Opposite Action: DBT Skill

I did NOT feel like writing tonight, which is exactly why I decided to do so anyway. Today I had DBT Group after work. DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) is the leading treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder.

Every week, we meet together in a group led by a psychotherapist who guides us on a brief mindfulness meditation, followed by a brief check-in about how we are doing. We also check in about any self-harm behaviors we might have engaged in and if anyone is feeling unsafe (or having suicidal thoughts).  Next we usually watch a video from Dr. Marsha Linehan, the founder of DBT.  We then go over some worksheets as the doctor teaches us a new skill. It will be our homework to practice the skill throughout the week and report back as to how it went.

Today, we talked about Opposite Action.  I took some notes so that I could fill you in…

This is pretty much verbatim of the video (I jot down notes very quickly.) No copyright infringement intended. Just trying to share this work with those in need.

1.) Every emotion has an action. (It makes you want to do something.)
2.) Change the emotion by changing your actions. (Actions change emotions.)

3.) It doesn’t alwys work. (Opposite Action will work whenever the emotion is NOT justified by the situation.)


1.) Every emotion has an action. Here are the examples that were given on the video and by our doctor in group of typical (re)actions to common emotions:

Afraid –> Run, avoid
Angry –> Attack (physically, verbally, psychologically)
Sad –> Withdraw
Shame –> Hide

2.) Change the emotion by changing the action. In other words, do the opposite action that you normally would do.

3.) Determine if the emotion is “justified” by the situation. A better way to think about it is whether the emotion is proportionate to the situation.

I will use my own example. I am feeling irritable.

1.) Irritable –> My typical behavior is being short/rude to others, tensing up, and complaining.
2.) Instead of doing my typical behaviors, I am doing the opposite: finding at least one way tonight to reach out in kindness to someone else, relaxing with a good tv show, and using this experience of irritability constructively by writing this blog, instead of complaining.
3.) I don’t want to get into the exact reason for my irritability tonight because I don’t want to focus on it, but in being honest with myself, it is disproportionate to the actual situation that is irritating me.

I hope you found this somewhat helpful. If you have questions, I will try to answer them to the best of my understanding.

More soon. 

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