DBT,  DBT-FST,  Emotions

DBT Skill of the Day: Opposite Action from the Emotional Regulation Module

Opposite Action can help turn negative emotions

Opposite Action (or Opposite to Emotion Action) is a skill to help you deal with painful emotional situations, particularly chronic emotional responses such as sadness from depression or rage from criticism. Basically, wheat one does is the opposite of how you feel emotionally. It’s a difficult skill, especially when you are deep inside a painful emotion and you’re going against the natural, reflexive behavior that your action impulses tell you to do.

An example of Opposite Action is when you’re so depressed you don’t want to get out of the bed in the morning. Maybe you feel such pain, sadness and hopelessness that you would just rather hide under the covers and sleep all day. If you use opposite action, you would instead get up, take a shower and engage the day. Do something physical. Take a walk or talk to a friend. Go to the library or to the bookstore.

You might say that this skill is very difficult. You just don’t FEEL like getting out of bed. That’s exactly the point. Acting opposite to how you feel has been shown to change the feelings. The feelings of sadness and pain will gradually subside. It may not happen all at once, but if you continue to do this, an association can be formed in your mind: “When I feel depressed and want to stay in bed all day with the covers over my head, I instead get up, take a shower, get dressed and go for a walk in the woods.” If that walk is conducted mindfully (see One Mindfully), you can even further boost your “emotional immunity” to those feelings of depression and combat the worries that may creep into your mind as you walk through the woods.

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