Distraction & Self-Soothing to Ride out Painful Emotions

#12: Distraction & Self-Soothing to Ride out Painful Emotions

Marielle and Ed continue their conversation about Distress Tolerance focusing on Distraction and Self-Soothing. While these skills won’t solve any problems, they can be super helpful when you are caught up in painful emotions.

Distraction in DBT is broken down into separate skills that go by the acronym ACCEPTS as in Wise Mind ACCEPTS.

“Sometimes choosing to push emotions away is the most effective thing to do in the moment.”

Ed Fowler

Show Highlights:

  • Choosing distraction is very different than unconsciously avoiding
  • Sometimes it’s wise to not fully experience your emotions
  • These skills can be used when you have a strong urge to fix a problem immediately
  • You can also use these skills when you feel an urge to engage in a behavior you are trying to stop
  • A – Activities
  • C – Contributing
  • C – Comparisons
  • E – Emotions
  • P – Pushing Away
  • T – Thoughts
  • S – Sensations
  • Different activities redirect your attention to something else – away from the painful emotion
  • Figuring out what activities hold your attention when you’re upset
  • Contributing can have a secondary benefit of creating a sense of purpose or meaning in your life.
  • Comparing our pain to others can put our pain in perspective
  • Comparing your current situation to other hard times in your life can help you feel like you can get through
  • To use emotions to distract, first figure out what you are feeling and then do something that evokes a different emotion
  • Pushing away is shutting out or blocking your painful emotion
  • Self-Soothing with your five senses: sight, sound, taste, touch and smell

Links & Resources:

DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, Second Edition

SUDs (Subjective Units of Distress) scale

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