So here we are again, in week two of a brand new year!
How is it going so far? How do you feel about those New Year’s Resolutions you probably couldn’t resist making a week or so ago? Is the New Year already shaping up into all that you hoped and dreamed it would be – or simply delivering more of the same?
It is so tempting to study our outsides for telltale signs of change. We have grown accustomed to seeking exterior affirmation, confirmation, or negation of the changes we dream of making. We look around and either see positive changes or we don’t.
But in doing so, we consistently forget to remind ourselves that all real change starts within.
In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, or DBT for short, one of the four cornerstones of successful transformation lies in mastering the art of what founder Dr. Marsha Linehan terms “emotion regulation”. 1
Well, this sounds good, doesn’t it? But what does it mean?
The best place to start in conducting our investigation is to look at what is meant by the word “emotion”. According to a commonly-accepted definition of the term, an emotion occurs whenever there is “a mental state that arises spontaneously rather than through conscious effort and is often accompanied by physiological changes.”
Put this way, the appearance of an “emotion” sounds sort of like a sneak attack, doesn’t it!? And since sneak attacks usually are not particularly pleasant or welcome experiences, especially when they are accompanied by frightening-sounding “physiological changes”, it is not hard to see how a system that was originally intended to serve as a reliable guide through life begins feels more like an inner enemy stalking and scaring us at the least opportune moments.
What is most important for us to recognize, however, is that when we begin to distrust and even fear our own emotions, it becomes increasingly hard for us to remember that we and not our emotions are the master of our lives.
Here is where learning the DBT skill of “emotion regulation” can come to our rescue. When we become skilled in emotion regulation, we can train ourselves to be less vulnerable to the continually shifting play of our emotional landscape. By applying DBT skills designed to enhance our ability to regulate our responses to our emotions, we become proficient in identifying and labeling emotions, identifying where we tend to become emotionally “stuck”, increasing our affinity for positive emotional states, bringing mindfulness into our emotional lives, and other wonderful life skills that can make the experience of feeling and experiencing our own emotions beneficial rather than detrimental to our growth and well-being.
At Southlake Counseling, we understand how challenging it can feel to forge an alliance with our ever-changing emotions. We also know that emotions in their essence are helpful guides and teachers that can lead to more fulfilling lives. Our professional and compassionate staff has more than two decades of training and expertise in helping you apply the life-changing principles of DBT for improved health, growth, and well-being. If you are struggling to understand and manage your emotions, don’t let another year go by before you take action on your own behalf. Contact us today at www.southlakecounseling.com to say “no” to emotional distress and YES to your own full and vibrant life!
1 Marsha Linehan, PhD, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy Founder