DBT stands for Dialectical Behavior Therapy and its mainly used to treat Borderline Personality Disorder. I honestly don’t have a complete understanding of the therapy and its relation to BPD but I’m learning more as I go to each therapy session. My therapy is split into parts; Distress Tolerance, Emotional regulation and interpersonal skills. I did distress tolerance in group therapy (which I believed I made a couple of posts about somewhere lol) but I didn’t find group therapy to be helpful so I went on a waiting list for individual therapy instead. After a few months of waiting I was at the top of the list and able to start the therapy in the new year. So far I have had 3 DBT sessions once a week and here’s my experience of the first two which were focused on Emotional Regulation.
In my first session of DBT, my therapist introduced Mindfulness to me. Well I already had an awareness of mindfulness, even practised while at work but in the new year I stopped. One of the good habits I probably should have made a new years resolution to do everyday but even out of work I still couldn’t (or wouldn’t!) Find the time to be mindful.
In the waiting room I was reading the first chapter of STRONGER THAN BPD and the author talks about the essentialness of mindfulness in DBT and emotional regulation. My therapist and I spoke about my feelings of unhealthy guilt, anger/resentment and even panic, how mindfulness can help me hit that pause button before I act on those feelings and when I have a memory of something bad or imagine a devastating future scenario I can use mindfulness to bring me back to the present and remember that those things are not happening right now.
We also discussed WISE mind which balances out the emotional and reasonable parts of the brain. She gave me an example; if you were to buy a house and buy it simply because you loved it, you would be acting from emotional mind or if you bought it because it meets your needs but you don’t have good feelings about it you would be acting solely with reasonable mind. Balancing out emotion with reason is acting from the wise mind which everybody has and it could be considered intuition which you can become more attuned to through mindfulness/meditation.
Other systems like this I have come across are Parent, Adult, Child and Id, ego, superego. All of them have roughly the same premise.
Soon after my session I had to start putting wise mind to the test as after it I was hungry and recently comfort eating has been a thing for me so I wanted food from a little café I like and they had loads of sweet treats that I wanted, causing feelings of delight and excitement but reason told me that a lot of these foods would probably increase my stomach problems.
After a lot of thinking I went for a dairy free banana and coconut muffin, a plain croissant and a smoothie which was much healthier than the alternative I felt like getting which was a choc chip muffin (and various others) and hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows; while I did really want those things I knew it would cause more IBS symptoms for me and make me put on more weight than I have already both of which would make me even more emotionally upset but the option I went for was just as good taste wise, for my bank account and my body.
My second session, we continued the mindfulness work. This time looking at the concept of Observe, Describe, Participate. The three steps of mindfulness. Observe being you just letting yourself notice the things around you or the sensations you feel without labelling them or judging them. Describe is where you put names and labels to what you are seeing or experiencing while keeping an open mind and Participate is where you get involved in what’s going on effectively and being fully present.
For me mindfulness, especially with breathing techniques, has been hard, I feel forced to do it which leads to me getting frustrated and impatient with the process. I tried doing some mindfulness to overcome emotional distress recently but it didn’t go too well, I ended up thinking it was stupid and I couldn’t get through even 5minutes of meditation. I’m thinking of looking into more movement based mindfulness instead of formal sit down types. It might be easier for me and my hyperactive self.
I suggest to you and to myself to start practicing mindfulness when you’re feeling decently calm already, it may seem pointless as you need it more for emotional distress but I’ve found those times hard to do mindfulness. So I think it’s best to practice when you don’t need it at first so you can build up and practice the skills easier until it becomes pretty much your first response to stress or it may make you less easily stressed but I’ll have to keep practicing to really feel the benefits.
Thanks for reading this post, sorry it was so long but hope its helped you somehow 🙂