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DBT Blog

What Your Thoughts Are Trying to Tell You

If you are wanting to get stronger in your DBT coping skills, start with looking at how you are coping with your negative thoughts. However, how often do we really assess our own thought lives? If someone (a therapist or trusted friend) asked you straight out, "What has your thought life been like lately?", What would you say? What themes would you notice?

Take a moment now to really ask yourself, "What has been on my mind lately?" Even when you are trying to stay in the present moment and focus on a particular task, where does your mind take you?

Once you pull this out, then ask yourself:

"What emotions do these thoughts make me feel?", and

"What INFORMATION does that give me about myself and what I am going through right now?"

This is the deeper question that may take some thought. You may even find yourself wanting to avoid this altogether.

Let me give you an example to illustrate this in case you need some prompting. Let's say for this past week, you have noticed a lot of distracted thoughts where you have been worried about your work performance.

You are not in the place of your career that you would like to be.

You are analyzing how others like your boss might perceive your work success. You are worried about not getting a promotion.

You are comparing yourself to where others are at.

The emotions you feel are insecure, anxious, and depressed. You then ask yourself, "What do these thoughts and emotions tell me about myself and what I am going through?

An example response might be:

I am putting a lot of self-esteem and identity into my work and that I am judging myself based on what I do and how others perceive my success.

This information about yourself, even though it may be somewhat humbling, is so valuable. This helps you to explore from a problem-solving perspective, how to work through these emotions and beliefs. Perhaps this awareness tells you that you don't want to put all of your eggs in one basket and that you want to build a life with living outside of just focusing on your job to give you a sense of fulfillment. Or, perhaps the insight tells you that you want to work on acceptance and contentment of where you are at rather than always thinking of the "next thing." The only way you can change these emotions of insecurity and depression, though, is to address these thoughts and what they are telling you.

Look at all that you can learn by just pausing, looking at your thought life, and asking yourself, what is the deeper insight that can be gained by exploring the themes of your thoughts?

For former and current DBT group members, these are the skills I focused on today:

1.) Observe--you are observing thoughts and emotions rather than getting attached or pushing it away

2.) Describe--you are putting into words the exact thoughts behind your emotions

3.) Function of Emotions--you are asking yourself what your emotions tell you about yourself or your situation

4.) Problem Solving--used at the very end when you identify the root issues that need to be dealt with

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