DBT Group: Week Five – Opposite Action to Change Emotions

Module: Emotion Regulation
List of Handouts and Worksheets covered in group and assigned as homework will be listed at the end of this post.

Homework Take-Up:
Emotion Regulation Handout 10 – Opposite Action
Handout Reference:
Emotion Regulation Handout 11 – Figuring Out Opposite Actions (9 pgs)
Emotion Regulation Worksheet 7 – Opposite Action to Change Emotions

Emotion Regulation Handout 7 – Overview: Changing Emotional Responses
– Checking the Facts
– Doing Action Opposite to Emotion
– Working to Solve the Problem

Starting with:
Emotion Regulation Handout 7 – Overview: Changing Emotional Responses
Second Box (Overview): Opposite Action
Moving to:
Emotion Regulation Handout 10 – Opposite Action

Every emotion that we feel comes with an action urge.
For example:
When we feel the emotion: fear
Our action urge tends to be: To hide, avoid, or run away
The Opposite Action for Fear might be: To approach the situation, or person, not avoid the situation or person

It can be tough to do opposite action because it is directly counter to the natural urge we feel with an emotion. However, when our emotion doesn’t quite fit the facts of a situation, or if it isn’t effective to act on the emotion, then we would do Opposite Action.

When I did the homework for this, surprise, surprise, I picked fear. I wanted to give a gift to someone that I made but I was afraid to do it. I was afraid that they would reject the gift, and thereby reject me.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been afraid to give someone a gift, whether I made it or not, and was terrified to follow through with it, and that I would be rejected. I’m not too sure how I developed this fear because I don’t recall ever making something for someone, or giving someone a gift and had them reject it.

When I went through the emotion, and I checked the facts, my emotion of fear wasn’t really justified. I’m always terrified of people not liking me, and then rejecting me. To an extent I don’t really have the evidence to support that. I mean I’m sure there are people who don’t like me, for whatever reason, but I’m actually not thinking of them. I’m thinking of people I do like, or even friends, that I get it into my head, they have some reason not to like me. I worry slash believe that these people, even if they tell me they like me, they actually don’t. They are either lying, or pretending, and they do it either because they don’t want to hurt my feelings, or they feel obligated to like me. I have no idea where I really got this belief from but its there, and it’s quite deeply ingrained.

So since my emotion didn’t fit the facts, it was time to do Opposite Action.

My urge was to hide the gift, possibly bury it at the back of a closet somewhere, and never ever mention it, ever again. I have drawers and storage space filled with gifts or gestures that I wanted to give someone, from birthday gifts, to Christmas gifts, to gifts for just whatever, that I decided would be rejected, and so they were all boxed and stored away, never to see the light of day again.

Doing Opposite Action for this was a big chance for me I was taking. I actually felt light-headed as I gave the gift. I was terrified.

When you do Opposite Action, you’re supposed to do it all the way, with open posture, firm voice, and make eye contact. But honestly I was too afraid to do it all the way. I did not have the eye contact, the firm voice, or the open posture. I brought the gift with the intention of giving it to the person, but also holding reservation that if it looked too scary, or even a hint of rejection was in the air, I would bag that gift right to the bottom, and it would never be known that I had it

Right up until the last minute I was on the fence about giving the gift. I was terrified and prayed I wouldn’t pass out. If I could have given it to her anonymously, and found out first if she liked it, I would have preferred it that way.

Regardless of my fear, I did the opposite Action, and guess what, she liked it. She really was pleased, and I was so glad it worked out. It made Opposite Action a little easier to consider for the next time I felt afraid to do something. It’s certainly not foolproof, because it’s only a matter of time that a situation doesn’t work out well, and then I’ll probably start to second guess the effectiveness of Opposite Action. Even though it is worth a try.

Because I do think it is worth trying. And it turns out I do Opposite Action more than I thought I did. Every time I’m afraid to text someone and ask them out for coffee, or a movie and I do it, I’m doing Opposite Action. It’s not always easy but for some things it does get easier with time. I encourage anyone to give it a shot. You can always start small and work your way up to bigger or more scary situations.

Lesson Taught: Second Half of Group:
The lesson for the second hour was about Problem-Solving.
Emotion Regulation Handout 12 – Problem Solving.

I was very keen to learn about how to problem solve some of my emotions. In part because I wasn’t very keen on the Opposite Action, but mostly because I thought actually being able to troubleshoot and solve a problem with an emotion or situation made me feel hopeful. So there was a chance I could actually figure out how to manage this myself?

Alright then, bring it on.

Homework Assigned:
Handout (Reading):
Emotion Regulation Handout 13 – Reviewing Opposite Action and Problem Solving
Emotion Regulation Worksheet 8 – Problem Solving to Change Emotions

Bye for now!

Skills, Handouts, and Worksheets from DBT Skills Training Manual, Second Edition, by Marsha M. Linehan. Copyright 2015 by Marsha M. Linehan.



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