Self-Soothing As An Adult

If we were very fortunate, as little children we were soothed and validated by our caretakers. When we cried, they held us and told us it would be okay. When we were frightened, we were reassured.

All too often, those with Borderline Personality Disorder grew up in invalidating environments and did not receive enough soothing and validation from their caretakers. (What is an “invalidating environment”?)

The sad truth is, those who were unable to provide validating environments for us likely also did not receive the soothing and support that they needed as children.  You cannot give what you do not know how to receive.  We behave in ways that were modeled for us until we make active choices to learn and practice new skills.

Feeling soothed and validated are healing experiences; therefore I consider one of the most important and useful skills that I’ve learned through Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) to be “Self-Soothing.”  

Through this skill, we learn to care for ourselves in ways that are safe and feel good.  I had a really difficult time with it initially. It felt unnatural and even indulgent to do things that were good for me or that just felt good.  I eventually got over it and thoroughly enjoy this skill. The same can happen for you!

How I soothed today:

  • I went to the ocean and sat and watched the waves coming and going and the sunlight dancing on the surface of the water. I felt the warmth of the sun on my skin and smelled the salty sea air.  I was soothed through vision, sound, and scent.
  • As I type this, I’m enjoying a warm cup of Good Earth decaffeinated spicy tea.  Earlier, I curled up on the couch with two soft, fluffy blankets and my cats. 

I took this photo at the beach today.

Think of your five senses and some ideas around how you can feel soothed through each of them.  In her Skills Training Manual for Borderline Personality Disorder, Dr. Marsha Linehan offers some suggestions:

  • Vision: light a candle and watch the flame
  • Hearing: listen to sounds of nature
  • Smell: put on some scented lotion
  • Taste: have some herbal tea
  • Touch: wear a comfy sweater
Take a look at the image at the top of this post. In what ways can you be good to yourself today and self-soothe?  

Thank you for reading.
More Soon.

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