After completing DBT training (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) for the 3rd time, I’m always surprised by the new pieces I find that stick in my thoughts, that I didn’t notice before. There are so many valuable concepts and skills found in DBT - and while the specific therapy may not be for everyone, and isn’t evidence based to treat all mental health issues - I think that the skills stand on their own.
In this past training course what really spoke to me was this thought: all is as it should be. A challenge to allow into my thoughts, for sure. But going through this training in a new frame of mind - looking at things from a supervisory place at work, and while going through a pretty challenging year in my own personal life - it really made me stop and allow this thought to be present; all is as it should be. It really made me wonder - what I wasn’t allowing. What I was pushing away.
Often when we’re uncomfortable, when we experience an emotion that sucks, that makes us feel crappy, sad, depressed - we immediately seek a remedy to fix and change. I find this to be true throughout my life, even outside of what would be considered “unpleasant emotions”. For example in the gym - when things get hard my mind immediate switches to - I can’t, it’s hard, I need to stop, making it harder to push on, and easier to stop what makes me uncomfortable. The same is true of feeling anxious, feeling emotionally hurt, feeling lonely - I know I seek to stop these feelings, to change them as soon as possible. I turn to meditation or yoga (and medication) to help reduce my anxiousness, I look to food or cutting people out of my life to attempt to alleviate emotional hurt, I turn to activities, work and relationships with others to soothe loneliness. I’m not saying this is a bad thing - and it certainly is normal (for the most part) to seek comfort in times of despair. In this, however, we skip to the solution - we miss what the discomfort is telling us. And the solution often ends up being a solution - for now, not in the long term. We miss the message these feelings are trying to deliver. My anxiousness is often attempting to get me to slow down. Emotional hurt tends to attempt to communicate my need to pay closer attention to my own needs and personal boundaries with others. Loneliness? Perhaps that I am missing a connection, a bond - with myself? With someone else? hmm.
All is as it should be. What I took from going through this learning process again is to allow myself to be uncomfortable and to wonder about what these feelings are trying to tell me. To resist the strong urge to immediately push them away, and accept that they’re there - and see what there is to learn from them. Knowing that this is a c h a l l e n g e for myself, I thought maybe a few short steps may help
Start with something small that you notice - When you’re hungry, really hungry, you reach for the nearest thing - maybe even an unhealthy choice. What would stopping in the moment and thinking about what your body needs change? What if you ate something small, would that help you in the moment and allow you to think more clearly and rationally about what you need long term? Starting small will help you practice this skill while you’re not under extreme duress
Be kind to yourself - even NOTICING that you’re feeling uncomfortable and seeking a solution right away is practicing this skill. You’re noticing something you didn’t before. You’re practicing putting space between feeling and action
Keep track - write it down. There is power and knowledge in patterns. Noticing a pattern in your own behavior can be incredibly helpful. Whenever I feel X, I tend to react with doing Y.
What’s an uncomfortable feeling for you to experience? What could this feeling be trying to tell you?