Sorting Out Emotions using DBT Emotion Regulation Worksheet 1a

Have you ever had difficulty with your DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) homework?  Because I am so passionate about the skills, I offer weekly FREE assistance with the worksheets (though some readers have generously left donations via the contact page after receiving help — which I appreciate greatly!).

I recently received a request for help from Angel F., who granted me permission to share her submission with you, in hopes that it will help aid others with this particular task.
Answering the guideline questions that I provided, here is Angel’s submission with my responses (and additional notes for this blog) are in red.
Here is the worksheet that Angel was using at the time. You may find it helpful to print it out and follow along.
DBT Emotion Regulation
Worksheet 1a: Describing Emotions
1.) What module you are studying: 
Emotion Regulation

2.) How long have you been in DBT? 
5 months (completed Interpersonal Effectiveness and some bits of basic Mindfulness)

3.) Your question, as specifically as possible:

This is my first pass through Emotion Regulation (the weekly group I am in is cyclical; some of the members are on their second pass) and I’m having difficulty separating one emotion from my subsequent emotions from having the emotional reaction. This, of course, makes doing the analysis difficult. (I kind of wish we’d had distress tolerance first, because I bet I could use those skills in order to be able to learn the emotion regulation ones.)  

Debbie: I know this may sound overwhelming, but my DBT teacher recommends that we break each emotion out on a SEPARATE sheet. It’s the only way to do it really…so you’d do one for the primary emotion and then one for each of the others that you notice.

…when I sit down to try and figure out the Emotion Name, I generally come up with a whole string of sadness – shame – fear – anger – sadness, (and so on) in recursive loop. 

Debbie: No worries. This is very common. As noted above, you would do one separate sheet for each.

I do a lot of suppression of (visible) emotional reactions, so when I actually show one it’s usually because I’m full of so much stress that I am *completely* out of spoons and (literally) can’t hold it in any longer. 
Debbie: That’s a really good observation! 
(Seriously, I am often surprised myself when an outburst finally happens.) Then along comes either shame of being weak enough to show emotion or fear of someone else’s reaction to my outburst. After that I usually get angry at myself *for having* either of the two previous reactions, then either sad some more or afraid of my anger. Anyhow, this emotional constellation is a recurring theme with me (as I’m sure it is with many others).
“What I’m feeling in my body” is a mix of most of the examples on Handout 3 for all those emotions.  Debbie: I encourage you to SPECIFY the physical symptoms you feel, as they can often be guideposts back to emotions. Are you breathing more rapidly? Is your stomach upset? Do you have muscle tension?

I don’t usually have an “expression with words,” and my Action Urge is nearly always to hide until I have better control of myself.
Debbie: Hmmm. I encourage you to take a look at that and at the list of emotions in your binder. Which emotions tend to motivate us to feel like hiding? (Maybe shame or anxiety?)

My Action is usually to freeze and stop responding to anything or anyone until I get a handle on things.
Debbie: Same here I encourage you to take a look at that and at the list of emotions in your binder. Which emotions make us feel like we’re frozen and stuck? (Maybe fear?)

I don’t really have any idea of what “message my emotion sends to others;” I’m too embarrassed to ask. Debbie: Put down what you THINK it conveys or what you would interpret if another person behaved the same way as you are outwardly.

My emotion generally Says to Me “you suck,” and I can’t think of any Facts to Check Out, as almost everything that is actually happening is internal.

The Function of my Emotion aside from telling me “you’re doing something wrong,” is a complete mystery to me.
Debbie: Start with the sadness. What purpose do you think sadness has in motivating us to behave a certain way?

I basically have a mess of emotions about having/showing emotions, plus suppression which all merge into a general feeling of “badness.” 
Debbie: Just notice that as a judgment, not a fact. 

My Reason Mind locks down my body until my Emotion Mind stops flailing around. I generally end up exhausted, tangled in my thoughts and too muddled to do good analysis.
Debbie: Despite this, you’re actually doing a fine job.

4.) The specific handout name/number that you are working on:
Emotion Regulation Handout 1, Worksheet 1a, from the Skills Training Manual for Disordered EmotionRegulation.
5.) IMPORTANT: Please let me know if I may use your situation/homework as an example while keeping your identity confidential!!!   

Please feel free to use me as an example if you think it could possibly help someone else.
Thanks so much!

Can you relate to Angel’s questions about this worksheet? What are some suggestions that you have? 
Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

4 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I graduated from a DBT program several years ago and still struggle with a lot of the things Angel described. I've been especially struggling lately.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I graduated from a DBT program several years ago and still struggle with a lot of the things Angel described. I've been especially struggling lately.


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