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I was genuinely disappointed to miss out on DBT last week while I was in Portland. We’ve finally started the emotion regulation module, and that’s really what I’ve been sticking it out for. Philosophically, I’m not sure how much control I really do have over my emotions, but it seems well worth a try.

emo by alamosbasement, CC BY

At the last DBT session I attended, we went over some mindfulness stuff to wrap up that interlude, and then started with the Emotion Regulation module goals:

  1. Understand emotions you experience: identify emotion, understand what emotions do for you
  2. Reduce emotional vulnerability: decrease negative vulnerability, increase positive emotions
  3. Decrease emotional suffering: let go of painful emotions through mindfulness, change painful emotions through opposite action

So far, so good. That all seems worth spending some time on. We moved on to a handout entitled “Myths about Emotions.” Much like at least one exercise in the Interpersonal Effectiveness module, it was a page full of “wrong” statements about emotions and spaces to write in fact-based challenges to those statements. So for example, the statement, “Letting others know that I am feeling bad is a weakness” is challenged by the statement, “Letting others know how I feel can be a strength.”

A few of my challenges to the provided statements:

  • Negative feelings are bad and destructive :: Negative emotions have multiple causes and outcomes
  • Being emotional means being out of control :: I can have emotional responses that are “controlled”
  • Emotions can just happen for no reason :: Emotions are usually triggered by something external
  • Some emotions are really stupid :: Sometimes displaying emotion makes me feel stupid
  • If others don’t approve of my feelings, I obviously shouldn’t feel the way I do :: I don’t need others to approve of my feelings
  • Other people are the best judge of how I am feeling :: I know my own feelings, but others can help me evaluate them
  • Painful emotions are not really important and should be ignored :: Painful emotions require attention to resolve

We were invited to think of more myths about emotions, but I couldn’t think of any. Typical problem of not knowing what it is that my brain has got backwards, I guess. I was a bit snarky with this exercise back when it was for interpersonal effectiveness because the answers were so obvious and I couldn’t relate to the statements. It’s a bit different with emotion regulation because I do identify with some of the statements, even if the challenges to them are obvious even to me.

I also found a DBT workbook for bipolar while browsing in Powell’s in Portland, but I spent enough money there not to feel guilty about ordering this particular book online. I figure it might be a better companion to the course for me than the traditional BPD-oriented workbook by Linehan, especially if I stick it out for a second round of DBT.

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