Opposite To Emotion Action and “Justified” Emotions (DBT)

In DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) class, we are back on the skill of Opposite (to emotion) Action in the Emotion Regulation module.

We use this skill when we want to reduce our experience of a certain emotion because it is not serving us in a positive way or it is not “justified.”
The word “justified” can seem so subjective — after all, who gets to decide if your feelings/reactions are justifiable? The answer is: only you.  There are some guidelines for determining whether an emotion is justified by DBT standards so that you can use this information to help you cope with overwhelming emotions that are making you feel miserable.
For example, according to DBT, the emotion of FEAR is justified when:
“There is a THREAT to:
  • Your life or that of someone you care about, OR
  • Your health or that of someone you care about, OR
  • Your well-being or that of someone you care about” ( from the video Opposite Action: Changing Emotions You Want to Change by Dr. Marsha Linehan/ Behavioral Tech, LLC.)
If none of these criteria are met and you are experiencing fear and want to shift it, you would use the skill of Opposite Action. My DBT therapist suggested that we try not to judge ourselves for emotions that occur naturally, but if the feeling is getting in the way or not serving us, then we would use this skill.
According to Dr. Linehan, keep these tings in mind as you notice, observe, and consider shifting your emotion:
  • Every emotion has an action/An emotion motivates you to do something.
  • If an emotion causes an action, you can change the action by action by changing the emotion (and vice versa.)
  • It doesn’t always work. (My doctor said that it will work whenever the emotion is not justified by the situation.)
Here are the steps that Dr. Linehan gives in her video for practicing Opposite to emotion Action:
  • Identify Emotion
  • Identify the action of the emotion
  • Ask yourself if you want to change the emotion.
  • Determine the Opposite Action of the Emotion.
  • Do the Opposite Action.
You can read more about this skill, how it works, and how to practice it by clicking here.
Have you used this skill?
In what situations?
Was it helpful?
Thank you for reading.
More Soon.
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