Distraction vs. Avoidance

For those of us who deal with intense emotions, whether due to Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), BPD traits, or other reasons, we know how important it is to take a mindful, skillful break from our suffering through the use of conscious distraction.

I call it conscious distraction, because in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), we use Distraction as a Distress Tolerance skill -- not to avoid, suppress, or deny that we are having an intense emotional experience, but as a way to temporarily handle the time during which we have no control over whatever is causing our distress. 

For example, let's say you have to undergo a number of medical tests. During those days of waiting, there is nothing you can do to speed up the results.  You don't want to be suffering in high emotional pain for three days, especially when it won't make any positive difference in terms of your waiting. That's where these skills come in.

We might do things like engage in a hobby or something we like to do (as you can see, I set myself up to play with nail polishes and to create a collage/vision board).  We might watch a TV program, surf the net, call a friend, or go for a walk.

If you're like me though, I need to watch it, because something like watching TV or going online can quickly turn into "how did eight hours just pass by?", and then I'm left stressed with the fact that I have chores around the house and other things undone. I then need to hustle to get them done, which causes stress.

The main thing about using Distraction as a distress tolerance tool is to use it skillfully and mindfully.  We must strike a balance. One way to do this is to set a timer.  I use the Google Timer to remind me once 20, 30,  60 or any amount of minutes are up to keep me on track. The trick is, like an alarm clock, to not keep hitting reset/snooze :-D .

Just type "timer" or "google timer" into Google,
and the timer widget works directly from your browser.

What types of skillful distraction do you engage in?  Do you find your distraction sometimes turns into avoidance? What can you do to proactively prevent this or to cope effectively if you notice it happening?

Thanks for reading.

More soon.

In kindness,


  1. Guilty! I often use Distraction and it can easily turn into avoidance. I like to check out my blog, Facebook and so on. Before I know it, lots of time has gone by and I have things to do which haven't gotten done. I'm gonna use a timer and work on it like you did. What an excellent idea! Thanks for sharing it, Debbie!

    1. You're very welcome, Joyce. Thanks for commenting! ♥



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