The first outpatient group I participated in was focused around DBT (Dialectal Behavior Therapy) and I can truly say that the skills I learned in that program, focusing on distress tolerance and emotional regulation, are truly helpful to this day when I am faced with a difficult situation. Overall, my behavior, both in an out of active addiction, has been impulsive and highly influenced by immediate emotional reactions. The intensity of the feelings I experience sometimes outweigh any logical or reasonable approach to any given situation. The DBT skills I know and practice help me find a balance between reacting solely out of anger, fear, passion, or pain at an unhealthy level and acting after I take a moment to breathe and view situations for what they are objectively.
DBT has an acronym for everything. While my teenage self rolled her eyes and scoffed at the tools to find a balance to attain level headedness and responsible decision making, the quick tips actually have gotten me through some immediate crisis situations over the past 5 years. DBT speaks about the “wise mind,” as a state of thinking in a healthy in between emotional and strictly logical thought. As humans, we are bound to have emotional reactions, whether we see someone else in pain, or see that same person celebrating an accomplishment. Letting those deeply rooted feelings oriented responses be the leading force in decision making can be just as harmful as detaching completely, so we strive for balance.
My favorite acronym of DBT when it comes to handling situations in which my emotional response is intense and powerful is “Wise Mind ACCEPTS.”
Activities, Contributing, Comparisons, Emotions, Push Away, Thoughts, and Sensation
I can engage in an activity, like reading a book or going for a walk. I can contribute to someone else’s life in a positive way by helping out and offering my services. I can compare my current state to a similar one I have been in and made it through to offer some perspective. I can recognize my emotions and become aware of things I can do to soothe their intensity. I can push away anything that is taking up space in my mind that is not serving me in that moment. I can stimulate my other senses in a soothing way to calm my body before I approach the stressful situation.
Practice and implementation of these tools takes time and patience. Using these tools and the other skills I have learned with DBT have alleviated so much weight from my daily life and has overall helped me become a more useful and productive person. The seemingly small tasks that used to overwhelm me and fill me with anxiety are more approachable, and my ability to tackle difficult situations that life throws at me unexpectedly gives me hope that I can live freely.