DBT Skills for Self-Respect and Building Mastery


Today I snapped at my mother when she called me.  I picked up the phone even though I was in the middle of working with numbers and while I was feeling quite emotionally distressed due to President Barack Obama's tearful press conference regarding a tragic incident that just happened in Connecticut.

I chose to work on some calculations I needed to make as a way to DISTRACT from the difficult emotions and feelings that were coming up with hearing the news on the radio. Initially, I cried and felt sad and devastated. I noticed that I needed to regulate my emotions, and this is where the Distract DBT skill came into play.

In the meantime, my phone rang. When I saw the display and noticed that it was my mother calling, I had a choice to take the call or to let it go to voice mail and call her back.  I took the call and ended up being short and a bit rude. When I realized this, I said, "Ma, can I call you back in a few minutes?" We hung up.

I took some deep breaths. I thought about my INTERPERSONAL EFFECTIVENESS skills, particularly Attending to Relationships, Building Mastery, and Self-Respect.  I took some deep, slow, calming breaths. I felt badly that I was mean to my mother.

I collected my thoughts and called her back.

I expressed that I was sorry for being short and rude.  I explained that I had been in the middle of some calculations and that I was emotionally upset about what I had heard on the news. (It turns out that my mother hadn't heard it yet. I shared it with her, and she understood how I could have been so upset.)

By clearing things up, apologizing, and explaining my actions, I was able to interact with my mother in a way that made me feel:


  • competent
  • respectful
  • respectable, and
  • effective
...which are all goals of building mastery and self-respect under theee DBT Interpersonal Effectiveness module.


DBT Skills I'll be checking off on my DBT Diary Card:

Wise Mind: I was able to identify that I was in Emotion Mind and began to think rationally about my emotional reactions. I identified the importance of clearing things up with my mother.

Effectiveness (focus on what works): I took a time-out and asked for one respectfully while on the phone with my mother. I then called her back after I had a few moments to calm down and get into Wise Mind.

Relationship Effectiveness (GIVE): When I called back, I used an easy manner and was very warm in my mannerisms.

Self-Respect (FAST): I was fair to myself, acknowledging my emotional response, and I was fair to my mother, acknowledging that she deserved to be treated with respect.

Build Mastery (from Emotion Regulation Module): I handled the situation in a way that made me feel competent and effective, and I did so promptly. Sometimes I do not respond right away with remedying a situation, and I then end up feeling guilt and shame. I avoided this by practicing dealing with the emotional situation promptly. The more we practice, the more we build mastery of using the skills.

Distract: I distracted by doing the calculations.



See how with just one experience throughout your entire day you can practice your DBT skills?

Did you work on a relationship today?  Did you take a step back after becoming emotional in order to calm down? Which DBT skills did you use?



Thanks for reading.
More Soon.

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