DBT: Dialectical Behavioral Therapy

I have been promising to share with you some thoughts on DBT – dialectical behavioral therapy. I have been attending weekly sessions on this amazing practice for a few months now. DBT focuses on mindfulness as a daily practice and also presents different “modules” that focus on such topics as interpersonal communication, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, among others.

The concept of a dialectic is important to understand before I continue. It means, in simple terms, to keep two things that may seem to oppose each other in tandem – in balance. For example, being simultaneously angry but level-headed. DBT is a life-coaching therapy. It helps you understand how to exist in your ‘wise mind’ (your healthiest most present mind state) instead of your emotion mind (out of control and operates based off of feelings) or logic mind(calculated and rational). Wise mind is a balanced state between the two (hence the dialectic).

As functioning adults in this society, we should all strive to be as present as we are able to, for as long as we are able to, in our wise minds. Wise mind is a combination of emotional mind and logical mind. It maintains that the combination of the two helps to ground us in ourselves and be the best communicators, participants, and versions of ourselves possible.

What I have noticed since I began my DBT therapy is a more patient and peaceful outlook on my life and more importantly, within myself. I am able to notice my negative thoughts when they appear. I have even created a mantra that makes sense to me – “is this a helpful thought?”; if the answer is no, I shut the door on it. Also helpful, “is this a true thought?”; again, if the answer is no, shut the damn door. I have suffered from ruminating, often unhealthy thoughts for years. You know those thoughts; the ones that cycle around and around and don’t seem to stop no matter how you try to distract yourself. They are exhausting! I have tried medication to help with these OCD-like thinking patterns. What I have come to realize is instead, is that my mind is out of practice. If I think of my brain as a muscle that has grown lazy and squishy, it makes perfect sense why I need to practice daily mindfulness. I need to strengthen my squishy brain.

Radical acceptance is another important concept in DBT. Radical acceptance means to accept what is ‘real’ completely. Reality vs. fighting reality. You absolutely cannot work through your pain without true and radical acceptance of the reality of your situation.

For the past few weeks, as I have been working through my divorce and my emotions surrounding it, I have come to realize that I have been in major denial. I have been torturing myself with an alternate reality, one that involves my husband coming home to me and to our children. I have been ignoring what is so painfully obvious to everyone around me, the reality that my marriage is over.

He is not coming home and he will never come home.

If you read through my posts, I go back and forth with this reality – back and forth with acceptance of the situation as it is and then right back to blatant rejection and false hope. My fantasy serves no purpose other than to stop me from moving forward and living my life for me. Sure, sometimes reality is excruciatingly painful. Sometimes a fantasy makes way more sense because it doesn’t hurt as much. But life can be worth living even with painful events in it. Radical acceptance is accepting in your mind, in your heart, and in your body, the reality of the situation. Radical acceptance happens when you stop fighting reality, you stop throwing fits, and you let go of your bitterness.

I will be the first to admit that this feels impossible to do on some days. Bitterness and anger toward my crap-reality feel good. It is a much easier path than the one toward acceptance. You cannot expect to avoid pain. Pain is there to signal something is wrong. It serves a purpose. When I rejected my pain this summer – when I was pretending that everything in my life and in my marriage was okay, I was causing myself intense suffering.

Until reality slapped me in the face and I could not pretend for one more second.

My most bitter pill to swallow right now is the fact that as we separate and go our different ways, I have no one. No one to wrap my arms around at the end of the day. No one to hold me when I fall apart. He does. He left this marriage and had an instant relationship already there to offer him support, love, affection, tenderness, and physical intimacy.

And now, brace yourselves. Here comes the denial and the bitterness and the fit:

I think this is unfair. And I feel embarrassed by this thought.

I want him to feel alone too. I want him to hurt too. This is my inability to face what is real. The reality is that he has a girlfriend and deserves to be happy and I need to be alone right now. I have so much self work to do and having a relationship with anyone would be an epic disaster.

Radical acceptance of my situation looks like this:

I am getting a divorce. My husband does not want me. My family will never be intact again. My children will absolutely be okay. I will absolutely be okay. Life is hard right now and might get harder for a time. I will find a job. I will not be alone for the rest of my life. I will find peace again; within myself and my life.

I don’t want to suffer anymore.

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