I’m Going to Massachusetts (in my mind): DBT Improve The Moment “Vacation”

There are times when we become very aware that the only way we will navigate the rough surf of an emotional crisis is to literally take things moment by moment. It doesn’t mean that we have to suffer through each moment. In fact, we can consciously and mindfully escape a moment or two here and there.

In DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), one of the Distress Tolerance skills recommended for coping is “Vacation,” one of the Crisis Survival Strategies under “Improve the Moment.” 
Improve the Moment skills can be remembered by the following:

One thing at a time

(from page 165 of Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder by Dr. Marsha Linehan)

I’ve been going through a tremendous amount of stress lately — stress that would have previously, no doubt, landed me in the hospital. But, with the implementation of my DBT skills and therapy, I am working through this crisis, moment by moment.

When I looked at the IMPROVE skills tonight, “vacation” caught my eye. A vacation sure does sound good. Unfortunately, as is the case for many people, it is not realistic for me to take a real one right now.  But, when practicing a “vacation” in the context of DBT skills, it doesn’t require that we leave the room we are in.

In fact, I practiced the DBT skill of vacationing tonight, combined with imagery, relaxation, and one thing at a time.  How?

It all started when I began to fantasize about what it might be like to move back to New England some day.  I miss the rituals that happen during each holiday and the change of seasons. I miss the four seasons (except for Winter, though in New England, even winter has its beauty).  I miss thunderstorms in the summer and leaving your windows open all night because it’s warm enough.

As I sat in my California living room and  reminisced about these positive memories from my childhood home, I began to noticed that I felt soothed. A warm feeling came over me.  It was so nice to be focusing on the bright side of a place that holds so much darkness for me. So, I focused on it.

A song popped into my head. It’s by James Taylor, and it’s called “Carolina in My Mind.”  He wrote it when he felt homesick in Spain, and it’s a great song for visualizing.  I closed my eyes and listened to the melody and words. In my mind, I went to Massachusetts.  It felt good.  I visualized the aspects I’ve shared with you. I became relaxed. I focused on just this exercise and let outside distractions melt away.  

I, in effect, had myself a mini vacation tonight.  It felt good.

See if you can take a little vacation of the mind with James Taylor’s imagery-filled folky song. See if you can tell which decade this song is from.

Thanks for reading.
More Soon.
0 replies
    JULIE PARIAS says:

    Its funny you should share this… For me I am 9 years old again. I am in Ocean City, Maryland spending my summers with my Grandparents. My Grandma and I are sitting on the beach building sand castles and my Grandpa is on the deck rocking in a Cracker Barrel rocking chair with Sam his Siamese cat. I can smell the salt water air, hear the waves crashing upon the shore and feel the sand between my toes. Ocean City is my "happy place". It has taken some mastering but now it is as simple as closing as my eyes, taking a deep breath and being there. Summers filled with no worries just happiness. Memories of making the trek down to the water to get the "good sand" for our castles, feeling that warm water wash over my feet. Washing all the pain and stress away. It took some practice but I can do it now and my Grandma's peanut butter, orange marmalade on pumpernickel bread sandwich is still the best comfort food in the world for me! 🙂


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