The true goal of DBT is to build a “Life worth living.” You begin by simply avoid “avoiding.” How many times have we avoided doing what we know needs to be done? Some people call it procrastinating, but for some of us, it is avoidance. We purposely avoid the things we don’t want to do but need to do. There are changes we might need to make in order to build the life we want.
To begin, we choose our values. I choose to be close to God. I value my relationship with Him so I make room for Him in my life. I want to be productive, so I make a schedule of things that need to be done at home such as organizing, cleaning, doing laundry. I want a good relationship with my family, so I plan time to focus on each of them like going out to eat and baking for them. I want to be part of a group doing good so I go to church and sign up at the local food pantry.
The idea is to pick just one thing to start in order to avoid “avoiding.” If you don’t know where to start, ask God to gently show you where to make changes in your life. Spend some time in mindful communion with Him. You may be avoiding working on your finances for instance. You need a budget, but you have been putting it off. You may need to do something even harder than that, like working on a broken relationship.
DBT has a list of values. Here are some examples:
• Attend to relationships by repairing old relationships or reaching out for new ones. Work on new ones or end destructive ones.
• Be part of a group. This could be to help you have a sense of belonging and having close and satisfying relationships with others.
• Achieve things in life by working through your goals and the steps needed to keep the goals part of your life.
• Live a life of pleasure and satisfaction. What’s important to you? Make it a part of your life. Enjoy your work and seek out events that make you happy.
• Be a spiritual person. Discern and do the will of God and find lasting meaning in your life.
• Be secure by living in safe surroundings and be physically healthy and fit.
• Have integrity by being honest and standing up for your beliefs. Pay your debts to others and repair damages you’ve caused.
• Contribute to the larger community by helping those in need and committing to a cause that shares your beliefs and values.
Once you’ve identified your values, select one thing, set some small goals to start working on it. You want this value to become a part of your life, but have been struggling, so it may not be easy to start. Choose a step that you can do right now and a couple more that you can do tomorrow and the next day, or next week.
Working to live by your values can be hard, but the results can be a meaningful life and build a sense of accomplishment. Plan to be successful at it. In order to do that your initial goals may be very small steps, but you can increase the difficulty over time. You don’t need to berate yourself when things don’t work out as you’ve planned but rather encourage yourself to adjust your goals as needed to reach your end result.
Meet difficult situations head on by thinking through them as a cope ahead strategy. What will be difficult about doing something? Write it down without judgement and name your emotions that you will feel. Determine which coping skills might work by writing down in detail how you will handle the situation, then imagine yourself in the situation and rehearse how you will cope with it.
I haven’t written about all of the coping skills in DBT, just the ones that have helped me so far. If you want to practice DBT, I suggest you join a group with a facilitator. There is so much to learn from other’s experiences. Choose a group that meets once a week, you don’t want to speed through this, you want to have time to work on the skills in between sessions.
The DBT manual is available online from many sources. Just type in DBT or Dialectic Behavior Therapy into the search bar of your favorite book seller.