DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Four Options with Any Problem

I am struck by the quickness with which we feel we do not have a choice.  I hear myself (and others) saying things like “I didn’t have a choice…” or “I guess I have to…” on a regular basis and yet I am also equally struck by the concept that we do have a choice! In any given moment and with every given situation, you always have a multitude of choices!

I DBT we teach that a person always has four choices in coping with a problem:

  • Solve the problem

This is quite possibly the worst one on this list because if it were so simple, I think we all WOULD solve our own problems!  What is valid about this option is that we must take time to assess what the actual problem is and determine whether it is in our control or not.  If we are determining that the problem is: my spouse folds the towels wrong then I would challenge you and say that you need to dig deeper and look at what role you play in the scenario.  We might discover that the real problem is: I am clinging to my preference as to how the towels are folded and judging my spouse as incompetent.  In the second version of the problem, we now can apply the strategies below to solve the problem in a more creative way.

  • Change your opinion/thoughts/beliefs about the problem (one of my favorite…more below)

In continuing with the same problem above, we could work to change how we are thinking about the towels.  We could have a more comical thought: The way the towels are folded does not change their absorbency. You could have an attitude of gratitude: I am so grateful that my spouse took time to fold the towels.  You could have a change in your thought process: I never thought to fold them like that, I’ll give their way a try and see if I like it better.

  • Accept the situation (ie: stop lamenting how bad it is and accept that it just IS, letting go of your anger and resentment about the situation)

This option allows you to not get so angry every time you see the towels folded differently than you prefer.  It allows you to look at the towel and recognize that it is a towel, not a symbol of spousal defiance.  It allows you to see your partner as a partner, not a nuisance.  I also love this option due to the freedom it brings.  There is a freedom in not getting so angry about the “little things” or about the things in life that are out of your control.

  • Stay miserable (and/or make it worse).

This is the option we all tend to jump to! We belittle people we love, we yell and scream over things that really don’t alter our life’s course.  We throw things, we hurl insults, we give the silent treatment, we make passive aggressive gestures and comments that only serve to fuel the fire.  This option does not take into account the long-term goals (staying married) and only pays attention to the short-term urge.

 

Which do you jump to?

Which do you think would be the most effective one for you to start using more?

Take time this week to press pause when you feel yourself preparing to engage in a problematic reaction to a (perceived) problem and take a moment to ponder these 4 choices.  You may be able to free yourself from potential negative consequences!

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DBT, Inspiration, mental health

Validation to Improve Relationships

Validation is the ability to communicate to another person that they, their perceptions, their feelings and/or their opinions are valid.  Our world tends to be quite Invalidating, in that we are berated with the message that we aren’t enough and we don’t make sense.  It reminds me of the teacher that we all had, that would correct your response even if you read from the text the exact answer.  Validation is a skill that will instantly improve relationships, especially if you learn to validate and then STOP.  The STOP is about not jumping into problem solving.  Think about how it feels when people hurl solutions to you (have you tried____________??) without taking time to understand the problem or communicate to you that the problem is anywhere near valid.

Validation requires you to find the truth in another person’s point of view.  This means that no matter how ___________ (dumb, pointless, absurd, irrational) you deem their experience to be, if you want to expedite their calming down, it is necessary for you to validate something. Validating is not the same as agreeing with them if you truly do not.  You could say something like “I can see that you are really passionate about this” or “It sounds like you had a difficult day and it has you feeling really depressed”.  If you agree with them, you can be more validating by saying “I think it makes sense that you feel that way” or “given your background, I understand why his statement bothered you”.  Letting someone know that you hear them will aide in their ability to calm down and thus problem solve.

Some tips for validating

  1. Make eye contact, stop what you are doing and put your phone down. Communicate to the other person that they are important enough that you can give undivided attention
  2. Pay attention to their body language and whether it is congruent (think slumped teenager saying “I’m fine” and attend to the one you believe is more authentic
  3. Be open to correction. If I think you have your head down because you are disinterested in what I am saying, I need to remain open to you correcting me and telling me you have a headache
  4. Communicate to them with your words, that you think the make sense either because of their history or because ANYONE would feel that way given their circumstances
  5. In unique situations, share the feeling with them (not one-upping them, not taking the focus off of them) ie: when they get REALLY good or REALLY bad news

 

I have a feeling that if you reflect on who you like to spend time with, they are a fairly validating people! If you can channel that person, it may be easier to validate by thinking “what would _________ say?” Take time to practice!

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Stop Appologizing!

Stop apologizing!

No really, stop being overly apologetic! We live in a culture that expects constant apologies, which leads to a nation of people who struggle with establishing boundaries.  Consider the examples:

At home:

               “I’m sorry to be annoying, I was just wondering if you could take out the trash”

               “Sorry I’m late! Traffic was a mess!”

               “Hey, I’m sorry to bug you…but when you finish your homework can you come help me watch your sister so I can run to the grocery?”

At work:

               “I’m sorry, I know you’re busy but I was wondering if you had time to meet with me today?”

               “I feel terrible for asking but is there any way you could call that client for me?”

               “Sorry I wasn’t here for that meeting, my kids were sick and I had to stay home from school with them.”

In public:

               (You accidentally bump into someone and they aren’t mad) “I’m so sorry! I lost my balance.”

               “I’m sorry to be a bother but do you have the time?”

               “Sorry! I didn’t know you were sitting there; I would have never invaded your space like that.”

Can you see what all of these statements have in common? Yes they all start with an apology. But also notice how common they are…AND they are also all scenarios that do not require an apology! Think of the purpose of an apology: to convey to another person the guilt that you feel as a result of an action you chose to make.   I hesitate to think that anyone should be made to feel guilty in any of the above scenarios.  Guilt is only justified if your own behavior violates your own morals or values.  Examples being if you have harmed another person or you damage another person’s property.  Missing work as a result of caring for your child, having to ask a stranger for the time, asking a person to do something that falls within their job description, and requesting the help of a family member are all appropriate actions that should not make you feel guilt. 

I offer you a suggestion, say “thank you” whenever you want to say “I’m sorry”. I realize this sounds strange; however consider the same scenarios in reverse:

At home:

               “Can you take out the trash?” (after they do) “Thank you

               “Traffic was really stressful, thanks so much for being understanding”

               “When you finish your homework I need you to come help me watch your sister so I can run to the grocery, I’d really appreciate it”

At work:

               “I was wondering if you had time to meet with me today?” (if/when they do, say you appreciate them taking time out of their day for you)

               “At some point today, I need _____ called. Thanks, you’re awesome!”

               “It means a lot to me that I was able to stay home since my kids were sick, thank you.”

In public:

               (You accidentally bump into someone and they aren’t mad) Laugh it off and strike up a conversation.

               “Do you have the time?” (When they tell you the time, thank them)

               “I didn’t know you were sitting there. Let me slide down and make room”…then introduce yourself and exchange pleasantries.

Even imagining the second set of situations, I feel a calmness and lightness in the air.  I feel we have become so apologetic and so fearful in our culture, that we lose out on opportunities to chat with strangers/neighbors/coworkers.  In the workplace, people villainize upper management and don’t share their personal lives at all which makes the job feel cold and impersonal.  And in the home, resentments build because there is a lack of teamwork.  If we can begin to share ourselves emotionally, connect with those around us and work together, I believe we could experience a much greater enjoyment in life.

THANK YOU for taking time to read this!

 

Inspiration

The Five Love Languages

In reflecting back on Valentine’s Day, I think it’s important to dig a bit deeper and see what we can do to make the entire year as loving as February 14th tends to be. Valentine’s Day has become quite commercialized in America, I doubt anyone would argue that.  Under all the glitter and greeting cards there is actually thread of kindness and love rarely seen as prevalently as on that day.  I see this between spouses, in dating relationships, between parents and children…even in the workplace.  It’s almost as if people use the holiday as a reminder that they can and SHOULD be nice to one another periodically. 

Gary Chapman is the author of The Five Love Languages and is a relationship counselor.  The Five Love Languages is a guidebook for how to rekindle that appreciation and love you have for those in your life and express it to them in a way that will be picked up on their radar.  He has concluded that there are five “languages” that people like to receive love: words, acts, gifts, time, and touch. The problem he seeks to address is that in our relationships, we often express love in the manner we would like to receive it…without realizing that this may not be the language of the receiver. If you are a parent, child, spouse, significant other, boss, and/or employee, I would strongly urge you to read this book or it’s appropriate adaptation and challenge yourself to speak the love language of the receiver! Give it a try…see what changes take place in your life…  

http://www.5lovelanguages.com/