- Monika La Nuez, LCSW
DBT Corner: Creating a Life Worth Living
Creating a life worth living can mean many things. It can symbolize feeling increased peace, joy, and contentment. It can represent not feeling controlled by the whims of your emotions. It can mean the absence of criticism and judgment toward yourself and others. It can show up in relationships that feel more vibrant, connected, and validating. It can look like flowing with reality as it unfolds, as opposed to fighting or denying your reality, and it can look like a life that feels balanced and grounded.
Creating a life worth living is the ultimate goal of DBT therapy. By implementing the skills, tools, and concepts that are offered via DBT, it is possible to create a life that you look forward to living. Today, I want to share a few details about some of the ways in which DBT can guide you toward leading a life that brings you more satisfaction and happiness.
DBT helps you find balance
Do you operate from a place of extremes or engage in black and white thinking? Do you struggle with too much rigidity? Do you feel you need to be “right,” leaving little room for other opinions or perspectives? If so, can you pinpoint the consequences of these patterns in your day-to-day life and relationships? Life, emotions, and daily situations can feel overwhelming for people who live in extremes. Or people may find themselves feeling alienated from others due to a black and white approach to life.
DBT therapy helps to find the middle path, or the synthesis, between seemingly opposed thoughts, emotions, and polarities (i.e. extremes). In doing so, you can integrate seemingly disparate thoughts, feelings, and emotions. You can begin to find nuance in both your own perspective and beliefs along with other people’s ways of seeing things. You can begin building empathy for yourself and others and begin to see how there are multiple valid ways of existing. By finding the middle path, you can give yourself freedom to be more flexible, forgiving, and understanding about yourself and the ways in which other people live and operate.
DBT helps you accept reality as it is
A root of deep suffering for many is the struggle to accept reality as it is. When there is a situation or event that is contributing to your pain and suffering, you may subconsciously deny or push away the reality of your situation in order to not have to confront overwhelming or unpleasant emotions. While this is your mind’s way of protecting you from emotional pain, it also does not allow you to confront and cope with the reality before you. As a result, problems get swept under the rug, patterns that aren’t serving you remain in place, and your suffering is prolonged and most likely amplified over time.
DBT explores the concept of radical acceptance, or the idea of accepting your reality, whatever it may be, on a soul-deep and bone-deep level. While this may be one of the most emotionally difficult concepts to integrate, the ability to radically accept reality can be the passage to freedom you so desire. It is important to note that radically accepting something does not mean you have to like it, or that you are resigned to a certain situation. Instead, radical acceptance is about acknowledging whatever is happening, both inside and outside of yourself, in order to identify how you want to cope with the matter at hand. Ironically, once you are able to accept any aspect of your reality, you can begin to find ways to change or improve your situation, versus staying in a pattern of denial or minimization that inevitably keeps unhelpful patterns alive and keeps you in a space of suffering.
DBT helps you feel emotional freedom
Have you ever felt like a prisoner of your emotions? Or like you could not survive feeling your way through overwhelming and difficult emotions? Have you felt like your emotions have control over you and you are at the mercy of whatever your emotions dictate? If so, you may view your emotions as unwanted intruders in your life who are holding you hostage from feeling peaceful and free.
DBT teaches the invaluable skills of being able to live alongside your emotions without feeling controlled by them. In DBT therapy, emotions are viewed as guides that provide valuable information to you about how to proceed in all kinds of situations. Emotions are not viewed as right, wrong, good, or bad, but instead as signposts that serve a purpose and function. And via the use of mindfulness skills, emotions can be experienced as temporary experiences that need not take permanent hold in your life, but instead as temporary visitors helping guide you toward ways in which you can help yourself if you listen to what your emotions are communicating to you.
DBT helps you exist in the present moment
DBT encourages the practice of mindfulness, awareness of the present moment, and awareness of your senses and sensory experiences. By being able to stay in the present moment and feel connected to your senses, you can detach from thoughts and emotions that are associated with the past and the future, which are often the source of anxiety, stress, frustration, and worry. By practicing staying grounded in the present moment, you can then dedicate another time to problems that need attending to, rather than worrying during times that are hurtful to your well-being and disconnect you from the present moment.
DBT helps you practice non-judgment
DBT promotes non-judgment as a mindfulness skill. It’s possible you may judge yourself and others while not being aware of noticing yourself participating in judgment. Judgment contributes to numerous personal struggles, including limiting your experiences by developing preconceived notions, creating separation between yourself and others based on negative judgments and beliefs, and cultivating emotions that can feel corrosive and deeply painful, such as jealousy, inadequacy, arrogance, and hatred. Remember, DBT does not judge emotions as right or wrong, however, it can help to notice emotions like these and their consequences to your well-being and the way they influence how you interact with your world.
Many relationships and interactions with others are also sullied by a sense of judgment, which can cause other people to be seen as “less than” or for you to feel inadequate when comparing yourself to others. You may form judgments that limit your ability to get to know someone whose interests, beliefs, and values may be more aligned with yours than you may realize, losing out on vast opportunities for connection. Or you may hurt and damage current relationships when you approach them from a place of judgment as opposed to a place of understanding and curiosity. The practice of non-judgment can be a salve for your relationships, by helping you find the validity or “kernel of truth” in other people’s experiences, by working to build empathy, and by developing curiosity about the things the people around you care about.
By cultivating non-judgment, you can begin to experience so much more of life. You can allow yourself to try things you never would have considered, you can let yourself explore aspects of yourself that you might have pushed away or denied because of judgments you may have made. You can feel free to invite change into your life as you evolve and grow. The practice of non-judgment can truly allow you to participate more freely in your own life, along with feeling an increased sense of cohesiveness and connection with the world around you.
When these DBT concepts are integrated into people’s lives, the results can be staggering and potent - you may begin to feel a sense of freedom and lightness that you could not have possibly fathomed before. These ideas can truly be the key toward shedding patterns and behaviors that may have caused you to feel like a bystander in your own life and to allow you to experience the emotional freedom that allows you to lead a life worth living. I hope some of these ideas set you on the path toward building the life you want.
Seeking therapy in Boca Raton, FL? Feel free to reach out to me to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation to see how I can help you with your mental health goals.