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This week’s DBT continued with the distress tolerance module. We started off by reviewing last week’s homework, which was practicing distraction techniques. I mentioned a lousy haircut experience and the group leader pointed out that graduation ceremonies are also sort of distressing, so I had used some distraction skills with that too. Good enough.

DBT doodling: keeping my hands busy is an ADD management strategy to help me avoid speaking out of turn and being disruptive.

Then we moved on to the next skill set: self-soothing. This is using your five senses to make yourself feel better. It’s framed as taking care of yourself, but my first question was, “where is the line between self-soothing and self indulgence?” The answer is that most of us know it when we see it. It’s when that short break turns into a full afternoon of getting nothing done and suddenly you’re more distressed than when you started because you got nothing done. I can certainly identify with that situation, and in fact, that’s one of the reasons I generally don’t use these skills. I have a hard time walking that line. I do pretty much everything to an extreme. That’s one of the reasons I’m in therapy, after all.

So we discussed things that we like seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching. Easy enough. Actually practicing using those skills when they are needed is something else entirely. It’s hard for me to take a break and do something to make myself feel better without feeling guilty about it instead. It’s hard for me to take a break and do something other than work without getting carried away with it. I have to work so hard to keep myself on track that deliberately distracting myself seems like the most absurd notion ever.

After that, we went over skills for improving the moment; the acronym “IMPROVE” stands for imagery, meaning, prayer, relaxation, one thing in the moment, vacation, and encouragement. Most of these I find hokey or flat-out stupid. I crossed prayer off my handout because that simply isn’t part of my life (and I don’t want to hear any judging about that, thankyouverymuch.) Going to a “happy place” with positive imagery isn’t something I’ve ever been keen on (delusions, anyone?) and finding meaning in shitty situations is really kinda horrible. Relaxation and doing one thing in the moment are good techniques, not that I’m good at doing them. Vacation is another one that never occurs to me; time is a-wasting if I’m not working. And encouragement, well, don’t get me started. I understand that affirmations actually do work, but I freaking hate them.

I figure that anything that I resist so immediately and so strongly is probably something I actually need to work on. I’ll try to cooperate as best I can. It’s just really hard to have these super-basic and semi-obvious things presented as skills, find that I violently dislike them, and realize that I’m probably reacting this way because I don’t actually have these skills.