-rate the intensity of that emotion based on how we feel now. And then we ask ourselves, does my emotion fit the facts? And does its intensity and duration fit the facts? And we rate how much it fits the facts on a scale from zero to five, where zero is no not at all it doesn’t fit the facts, and five is yes it absolutely fits the facts.

Now how do we determine whether or not our emotions fit the facts? Well Marsha Linehan gives us some examples of emotions that fit the facts, and this isn’t a complete list and there could be other reasons you feel an emotion and it does fit the facts.

So sadness fits the facts if you’ve lost something or someone important to you, or if things aren’t the way you wanted or expected or hoped them to be. And anxiety or fear fit the facts if there’s a threat to your life or health or well-being, or that of someone you care about. And anger fits the facts if an important goal is blocked, or a desired activity is interrupted or prevented, or if you or someone you care about is attacked or hurt or insulted or threatened by others, or if the integrity or status of your social group is offended or threatened.

And then we can judge how well the intensity and duration of an emotion fits the facts by asking ourselves, how likely is it the expected outcome will occur, how important the outcomes are, and how effective the emotion is in my life right now. Is the emotion helping me or is it getting in the way? So once we’ve determined whether or not our emotions fit the facts, there’s a flow chart we can use to help us decide what to do next and I’ll talk about this emotion regulation flow chart in my next video.

This Check the Fact worksheet is adapted from from DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets by Marsha M. Linehan. You can download the Check the Facts worksheet in PDF or Word format. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them on the YouTube video page.

Opposite Action and Emotion Regulation in DBT

Opposite Action is a DBT emotion regulation skill that helps us change unwanted emotions. Our emotions have a strong effect on our actions and behavior. We tend to act in line with how we’re feeling. But when we do this, our behavior feeds back into our existing emotions, making them even stronger.

Opposite action teaches us to act opposite to how our emotions are telling us to act. When we use opposite action, we reduce the intensity and duration of our emotions, and may sometimes even change the way we feel altogether.

DBT Skills: Opposite Action and Emotion Regulation

This transcription was auto-generated by YouTube. I’ve only added minimal editing, so I apologize for any errors, run-on sentences, etc.

Just like when we’re feeling a certain way we tend to have thoughts that are congruent with the way that we’re feeling, and then those thoughts feed back into how we’re feeling, making those feelings even stronger, the same sort of relationship exists between how we’re feeling and our behavior and how we act.

For example if we’re feeling sad or depressed we tend not to want to do much of anything. We can find it hard to get out of bed, or drag ourselves to work, or make plans with our friends, and we can want to withdraw from the world and just avoid doing things. Maybe just lie in bed all day, or on the couch, or sit in front of the TV doing nothing. And although when we’re feeling sad this can be exactly what we want to do or feel like we need to do, acting in this way he doesn’t do anything to help our mood, or make us feel any less sad, and tends to actually intensify the way that we’re already feeling, creating one of those vicious cycles that we’ve talked about so much.

One way we can combat this tendency is called opposite action: the idea that when we feel a certain way we tend to act in ways that are congruent with how we’re feeling, and this has the effect of intensifying those feelings. But if instead we take opposite action, and act opposite to how our feelings are telling us to act, this helps moderate our emotions, slows down any vicious cycles, and allows our feelings to subside.

And so by changing the way we act we can change the way we feel, just like how changing the way we think can change the way we feel. And so that was an example of using opposite action to help manage sadness or depression.

Now we’re gonna look at how you can use opposite action to help with anxiety, stress and anger. When we’re feeling anxious our tendency is to want to act in ways that allow us to avoid whatever it is we’re anxious about. But this doesn’t work because the more we avoid something, the more anxiety it tends to cause us. So instead we need to take opposite action, act opposite to the way our feelings are telling us to act in this situation. And rather than avoid what’s making us anxious, find a way to face our fears and expose ourselves, at least gradually, to whatever it is that’s causing our anxiety. And when we do this we start to feel more comfortable with whatever was making us anxious and as a result our anxiety starts to decrease.

And if we’re feeling stressed, what we tend to want to do is to work harder, rush around, multitask, and keep going and going until we get everything done so we can finally relax. But acting in this way only makes us more stressed. But if instead of acting based on what our stress is telling us to do we take opposite action, slow down a bit, be more mindful, take some breaks and give ourselves some time to relax and unwind, not only will our level of stress decrease; but we’ll be more productive in the long run and get things done quicker and be more efficient.

And when we’re feeling angry usually what we want to do is attack and fight back. But that only escalates situations and tends to leave us even more angry. Or we withdraw into ourselves and avoid talking about things, which just leaves us ruminating and stewing in our heads and getting angrier by the minute, often until we can’t take it anymore and explode.

But if instead of acting based on what our anger is telling us to do, and instead of attacking we take opposite action, take a step back and remove ourselves from the situation, we can we’re usually able to calm ourselves and our anger starts to dissipate. Or if instead of staying silent and stewing about something, we take opposite action and find a way to express what’s bothering us assertively rather than angrily, we’re often able to resolve situations and let go of our anger.

And so if instead of acting based on what our emotions are telling us to do, which tends to feed back into how we’re feeling and making those feelings even stronger, we take opposite action, act opposite to the urge so that we’re having at the time, and take a moment to plan what we’re going to do, we can start to reverse any vicious cycles or downward spirals, calm our emotions, and our mood will start to improve. And in the next video we’ll learn an effective way to use opposite action to help manage depression called behavioral activation.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them on the YouTube video page.

DBT Emotion Regulation Flowchart: Changing Unwanted Emotions

After we’ve checked the facts, we can use this emotion regulation flowchart to figure out how to best change our unwanted emotions.

Figuring Out How to Change Unwanted Emotions

Click to download the Emotion Regulation Flowchart, which is adapted from DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets by Marsha M. Linehan. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them on the YouTube video page.

DBT Emotion Regulation: Naming and Accepting Emotions

An important aspect of emotion regulation in DBT is the ability to name and describe our emotions, and validate and accept however we’re feeling in the present moment. Acceptance doesn’t mean we’re resigning ourselves to feeling this way. It’s just an acknowledgement of our current emotions and how we’re feeling right now. In other words, we want to learn to be mindful of current emotions.

Once we’ve accepted how we’re feeling, there are additional emotion regulation skills we can use to influence and modify these feelings. Changing how we feel becomes much more possible once we accept the reality of our current emotional state.

DBT Emotion Regulation: Naming Emotions and Acceptance

This transcription was auto-generated by YouTube. I’ve only added minimal editing, so I apologize for any errors, run-on sentences, etc.

Emotion regulation refers to our ability to influence our emotions and how we feel. Part of emotion regulation involves increasing how often we experience positive emotions like happiness or decreasing how often we experience negative emotions like fear sadness and anger. But emotion regulation isn’t about blocking or avoiding so-called negative emotions. There’s nothing wrong with feeling fearful or sad or angry at times. And sometimes that’s exactly how we need to feel.

But emotion regulation helps us influence our emotions, either by reducing the strength or magnitude of these emotions and how intensely we feel them, which allows us to have emotions like fear and sadness and anger and even happiness without these emotions overwhelming us.

Or by transforming the emotion itself and changing how we feel either through modifying our actions and behavior, or our thoughts and you can learn how this works in my videos on opposite action, and reframing our thoughts and cognitive restructuring. And you’ll find links to these videos in the description and pinned comment along with my other videos related to emotion regulation.

So typically when we’re experiencing an emotion we don’t like we try to get rid of it. Either by problem solving it away, or trying to control how we feel, or by trying to suppress or block or avoid our emotion altogether.

Most of us learn from an early age how to think logically and solve problems rationally. And so it’s natural that we try to use thinking and logic to solve our emotional problems. Unfortunately emotions aren’t something we can rationalize and think our way out of. Emotions don’t conform to rational principles, they don’t listen to logic. We can’t think our feelings away convince our emotions through logic how they should feel. Or use rational arguments with our emotions to try to change them.

Trying to problem solve our emotions away tends to just make things worse because we end up stuck in our heads arguing with our feelings, even though our feelings have no interest in what we’re trying to tell them. And in the end the emotions we were trying to problem-solve away are still there, and now our minds are racing and we’re thinking in circles, ruminating and dwelling on things, which is just creating more stress, and anxiety for ourselves, and making our emotions even more intense.

So when we can’t problem solve our emotions away we try to control them. But fighting against our emotions to try to control how we feel is a battle we just can’t win. We can influence how we feel by modifying our thoughts and behavior. But we can’t change how we feel by sheer will or brute force. No matter how much we try we cannot make ourselves feel a certain way because our emotions just don’t listen to our attempts to try to control them.

Perhaps you can recall an occasion when someone tried to tell you how you should feel. Maybe you were upset and they told you to just calm down. Or you were anxious and they told you there’s nothing to be afraid of and stop worrying so much. Or you were feeling sad and they told you to cheer up. Now if something like that’s ever happened to you, how well did it work? When we tell someone else how we think they should feel it usually makes them feel worse.

Well the same thing happens when we try to control our own emotions by telling ourselves how we should feel. When we try to control our emotions they resist and fight back and generally become more intense.

In the mindfulness and acceptance workbook for anxiety john forsythe and george eiford explain why controlling our emotions doesn’t work:

Emotions differ in important ways from other problems in life that can be controlled quite effectively. Situations that are controllable tend to involve objects in the world outside your skin. Changing things in the world around you is often possible and works well. So it only makes sense that you’d want to apply it to manage emotional pain.

The problem is that what works well in the external world just doesn’t work well when applied to things going on inside you. You might try to deal with your thoughts and feelings in the same way you deal with clothes you don’t like. Can you give away or throw out your unpleasant thoughts and feelings? Can you replace a painful emotion you don’t like with a new one? Have you ever been able to do that?

The take home message here is that you can’t win a fight against yourself. And as much as you may wish to throw out your painful emotions there’s simply no way to take them in your hands and out of the room.

So since we can’t control our emotions and just get rid of the ones we don’t like why not just suppress these emotions and ignore or avoid them all together. Well unfortunately this doesn’t work either. Maybe we can avoid our emotions for a while. But they keep coming back/ they’re like a child craving attention. Our emotions won’t leave us alone until we acknowledge them and give them what they need. And each time we try to just ignore them or send them away they come back louder than ever demanding our attention.

And so because we can’t avoid our feelings we’re left with one option for emotional control. And that is to avoid any situation or circumstance we think could trigger the emotions we’re trying to avoid. But this type of avoidance winds up seriously limiting how we live our lives. If you’re depressed and start avoiding situations that may trigger more distressing thoughts or feelings you wind up isolating yourself and not taking part in things that could actually help you feel better. And as a result you end up feeling even more depressed.

If you’re experiencing anxiety you might start avoiding anything that could provoke your anxiety, like certain social situations, travel, furthering your career and so on. And as a result your quality of life begins to suffer. Once you start avoiding some things it’s easy to keep finding other things you need to avoid, until eventually your life becomes so restricted that you can no longer take part in the things that are most important to you. So for these reasons in acceptance and commitment therapy emotional avoidance is regarded as one of the main factors that contributes to anxiety and depression.

So since we can’t problem solve our emotions away or control or avoid our emotions what can we do when we’re experiencing difficult or painful emotions? We’re left with two options. To continue to struggle with them in a fight we can’t win that only gives them more strength. Or find a way to accept how we’re feeling accept whatever emotions we’re experiencing even if they’re uncomfortable or painful and we don’t like how they make us feel.

Because accepting how we feel is the first step in being able to regulate our emotions, and as soon as we stop fighting them and start accepting them they tend to start to lose some of their intensity, or at least stop escalating and becoming overwhelming.

So how do we accept our emotions., and if you’re not sure what we mean by acceptance in this context check out the videos i link to in the pinned comment in description. So one thing we can do is to name and acknowledge and validate our emotions. A lot of times we feel bad but we don’t know exactly what it is that feels bad. So we need to start by identifying the emotion we’re experiencing and putting a name to how we’re feeling.

All we need to do is to say to ourselves i feel sad. I’m feeling anxious. Or I’m angry right now. And just this simple act of naming our emotions helps us acknowledge how we’re feeling. And just this alone can help calm our emotions and stop them from escalating.

And then once we’ve acknowledged our emotions we can validate how we’re feeling. Have you ever noticed yourself saying things like i shouldn’t feel this way. There’s no reason to feel sad. Or why can’t i just get over this? When you do find yourself judging your emotions like this how does it make you feel?

Judging our emotions is the opposite of validating them. And it’s similar to trying to control our emotions and it probably makes you feel worse. So how do we validate our emotions?

As sherry van dyke says in the dialectical behavior therapy skills workbook:

Validating your emotion basically just means giving yourself permission to have them. It doesn’t mean that you like to feel that way, or that you don’t want the feeling to change. It simply means acknowledging the presence of the emotion and allowing yourself to have it.

And this is precisely what we mean by accepting our emotions. So instead of saying things to yourself like why am i always so sad, i shouldn’t feel this way, try to validate the way you’re feeling. Tell yourself that even though it’s not pleasant to feel sad or anxious, these are natural human emotions. And everyone feels them sometimes.

You might prefer to feel differently—who wants to feel sad or be anxious?— but there’s nothing unusual or wrong with feeling sad or anxious or angry or however you’re feeling. And just because you’re feeling that way right now doesn’t mean you’re always gonna have to feel that way. Emotions come and go all of the time without us ever having to do anything. In fact the more we try to do something about an emotion other than just accepting it, the longer it sticks around and the more intense it tends to become.

Now another aspect to accepting our emotions is learning to accept the physical sensations that go along with them. And that’s the topic of my next video.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them on the YouTube video page.

DBT Emotion Regulation Skills Training

Emotion Regulation

Emotion regulation involves learning to respond to emotions in ways that make them more tolerable and manageable. We can’t control our emotions. We can’t suppress emotions we don’t want to feel, or force ourselves to feel a certain way. But emotion regulation skills allow us to influence our emotions and how we feel.

This doesn’t mean we can change the way we feel altogether. We can’t flip an emotion regulation switch and instantly go from feeling sad to happy, or angry or anxious to calm. But we can use emotion regulation skills to influence or modify our emotions. Sometimes our emotions may even change, and we no longer feel sad or angry or anxious. But more often it’s the intensity and duration of an emotion that changes, not the actual type of emotion.

Goals of Emotion Regulation

The goals of emotion regulation include:

  • Understanding, naming, and accepting current emotions
  • Changing emotional responses
  • Decreasing the frequency and intensity of unwanted emotions
  • Decreasing emotional vulnerability and vulnerability to emotion mind
  • Increasing resiliency and our ability to cope with difficulties
  • Increasing positive emotions
  • Decreasing emotional suffering

In this section you’ll find posts about:

If you go through these posts in order, you’ll gain a solid grasp of emotion regulation skills in DBT, and your emotions will start to become more manageable and less overwhelming.

Remember that Core Mindfulness Skills are the foundation of DBT. Some of the emotion regulation skills rely on mindfulness, so if you’re not familiar with mindfulness skills in DBT, consider going through these first. Or if you want to jump right in to the emotion regulation skills, don’t forget to check out the mindfulness skills later.

Mindfulness of Sounds and Thoughts Guided Meditation

It can be difficult to stay mindful of our thoughts. When we try to pay attention to our thoughts, our thoughts often carry our minds away. And this is the opposite of mindfulness. The Mindfulness of Sounds and Thoughts exercise mentioned in the previous video is a guided meditation that leads us through a few ways we can practice being mindful of our thoughts.

In the Mindfulness of Sounds and Thoughts meditation, we begin with a period of mindful hearing, and then we turn our attention to our thinking, relating to our thoughts the same way we did to sound. Rather than paying attention to the content of our thoughts and what they mean, we simply notice thoughts arising, and sustaining, and passing through the thoughtscape of our minds, watching them coming and going like clouds passing through the sky.

In this meditation, after mindfully following sounds for a while, we then turn our attention to our thoughts and practice relating to them in a similar fashion. Rather than engaging with the thoughts we’re having and getting caught up in them or thinking about them, we simply notice what thoughts are present, and just treat them as mental events moving through our field of awareness.

Mindfulness of Thoughts

One metaphor we can use to describe what it’s like to follow our thoughts mindfully is to observe our thoughts as if they were clouds passing through the sky, simply coming into our field of awareness, sticking around for a while, and then passing out of our field of awareness.

Another metaphor, suggested by meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein and related in The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Social Anxiety and Shyness, by Jan Fleming and Nancy Kocovski, is to watch our thoughts as if they were being projected on a screen in front of us:

Imagine that you are sitting in a movie theater in front of a large blank screen. As thoughts, memories, and mental images appear in your mind, seeing them projected onto the screen, watching each thought for as long as it remains on the screen.

Thoughts may move slowly or quickly across the screen, some dominating the screen more than others. At times, the screen may go blank; at other times it may be completely filled with thoughts. Whatever is on the screen, remaining curious about the process of thinking itself, noticing your ability to be an impartial observer.

At times you may lose touch with your awareness of thinking, fusing with your thoughts, getting caught up in one of the stories unfolding on the screen. When that happens, returning to the feeling of the breath, not as a way to get away from thoughts or make the mind blank, but as a way to anchor yourself in the present moment, as you escort your mind back to its seat, returning to watching your thoughts coming and going.

Mindfulness of Sounds and Thoughts Guided Meditation

Mindfulness of Sounds and Thoughts (Extended Version)

If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness, please check out my Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Mindfulness Meditation courses. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them on the YouTube video page.

DBT Mindfulness “How” Skills and “What” Skills

In this video we’ll learn the “What” Mindfulness Skills in DBT, and the “How” Mindfulness Skills.

“What” Mindfulness Skills involve what we do when we’re being mindful. There are three “what” mindfulness skills in DBT: observing, describing, and participating. So when we’re being mindful, we observe, describe, and participate in whatever we’re experiencing in the present moment.

“How” Mindfulness Skills involve how we practice mindfulness. In DBT, there are three “how” mindfulness skills: nonjudgmentally, one-mindfully, and effectively.

“How” and “What” Mindfulness Skills in DBT

This transcription was auto-generated by YouTube. I’ve only added minimal editing, so I apologize for any errors, run-on sentences, etc.

Marsha Linehan, who developed dbt, defines mindfulness as the act of consciously focusing the mind in the present moment. A person who is mindful is aware in and of the present moment. Mindfulness is the opposite of being on automatic pilot or being lost in habit. Mindfulness practice is the intentional process of observing, describing and participating in reality non-judgmentally in the present moment. So now we’re going to look at what this definition entails, and some of the reasons why mindfulness is so important in dbt.

Now there are seven core mindfulness skills in dbt. The first is wise mind, and i already have a video about wise mind that I’ll link to in the description. Next there are the what skills—what are we doing when we’re practicing mindfulness which are: observing, describing, and participating. And then the how skills—how do we do mindfulness: how do we observe, describe and participate. And these are non-judgmentally one mindfully and effectively

And finally the goals of practicing mindfulness in dbt: to reduce suffering and increase happiness; and to increase control of our minds and stop allowing our minds to control us.

So first let’s look at observing. Observing involves paying attention on purpose to the present moment. And we say on purpose because if we don’t deliberately choose to focus our attention in the present moment, we’re often just functioning on automatic pilot. And our minds will tend to wander away from the present quite quickly, and we’ll end up daydreaming: we’re lost in the past, we’re looking ahead to the future, and we can lose track of what’s going on right now in this moment in the present altogether.

When we’re observing we’re observing what’s going on outside ourselves—external things we’re taking in through our senses. And we’re also observing what’s going on inside ourselves with our thoughts, feelings and emotions, and bodies. Observing is important because if we’re not observing what’s going on in the present moment, we lack awareness. And without awareness we lose the ability to influence what we’re experiencing.

If we’re not aware of what’s going on around us we can’t know how to respond effectively. We can’t interact effectively with other people. We can’t assess whether our emotional reactions, behaviors and thoughts about a situation are appropriate, proportional or balanced. And we can’t tailor our responses to fit the situation.

And if we’re not observing our thoughts and not aware of what we’re thinking, then we leave ourselves at the mercy of our thoughts. Without awareness we can’t exert any control over our minds and instead we allow our minds to control us, which is the opposite of one of the goals of mindfulness.

And if we’re not observing our emotions and the body sensations that go along with them we lack awareness into what and how we’re feeling, and we can be quickly overcome by emotional mind.

And when we’re not observing our own behavior we often end up acting on automatic pilot, not really aware of what we’re doing or how we’re behaving, which means we don’t even give ourselves a chance to change how we’re acting. But if we’re observing our own behavior we give ourselves the opportunity to act differently and more effectively in ways that are more helpful to us in the situation. And that ties into one of the house skills of mindfulness we’ll be talking about later. When we’re acting mindfully we’re acting effectively.

And observing is one of the four parts of the distress tolerance skill stop, which stands for: stop what you’re doing; take a step back; and observe. Observing gives us the chance to take stock of the situation, become aware of what’s going on outside of ourselves, inside of ourselves, and with our behavior. And then it’s only once we’ve observed what’s going on that we’re able to choose how we wish to move forward. And then we can proceed in the way that’s going to be most effective for that situation.

Describing can simply involve putting words on our experience. I’m seeing the sunset. I’m hearing some birds. I’m starting to feel a little anxious. There’s some tightness in my throat. I’m thinking that person’s being a real jerk. Or I’m worrying, what if i can’t get this done on time.

Now describing helps keep us grounded in the present moment, because we can’t be describing what we’re experiencing if our minds have wandered away from the present moment. So describing forces us to stay in the moment. And describing helps us take a step back from our experiences. And when we take a step back, we’re able to observe things more clearly.

And that’s why take a step back is the second part of the stop skill. When we take a step back from a situation we can become aware of what’s actually going on. And when we’re able to take a step back from our thoughts, feelings and emotions, and body sensations, we can observe them without getting caught up in them, which helps prevent them from becoming overwhelming.

And when we take a step back from our behavior, we can observe what we’re doing and how we’re acting, and choose to act differently and more effectively, rather than being stuck on automatic pilot.

Now instead of describing the content of what we’re experiencing we can simply put a label on our experience without describing the content of that experience. So instead of describing, I’m watching the sunset, just labeling that experience as watching or seeing—so leaving out the part about what you’re watching or seeing.

Instead of describing, I’m hearing some birds, labeling the experience simply as listening, listening, or hearing, and not describing the content of what you’re hearing.

Instead of I’m feeling anxious, just labeling that experience as I’m feeling an emotion, or there’s a sensation in my chest.

Instead of I’m thinking about or I’m worried about, simply I’m having a thought, I’m worrying. Or even just the words thinking, thinking or worrying, worrying.

And where this can be particularly helpful is when we’re labeling what’s going on in our minds. Because so often when we focus on the content of a thought rather than just the fact that we’re having a thought, we start thinking about our thought, which leads to another thought, and another and another. And before we know it we’re stuck in our heads, dozens of thoughts away from what’s actually going on in the present moment. And once our thoughts get going they have a tendency to take over.

And this relates to one of the goals of mindfulness in dbt, which is to increase control of our minds and not allow our minds to control us, and when we allow our minds to control us they can set off all sorts of vicious cycles between our thoughts and emotions and body sensations that can lead us to start acting out of emotional mind.

Or when we allow our minds to control us we can be pulled into downward spirals, leaving us feeling sad and overwhelmed and maybe even depressed, and again, acting out of emotional mind. But when we’re able to observe and describe what we’re experiencing and take a step back from our thoughts, feelings and emotions, body sensations, and behavior, we make it much more likely that we stay in control of our minds. And we can assess things and make choices based on what’s best for the situation and proceed more effectively, rather than acting out of emotional mind or on automatic pilot.

Now what’s so special about the present moment. Well first of all we can’t observe or describe our experiences if our minds aren’t situated in the present. But on top of that being in the present moment helps us achieve the first goal of mindfulness in dbt, which is to reduce suffering and increase happiness.

Research shows that we tend to be happier when our minds are focused on and we’re paying attention to whatever we’re doing in the present moment, than we are when we allow our minds to wander off somewhere else. And a big part of that is because our experiences are more enjoyable and more meaningful when we’re fully paying attention to whatever we’re doing. But there are also negative effects when we allow our minds to wander away from the present.

If our minds wander to something pleasant such as fond memories or daydreams or plans that are coming up that we’re excited, about we’re only very slightly less happy than we are when we keep our minds focused in the present moment. But when our minds wander to something neutral, like just jumping around from thought to thought or daydreaming about nothing in particular, we’re definitely less happy. And when our minds wander to something unpleasant, we’re significantly less happy and we start to cause ourselves to suffer.

So for example if our minds wander to unpleasant topics from the past such as bad memories, regrets and disappointments, self-criticisms about things we have and haven’t done and the way things have worked out, we end up feeling sad, we hurt our self-confidence and self-esteem, and can pull ourselves into a downward spiral that leaves us feeling depressed.

And if our minds wander into the future and we start worrying about all the what-ifs and the bad things that can happen, we leave ourselves feeling anxious.

And if our minds wander to thinking about all the work we have and everything we need to get done, we end up feeling stressed.

And if our minds wander away from the present and onto something mean someone said to us or some wrong that’s been done to us or something unfair that’s happened, and we start dwelling on this, we start feeling angry.

So when we’re able to keep ourselves and our minds focused in the present moment we experience more happiness, and we avoid the suffering that tends to come along when we allow ourselves to get stuck in the past or spend too much time focusing on the future.

Now participating involves committing ourselves completely into the present moment. It’s the opposite of automatic pilot. We engage with what we’re experiencing in the present moment and nothing else. And participating is related to a concept from positive psychology called flow. A flow state is the mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, with full involvement and enjoyment in the process of the activity. So these are the what mindfulness skills in dbt.

The hows of mindfulness are observing describing and participating in our experiences in the present moment: non-judgmentally, one mindfully, and effectively. So when we’re being mindful we’re paying attention to our experiences in the present moment non-judgmentally and as they are. We’re not judging or evaluating our experiences as being good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, desirable or undesirable. We’re simply noticing and paying attention to these experiences as they’re happening, and accepting them and allowing them to be however they are.

And we’re doing this one mindfully. We’re completely present in the moment. We’re just doing one thing at a time, and focusing all of our attention on that one thing. If we’re eating we’re paying attention to how the food tastes, the aroma, the texture of what it feels like to chew. We’re not watching TV and eating on automatic pilot. We’re not even thinking about the food. We’re experiencing the act of eating directly without judging it through our thoughts.

And if we’re talking to someone we’re listening to them and doing nothing else. We’re not daydreaming. We’re not thinking about what we’re gonna have for dinner. We’re not even thinking about what we’re gonna say next. We keep ourselves completely in the present moment. Our minds completely focused on what they’re saying and nothing else.

The last how of mindfulness is effectively. We’re mindful of our goals in the situation, and we do what’s necessary to achieve them. We focus on what works and don’t allow emotion mind to get in the way of us being effective. We do what’s needed for the situation that we find ourselves in. And this how of effectively ties back into what we were talking about earlier with respect to observing and describing, and that when we observe and describe what’s going on in the present moment, we give ourselves the opportunity to act more effectively, rather than acting out of emotional mind, or just going through the motions on automatic pilot, or falling into our habitual behaviors that often aren’t very effective and causes more harm than good.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them on the YouTube video page.

Wise Mind, Emotion Mind and Reasonable Mind in DBT

In Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) there are three states of mind we can operate out of:

  • Emotion Mind (or Emotional Mind): In emotion mind, our emotions are in the driver’s seat. We act based on what our emotions are telling us to do, and our thoughts are driven by our emotional states.

  • Reasonable Mind: In reasonable mind, reason and logic are in control. We act and think rationally and logically, without the influence of our emotions.

  • Wise Mind: Wise mind is the synthesis of emotion mind and reasonable mind. It’s where these other two states of mind intersect. When we’re in wise mind, we’re in touch with our emotions and how we’re feeling, but we don’t let our feelings and emotions control us. We act and think rationally and logically, while also taking our feelings and emotions into account.

Wise mind is an important skill in DBT because it help us access our inner wisdom and intuition. We often check in with our wise minds when using other DBT skills.

DBT Skills: Wise Mind, Emotional Mind & Reasonable Mind

This transcription was auto-generated by YouTube. I’ve only added minimal editing, so I apologize for any errors, run-on sentences, etc.

In dialectical behavior therapy wise mind is one of three states of mind we can operate out of. Through wise mind we can access our inner wisdom and intuition and get in touch with our gut feelings. In order to understand what wise mind entails it’s helpful to first look at the other two states of mind: reasonable mind and emotional mind, also known as simply emotion mind.

Reasonable mind is the state of mind we generally associate with thinking. It’s cool, rational and task focused. When we’re in reasonable mind we’re governed by facts, reason, logic and pragmatics values, and feelings aren’t important. We’re like Spock on star trek. Cool calm collected and logical.

Emotional mind or emotion mind is the opposite of reasonable mind. Emotional mind isn’t necessarily unreasonable, but it’s not reasonable in the sense that it doesn’t rely on reason. It’s not concerned with facts or logic. Emotional mind is hot, mood dependent and emotion focused. When we’re in emotional mind we’re governed by our moods, feelings, and urges to do or say things. Facts reason and logic aren’t important.

Reasonable mind is important in many aspects of our lives. And depending on what we’re engaged in sometimes reasonable mind is all we need at the time. But other times, because it is strictly logical and rational, the lack of consideration for our emotions and how we feel when we’re operating out of reasonable mind limits its effectiveness for making certain types of plans and decisions, and solving problems that have some emotional component to them and need to take in the bigger picture.

Now emotional mind allows us to be in touch with our feelings and emotions. But it can also lead us to act impulsively and make decisions based on whatever we think is going to make us feel better right now without regard for how these actions or decisions might affect us in the future. Actions taken while we’re an emotional mind aren’t strategic or goal oriented. It’s a crisis mode way of reacting. We’re trying to escape some distress that’s going on right now, and we’re not concerned with the longer term consequences or what happens next.

So while aspects of reasonable mind are necessary for dealing with rational and logical matters, decisions and plans, reasonable mind alone is often not sufficient because it fails to consider our feelings and emotions. Now emotional mind does take into account our feelings and emotions, but it does this at the expense of the rational logical and practical side of things.

Now wise mind is the synthesis of reasonable and emotional mind. It lies at the intersection of these other two states of mind. Wise mind is the wisdom within each of us. In wise mind we see the value of both reason and emotion. It’s where reason and emotion overlap. Now before we talk about wise mind in more detail let’s take a closer look at emotional mind and reasonable mind. And we’ll start with a couple of examples of operating out of emotional mind.

Let’s say you and your partner have an argument and you’re really upset and angry with maybe some sadness and anxiety about the state of your relationship mixed in. And you’re feeling so horrible you lash out at your partner, insulting them calling them names. Maybe even throwing something across the room or punching a wall and then slamming the door and announcing the relationship’s over as you storm out.

Now in this scenario you’re acting based on your emotions. Your urge to do something to stop feeling as bad as you do is so strong that it drives your action, overriding any voice of reason in your head. It’s all emotional mind and no reasonable mind.

Or maybe in the middle of a very stressful project at work you’ve reached your breaking point. You’re overwhelmed and you just can’t take it anymore. Maybe you fling your work across the room in frustration and despair. Or just get up and leave and go home, maybe firing off an email to your boss saying you need off the project. Or even walk into their office and announce that you quit. You’ll do anything you can to escape the overwhelming emotions you’re having as quickly as possible.

And then maybe you go have some drinks to help you forget about everything. Or crawl into bed ignore calls and texts and emails and barely get up for the next few days and hide from the world because you just can’t face things anymore. Again your emotions are dictating your actions and you’re operating strictly out of emotional mind. And this isn’t so unusual because when we’re feeling really strong emotions it can be hard to access reasonable mind at all or to even remember that something like reasonable mind exists.

Now if you were to approach these same problems from reasonable mind the results would be much different. In the first case you might decide to take a time out and step away from the argument with your partner until you’ve both had a chance to calm down. Instead of ending the relationship then and there maybe you’d make a pros and cons list to try to figure out if the relationship is still working for you. And maybe you’d find that even though there are some problems overall the relationship looks pretty good on paper.

And while this is a more reasonable approach there’s still something missing, because it doesn’t take into account the true extent of the emotions you’re feeling about the relationship. In reasonable mind things can often look good on paper despite the fact that they don’t make you happy. And maybe when you do your pros and cons list it looks like you should want to stay in the relationship. But you feel unloved unsupported and alone. Or you feel like you love the other person, you’re just not in love with them. But these feelings don’t get factored in from just reasonable mind alone.

Or in the example from work, a reasonable mind might tell you you can’t walk away from your job until you’ve got another one lined up. And for now you just need to force yourself to get through it survive the next few weeks and hope things start to calm down and look better after that. And in the meantime you can update your resume and maybe start looking for another job. And while that makes sense and is a reasonable thing to do, you can’t always just bear down grit your teeth and grind your way through something. More than half the total number of lost working days are due to stress anxiety and depression. And so sometimes you can’t ignore your feelings and just force yourself to do your job because that’s the reasonable thing to do.

So operating solely out of either reasonable mind or emotional mind doesn’t give us the whole picture. Instead we need to look at the intersection between reasonable mind and emotional mind and how the two of them overlap. And so that’s the first aspect of wise mind. Wise mind takes into account both reasonable mind and emotion mind.

So looking at both what reasonable mind and emotional mind are telling us is a good place to start. But it’s not sufficient. And this is why we need wise mind. The essence of wise mind is that it taps into our intuition and inner wisdom. It does more than just take into account the reasonable and emotional side of things. It involves our gut feelings, and that’s something we just can’t get through analysis. It doesn’t translate onto paper. And that’s what’s missing when we try to figure something out but just can’t find an answer that feels right.

So how do we get in touch with this intuitive, inner wisdom aspect of wise mind? Wise mind is considered a mindfulness skill. So wise mind involves approaching situations mindfully. Now when we’re being mindful we’re aware of our thoughts, and we’re aware of our feelings. But we’re able to step back from them and maintain some distance and perspective and just observe them rather than getting caught up in them. And when we do this our thoughts and emotions start to calm. Our minds become more quiet. And as a result space opens up in our awareness. And in this space our intuition and inner wisdom or gut feelings can start to emerge.

But it’s not an immediate or automatic process. You can’t just quiet your mind calm your emotions and expect an epiphany to arrive. You can’t just flick a switch and have a light bulb go off in your head that illuminates your inner wisdom. If you’re not used to practicing mindfulness you’ll probably struggle to even quiet your mind at first. And if you’d like some tips on how to practice mindfulness meditation check out the video i link to in the description.

But it’s important to realize that insight and inner wisdom arise in their own time, and all we can do is make space for the process to unfold by creating the right conditions by quieting our mind and calming our emotions which allows us to hear our inner wisdom when it tries to speak to us.

So one way we can try to access wise mind is to open ourselves up to both the reasonable and emotional mind side of the equation. And then bringing a question to mind and asking ourselves what feels right? What feels true to myself? Or test out a decision by asking yourself does this feel right? Does this feel true to myself?

But you can’t force yourself to have a moment of clarity or intuition. You can’t control when wise mind speaks to you. You can only invite it in and then make sure you’re listening. So let’s look at some additional ways using mindfulness to encourage wise mind to speak to us.

We can start with a simple mindfulness of breath exercise, just bringing your attention to your breath and following the physical sensations of your breathing in your abdomen as it expands and contracts on each breath in and each breath out. And then once your thoughts and emotions have started to quiet down and your attention is focused on your breath and your abdomen, seeing if you can allow your mind to settle into your gut into the space just behind your navel, just allowing your mind to rest here. And opening yourself up to wise mind and seeing if any intuition or inner wisdom begins to emerge.

And now here are a few wise mind exercises by Marsha Linehan who developed dbt:

Asking wise mind a question: breathing in silently ask wise mind a question breathing. Out listen for the answer. Listen but don’t give yourself the answer. Do not tell yourself the answer. And just listen for it .continue asking on each in-breath for some time and if no answer comes just try again another time.

Asking is this wise mind: breathing in asking yourself is this wise mind. Breathing out listening for the answer listen but don’t give yourself the answer. Do not tell yourself the answer. Listen for it. Continue asking on each in-breath for some time. And if no answer comes try again another time.

Dropping into the pauses between inhaling and exhaling breathing in notice the pause after inhaling breathing out. Notice the pause after exhaling. And after each pause let yourself fall into the center space within the pause. And in this space between the breaths see if any wise mind intuition starts to arise.

So try not to be discouraged if you have trouble accessing wise mind. Wise mind skills are not automatic. They take practice/ so try some of these exercises when you’re not in the need of the skill so that when you do need it you’ll already have some experience using it. But there’s no magic trick or guaranteed way to invoke wise mind. All you can do is open yourself up to it and listen.

But the more you practice these wise mind skills, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to tap into wise mind and get in touch with your inner wisdom and intuition. And i know this can be a hard concept to grasp, so please let me know if you have any questions in the comments.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them on the YouTube video page.

DBT Distress Tolerance: Mindfulness and Radical Acceptance

Radical acceptance is a DBT distress tolerance skill that relies on mindfulness to help us accept the reality of situations and experiences we can’t change. And when we’re able to accept reality, although we still may feel some pain, we reduce our suffering.

Mindfulness and Radical Acceptance in DBT

This transcription was auto-generated by YouTube. I’ve only added minimal editing, so I apologize for any errors, run-on sentences, etc.

When we talk about acceptance in the context of mindfulness, what we mean is a need to accept those things that are outside of our control, the way that they are in the present moment. This includes external things outside of our control: things going on in the world around us; past events and things that have already happened; other people’s actions and behavior. We also need to accept our internal experiences: feelings and emotions, spontaneous thoughts and memories that arise, and certain types of pain and body sensations.

The reason we need to accept these things is because they’re outside of our control. And so there’s nothing we can do to change them. So we have two choices: accept them the way that they are; or to struggle with them and resist them, or get angry or frustrated or annoyed by them, and fight against them in a battle we have no chance of winning and end up making things even harder on ourselves. And so acceptance is a way of limiting the negative impact or effect of any unpleasant experiences we have that are outside of our control.

In an earlier video we looked at the parable of the two arrows and how the way we react to our negative experiences often ends up making things worse:

When touched with a feeling of pain the untrained person sorrows grieves and laments beats their breasts and becomes distraught. And so they feel two pains. Just as if they were to shoot someone with an arrow and then right afterwards were to shoot them with a second arrow so that they would feel the pain of two arrows. The first arrow causes us pain, and the second arrow causes us to suffer.

Now that first arrow isn’t something we can avoid. If we can accept the fact that we’ve been struck by that first arrow, our acceptance acts as a shield that protects us from being hit by that second arrow. And so our acceptance inoculates us from the suffering that that second arrow can cause.

And it’s important to realize that acceptance is different than resignation. Resignation means giving up. You’re resigning yourself to the way things are without any hope that they’ll ever be different. You’ll tolerate them but you’re not happy about it, and you wish things didn’t have to be this way. People resign themselves to all sorts of things, being stuck in a job that they hate, or in an unfulfilling relationship. Some people even resign themselves to the fact that they could never be happy again.

But acceptance isn’t like this. Acceptance doesn’t mean giving up. It isn’t the loss of hope or resigning yourself to things. Acceptance is simply the willingness to see things the way that they actually are, whether we’re accepting our internal experiences of thoughts feelings and emotions and body sensations, or accepting our external experiences and the things going on around us. Acceptance is simply an acknowledgement of how things are in this particular moment in time. It says nothing about how things are destined to be in the future, only that this is how things are right now.

By accepting things that are outside of our control we limit the impact they have on us, as we experience them only as they are without making them any stronger or adding any additional layers as we would if we refuse to accept them and tried to fight with them instead. And so once we learn to accept our experience in the present moment, whatever it is, even if it’s something we don’t like or that we wished we didn’t have to accept, our acceptance of what we can’t change, at least not in this moment, tends to make even our unpleasant experiences more manageable, more tolerable and can often lead them to subside. Now acceptance, especially of things that are unpleasant can be difficult and so in the next video we’ll learn how to practice acceptance by allowing and letting be.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them on the YouTube video page.