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Battling Difficult Emotions with DBT Armor

By Megan The Therapist

With DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), you can choose your armor/coping skills before you go into a difficult situation or anticipate overwhelming emotions. Below are a few powerful skills you can choose from to arm yourself with.

Speak Up

Too often we feel sad disappointed or angry when we don’t get our needs met. But how many times do we speak up and tell people what we need and why? We cannot assume that people are mind readers or will automatically provide for us. The next time something is weighing heavily on your mind, you are allowed to express your wants and needs. This may not guarantee that you get what you want but it will certainly put you in the right direction and make others aware of what your needs are. This is your permission to practice finding your voice and expressing it.

A Peaceful Place

The connection between our mind and our body is very powerful. With this skill, our mind can trick our body into relaxing. Get into a comfortable and safe position and visualize a place, real or imagined that is peaceful. It could be a memory from a vacation you have been on, a hike in the woods, the sun and sand at the beach, a fire burning at a campsite, or gazing at the mountain tops at sunset. When you come up with your peaceful spot, try to bring up as many details as you possibly can using your five senses. What does it look like, what does it feel like, what does it sound like, what does it smell like, what are the tastes, what is it like to spend time there in general? There are no pressures of day-to-day life, no clocks, and no worries in this place. The more you practice visualizing and recalling this place, the easier it will be to go here during difficult moments. If you are able to master the skill, your peaceful place will always be with you.

Real Acceptance

Real acceptance means being open to all experiences that come to you, even if they are painful and difficult. It also requires you to expect nothing in return for your acceptance. Many people practice acceptance but they expect that the painful feelings or problem will go away in return for their acceptance. This is not real acceptance; it is just an attempt to negotiate a deal and the outcome will likely not work out in your favor. Practicing real acceptance means you meet reality where it is without any expectations. When you truly except reality without trying to make a deal you are practicing real acceptance.


Body Scan and Stretch

We carry our emotional tension in our bodies, and although we don’t always notice it, it takes it’s toll on us. Take a minute to do a body scan searching for signs of stress and tension. Relax your jaw, shoulders, and neck. Notice any part of your body that feels tense. Breathe into the tension and breathe out the stress. If you are able to, get on the floor and stretch any part of your body that feels tense. Spend a few moments systematically stretching and giving your body permission to relax. Practice as much as needed.

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