I should probably start with a disclaimer. The title of this post isn’t an indicator of my current state of mind, but is actually an acronym, and the first of the skills DBT is apparently going to teach me – validation. It stands for the following:

I – identify that there’s an emotion

A – ask a validating question
M – make a validating statement

M – make a normalising statement
A – analyse the consequences
D – don’t solve the problem

Today would have been a really good time to be able to employ this. I’ve been struggling to make a decision about something for the last few weeks, and given that at the best of times I’m hard pushed to even choose clothes in the morning, this decision (being somewhat more important than what I may or may not wear) was proving challenging to say the least. Anyway, decision was made, and today all I had to do was let the various people involved know what I’d settled on. But therein lay the problem.

First off, I didn’t trust my instinct. Actually, no, it wasn’t that I didn’t trust my instinct, rather my instinct was so confused that I couldn’t trust it. While the particular circumstances in this instance aren’t relevant, I think my reaction was really interesting, if more than a little upsetting and out of proportion. So, without getting into detail, I’m going to see if I can apply the above to make sense of how I reacted (which incidentally involved quite a lot of tears and self loathing).

1Identify that there’s an emotion. Easy. Guilt, sadness, disappointment, anger, another dose of guilt for good measure. Heady combination.
2Ask a validating question. What happened to make me feel like this?
3. Make a validating statement. It’s understandable to feel upset given what’s been going on
4. Make a normalising statement. I think anyone would feel bad in the same situation
5. Analyse the consequences. Getting so upset doesn’t change the situation, it just stops me from being able to think about it clearly.
6. Don’t solve the problem. How can I help myself feel better about this decision?

Ok, I suspect I may not have done this properly, it’s the first time I’ve really tried to apply it to a situation, but you get the idea. I really, really struggled to do this. I don’t think I’ve ever before gotten so distracted and wandered off elsewhere on the interweb so many times in the course of writing a post. Why? First of all, it doesn’t feel natural to apply these questions/statements to myself, it’s much easier to use these principles in relation to someone else. Also, I’m not quite sure I get it – I understand that part of helping me to control my emotions is recognising them for what they are, and allowing them to be, but, and here’s where I get confused – if I know that my reaction is disproportionate to the event, how does normalising it help? Does that not teach me that my extreme reaction is ok?

I get it, I get it, I get it………oh no, wait, I don’t, not at all.

I’m new to this, very new. I suspect it’s going to take me a lot longer than the six weeks of this group that I have at my disposal to get my head around it, but I have to try. I’ve talked about it with Therapist and my psychiatrist, and they’ve both told me that this is the best form of therapy for what I’ve got (I know, I know, jury’s still out, acceptance is a long way off). I need to practice this till it becomes second nature, till I can work through those 6 steps without even realising that I’m doing it. But before I can do that, I have to understand it. It feels like a very slippery concept right now – just when I think I’m getting to grips with it I lose it again. I suspect there’s more than a little resistance in the mix as well. And this is just the first of four key skills! I may have some work ahead of me……

This article has 4 Comments

  1. Another very helpful post. I think we are living similar lives at present. I would currently find that step impossible. After fighting a court case against work bullying which saw me leave my 26 yr State job i am setting world records for anger flashes and off handle flying. Can i ask is your DBT group down the west? I live in Dublin and so badly need a group approach. It got me off alcohol via AA and i cant see myself surviving DBT on my own. Am too volatile and lacking any interest in having to live an examined life. Thanks

    1. Hi there, I'm doing my group through the hospital, I'm afraid I haven't heard of any DBT group that's open to the general public. Are you seeing a psychiatrist? Could they refer you? Or would you consider looking for a counsellor who could work with you privately in this way? Hope you get some support.

  2. If it makes you feel any better, I got stuck at "ask a validating question". Yep, that's only the second letter in the list, so clearly I would have some hard work ahead of me! 🙂

    Like anything new, there's a different language to understand. A different way of thinking. A different perspective. Remember back to when you received your diagnosis of depression. I'm sure there were a dozen things right off the bat that you didn't understand and couldn't quite wrap your mind around. And yet here you are today, not only able to understand those things, but able to articulate them so well in this blog. So I'm sure that the same will hold true of DBT and the skills you're working on now.

    Keep hanging in there! 🙂

    1. Thanks 🙂 I'm hanging in!!! I think sometimes I resent the level of work involved, that I have to be constantly running a subconscious check to make sure my reaction isn't disproportionate to whatever inspired it. That said, it does make a lot of sense, so I'll keep trying. It's slowly starting to make more sense.

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