DBT Skills: Emotion Regulation

emotionsEmotion regulation is a core dialectical behavior therapy (BDT) skill. In some earlier posts about emotion regulation we learned that the ways in which we often try to deal with emotions—such as trying to problem solve, control, or avoid them—tend to be counterproductive. We also looked at a number of more helpful ways we can deal with our emotions such as validation and acceptance. The video below puts this altogether and explains the DBT skill of emotion regulation. Please also check out my posts on Distress Tolerance, and Wise Mind and Emotional Mind.

DBT Skills: Emotion Regulation and Acceptance

 
 

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Why We Worry and How To Worry Less

worryWhy is it that when we’re feeling anxious, we tend to worry so much, even though worrying tends to do nothing except make us feel even more anxious? One reason is that it’s easy to regard worrying as something that can be productive: that it either helps us deal with anxiety, or protects us from the thing we’re feeling anxious about. If worrying actually did have these effects, it would be quite beneficial. But unfortunately, worrying usually only increases anxiety. So why do we continue to do it time and time again?

Worrying tends to feel a lot like problem solving. When we problem solve, we identify a problem, come up with some possible solutions, weigh their pros and cons, and then take some sort of action to resolve the problem. Problem solving is a very constructive, rational thought process to help us deal effectively with a problem at hand.

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Cognitive Therapy and Challenging Negative Thoughts

 

When we’re feeling distressed about something or going through a difficult emotional experience it can feel like our thoughts are running out of control. Our minds start racing and we find ourselves dwelling in the past, worrying about the future, or just spinning our wheels trying to think ourelves out of our problems.

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5 Steps to Handle Conflict in Your Relationship

Handling conflict in a relationship is challenging for many couples. It can be difficult to find ways to talk about disagreements or complaints that don’t devolve into arguments that don’t resolve anything, leave you both feeling worse, and potentially lead to more fights down the road.

Marriage expert John Gottman describes five steps to deal with conflicts without letting them turn into fights .

Step 1. Soften Your Startup: We looked at some tips to soften your startup in an earlier post. “Startup” refers to how you initiate a discussion with your partner about a complaint you have or an issues of conflict in your relationship. Regarding startups, Gottman says:

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You Can’t Control Your Emotions

emotionsIn a previous post we looked at what happens when we try to problem solve our emotions. It tends not to be very effective. So when problem solving our emotions fails, we often try to force ourselves to feel a certain way. We fight our emotions and try to control them to make ourselves feel the way we want to feel.

But fighting our emotions only makes them stronger. Next time you’re feeling anxious, try to force yourself to calm down and tell yourself you shouldn’t be so scared and see if that helps. It will likely just lead you to feel more anxious, and experience additional unpleasant emotions such as anger and frustration as well.

Next time you feel sad, tell yourself you are being stupid, that you need to cheer up, that you should be happy, don’t be so weak. Again, trying to control your emotions will only make them stronger.

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Breaking the Vicious Cycle of Anxiety

upward spiralIn a previous post, we looked at the vicious cycle of anxiety, in which an anxiety-provoking events triggers an anxiety-related thought, feeling, behaviour or physiological symptom, which generates additional anxious thoughts, feelings, behaviours and physiological symptoms.
 
One of the keys to overcoming anxiety is break this cycle before it begins to gain momentum. We often don’t have control of our initial response to an anxiety-provoking situation, but once we become aware that something has triggered an anxiety-related thought, feeling, behaviour or physiological symptom, then we can choose how we react. Mindfulness, and congitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or cognitive therapy, are effective ways to help you stop these cycles before they can build.

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The Vicious Cycle of Anxiety

downward spiralAccording to the cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) approach to anxiety, one of the reasons that overcoming anxiety can be so difficult is that anxiety generates vicious cycles involving your physiological, cognitive, behavioural, and emotional domains. We looked at these four components of anxiety in a previous post. Now we’ll look at how they act together to form vicious cycles that create and maintain anxiety.
 
In the cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) model of anxiety, the vicious cycle begins with an anxiety-provoking situation. This situation can be something external such as a work commitment, a trip, a social engagement, or any other event happening in the future that you’re worried about. Anxiety can also be provoked by something internal such as a physiological sensation, a thought about something you’re dreading, or an unpleasant emotion.

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Cognitive Fusion and Defusion in Acceptance & Commitment Therapy

 

In a previous post we looked at some ways to practice letting go of thoughts, but it can often be difficult to let of thoughts because they have such a powerful pull, especially when the thoughts are related to a strong emotion. In my post, What is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy?, we learned why acceptance is so important in ACT. Cognitive defusion is a way of accepting our thoughts, allowing them to pass into and out of our minds, without getting stuck in our heads.

Steven Hayes, who developed Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), coined the term “cognitive fusion” to describe times when we are so tightly stuck to our thoughts, we become “fused” to them. When we’re experiencing cognitive fusion, we can’t separate ourselves from our thoughts. Our thoughts become our reality. We feel removed from the world outside of our thoughts, removed from our senses, from what we’re doing, and even from the people around us.

The opposite of “cognitive fusion” is “cognitive defusion.” Cognitive defusion involves taking a step back from what’s going on in our minds, and detaching a little from our thoughts. In this state of defusion, we can observe our thoughts and other internal processes without getting lost in them, stuck in them or fused with them. We can simply notice our thoughts, watch them, accept them and let them go if we choose to.

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Watching Thoughts and Letting Them Go

 

In a recent post we looked at how mindfulness can help us let go of our thoughts when we get caught up in ruminating or worrying or just thinking in circles. Letting go of thoughts is never easy, however, and in this post we’ll look at how simply watching our thoughts can help us let them go.

Thoughts pop into our heads all the time, and usually we don’t pay any special attention to them: they enter and leave our minds all on their own, just like a car that drives into our line of sight, remains in our field of vision for a few moments, and then drives along and passes out of our line of sight again.

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