kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
[personal profile] kaberett
[I am using The Dialectical Behaviour Therapy Skills Workbook. Content notes as implied by the subject.]

The first distress tolerance skills you'll learn in this chapter will help you distract yourself from the situations that are causing you emotional pain. [...] Distraction also buys you time so that your emotions can settle down before you take action to deal with a distressing situation.

[...] The second group of distress tolerance skills you'll learn in this chapter are self-soothing skills (Johnson, 1985; Linehan, 1993b). It's often necessary to soothe yourself before you the face the cause of your distress because your emotions might be too "hot".


Both groups get subheadings! For distraction, these are:
  • distract yourself from self-destructive behaviours
  • distract yourself with pleasurable activities
  • distract yourself by paying attention to someone else
  • distract your thoughts
  • distract yourself by leaving
  • distract yourself with tasks and chores
  • distract yourself by counting


For relaxation, they are:
  • self-soothing using your sense of smell
  • self-soothing using your sense of vision
  • self-soothing using your sense of vision
  • self-soothing using your sense of taste
  • self-soothing using your sense of touch


... but the problem I've been having with writing up this section is that I can't actually work out what the meaningful difference between "distraction" and "relaxation" is, in this context. Like, it seems to me that basically everything under "relaxation" could plausibly be counted under "distract yourself with pleasurable activities" (and indeed the distraction-focussed Big List Of Pleasurable Activities includes... listening to the radio, or watching TV, or moving your body, or getting a massagemaking music, or going to a park or museum, or taking a bubble bath or shower, or drawing or painting or taking photographs -- all of which are also listed as sense-specific relaxation techniques.

Which makes the concomitant exercises, wherein I'm asked to create separate distraction and relaxation plans, very difficult, from my perspective: I feel like I'm repeating myself a lot in ways that mean it's unclear to me why it's considered beneficial for me to do these as two separate exercises, which in turn means that I am stuck feeling like I'm Doing It Wrong, inevitably, because I Don't Get It.

There's also the thing [personal profile] vass talked some about in a previous thread -- about how Kate Bornstein's 101 Alternatives To Suicide does this in a way that feels less condescending and frankly kinda skeezy (and indeed by "other healthy, nonharming ideas" I have written "Hello, Cruel World does this better --> okay, so pull it out and look at it (this will need you to retrieve a copy, Alex)" -- both of mine are currently on loan).

The Thing of Things post on crisis survival provides a framing that I find slightly more helpful; it flags up that the point of distraction is to stop thinking about the crisis, whereas relaxation/self-soothing are about "creating physical senstations that make you feel warm and happy inside", or, because I'm not the only person confused about this:

IMPROVE skills are very similar to the distract skills. My therapist informs me that the distract skills are supposed to be doing something other than the distressing thing, while IMPROVE [relaxation/self-soothing] skills are supposed to be for when you have no choice but to deal with the distressing thing. However, in that case, "thoughts" clearly belongs on the IMPROVE skills list, and "vacations" clearly belongs on the distract skills list. I think Marsha Linehan was just trying to come up with clever acronyms.


Which... is not an impression I get from the book I'm working from, which says that the three-step plan is "distract, relax, cope". (I'm also tripping up over how to adapt this in the context of autism: because I can distract by hyperfocussing on something, but that's not necessarily actually useful.)

So I think what I'm actually going to do is throw my hands up in mild despair, make myself a unified list of options (taking into account the actual sense of making separate lists for things you can do at home and things you... can't so much), and move on.

First, though, things I added to the various lists:
  • dying/clipping/brushing A's hair (this is clearly a very specific option)
  • write a poem
  • design a knitting pattern
  • get stuck into code/code-adjacent activities
  • if you don't know what to do with yourself, clean things or fix things
  • for counting: stitches or beads (for knitting purposes)
  • reread a graphic novel or comic, paying attention to detail
  • find plants to look at
  • watch the hex clock
  • find an interesting tumblr tag to browse
  • do physio
  • hide under the weighted blanket
  • brush hair

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-20 03:52 pm (UTC)
hilarita: trefoil carving (Default)
From: [personal profile] hilarita
So after reading the linked thread, I feel that adding "recite Tom Lehrer songs" should be added to the "distract" list :)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-20 04:01 pm (UTC)
cereta: Cover of Alaya Dawn Johnson's The Burning City (Lana)
From: [personal profile] cereta
I was taking a class in the US on DBT (it's supposed to help with physical side of emotional ailments), it had to stop halfway through because childcare. I hope st start again soon. But what I do remember is the distract aspect wasn't giving enough time.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-20 04:11 pm (UTC)
el_staplador: (Default)
From: [personal profile] el_staplador
The hex clock is lovely, and I hadn't come across it before - thank you for linking.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-20 05:45 pm (UTC)
niqaeli: cat with arizona flag in the background (Default)
From: [personal profile] niqaeli
My impression having not read anything else in the topic is that for all that many things might qualify for both, but: distract means to do something to interrupt the rumination cycle on the crisis/cause of distress. And the thing you choose to do this with may also then relax you, but the primary point is to first derail the thought train.

Then the point of relax is to actively work on getting your autonomic nervous system to chill the hell out so your body and brain are no longer in "FUCK, A TIGER" mode (as that mode really is only useful when there ACTUALLY IS a fucking tiger and not after you've dealt with the actual fucking tiger or if the crisis is more abstract). And again, things that accomplish this may also serve as effective distractions so these two points may be collapsible in terms of activities for many people, but the specific purposes do differ.

And if it helps clarify any, I will note that in my particular case: getting a massage without having first thoroughly disrupted the thought processes would be very pointless -- I'd sit through the massage ruminating on the thing and getting far less physically and mentally out of the massage than if I'd distracted myself sufficiently first that I had other things to contemplate.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-20 06:36 pm (UTC)
alexseanchai: Blue and purple lightning (Default)
From: [personal profile] alexseanchai
+1 to the first two paragraphs.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-20 11:20 pm (UTC)
azurelunatic: A glittery black pin badge with a blue holographic star in the middle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] azurelunatic
This, yes.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-20 11:37 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ewt
Yes, I think there may be something about the intention/purpose of the activity for categorisation purposes.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-21 04:47 am (UTC)
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
From: [personal profile] davidgillon
This is pretty much what I intended saying. It seems like Distraction is stopping the problem worsening, while Relaxation is actually improving where you are once you've stopped the worsening. But in many cases relaxation activities might well accomplish the distraction as well.
Edited Date: 2016-11-21 04:49 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-21 11:58 am (UTC)
antisoppist: (Default)
From: [personal profile] antisoppist
tldr reply from total stranger

I'd sit through the massage ruminating on the thing and getting far less physically and mentally out of the massage than if I'd distracted myself sufficiently first that I had other things to contemplate.

Yes. I haven't read anything else either but I keep getting people telling me to "relax" and "look after myself" and that isn't helping because a) I have forgotten how, and b) if I do allow my head enough empty space, it will plunge back into a pit of WAS THAT A TIGER, DID I CREATE THE TIGER, WAS I IMAGINING THE TIGER OR WAS IT ALWAYS A TIGER FROM THE START EVEN IF IT WAS ONLY OBVIOUSLY A TIGER ONCE I DISCOVERED I WAS A GIRAFFE? and cannot yet get to THE TIGER HAS GONE NOW until it has sorted that out.

I have been overworking, but that is not good. What is working is learning to play the bassoon, because I don't know how to play the bassoon or read bass clef and I really want to and it is the perfect combination of mental and physical to switch everything else off and make me a whole person not a split brain/body one. I sing in a choir too but I'm good enough at that that my mind can wander while I'm doing it and then I'm at risk of bursting into tears in the middle of a rehearsal. I need something difficult enough to occupy my brain away from the other stuff.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-23 04:04 am (UTC)
staranise: A star anise floating in a cup of mint tea (Default)
From: [personal profile] staranise
Yes--distraction can be a noxious counter-irritatnt, like, "I stopped thinking about my breakup by reading the news" or "I procrastinated on my paper by doing the dishes I'd been procrastinating on all week." You may still be cranky or upset or whatever, with your shoulders up around your ears--but ideally, now you're thinking about something that doesn't send you into quite as bad a downward spiral.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-25 08:23 pm (UTC)
niqaeli: cat with arizona flag in the background (Default)
From: [personal profile] niqaeli
I am glad it is useful! It definitely didn't sound clear at all, but I have had those two functions clearly separated in my mind for a long time, because a lot of things that will function to distract me (television or a book) may not be good at ALL at soothing my autonomic nervous system. The majority of narrative fiction tends to wind mine up, at least a little, and in general human brains are pretty crap at differentiating between fictional distressing situations and real ones, y'know? (Fic is often the exception, as there are whole GENRES of fic that expressly do NOT have conflict or anyone in danger, and I am PRETTY SURE that they exist and are as popular as they exactly because of people wanting the escapism of narrative fiction without any added stress.)

Myself I'm very fond of swimming as a combo, as paying attention to your breathing is not optional and keeping good form generally still requires enough attention that my brain can't go wandering especially!

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-27 07:34 am (UTC)
steorra: Illumination of the Latin words In Principio erat verbum (books)
From: [personal profile] steorra
"whole GENRES of fic that expressly do NOT have conflict or anyone in danger"

I am curious - do you have (an) example(s) of such genres handy?

(I don't generally read fic, so am not really familiar with fic genres.)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-12-02 04:03 am (UTC)
niqaeli: Penelope Garcia of Criminal Minds in her domain (your tech goddess here; speak o mortals)
From: [personal profile] niqaeli
I don't have any specific stories to hand, but if you google "curtainfic", it's a pretty good example (sub)genre. "domestic fluff" would be the more umbrella term, I think, although tagging is complex and I'm not tracking trends closely. anything tagged "tooth-rotting fluff" or similar is most of the time going to be sort of thing I was talking about, and if it's not quite traditionally so then that's also usually going to be noted in tags or summary or notes.

"fluff" by itself would be the most umbrella term, but people's definitions start to get a bit wider and less guaranteed-safety when you get that broad. so.

sorry this took so long, I've been dealing with school and stuff so this comment's been sitting in my inbox while I try to scrape up some brain! still not that much brain, but hopefully that was in some way helpful in clarifying.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-12-02 06:08 am (UTC)
steorra: Part of Saturn in the shade of its rings (Default)
From: [personal profile] steorra
Thanks! It is definitely helpful.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-20 06:15 pm (UTC)
harpers_child: melaka fray reading from "Tales of the Slayers". (Default)
From: [personal profile] harpers_child
Thank you on two counts today. One for the link to the hex clock which is a thing I keep forgetting exists. Two for reminding me I need to track down a new copy of Hello Cruel World. Mine got lent to a sister who loaned it to a friend and so on.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-23 11:35 pm (UTC)
quartzpebble: (Default)
From: [personal profile] quartzpebble
Eep, yes, I will get that mailed back to you after this week's holiday. Sorry!

(no subject)

Date: 2016-11-20 06:32 pm (UTC)
syderia: lotus Syderia (Default)
From: [personal profile] syderia
Thank you for the link to the hex clock, it is lovely.
From: [personal profile] ewt
Related-but-not-really:

In certain Christian circles there is a tendency to try to make people focus on "being, not doing" without making a meaningful distinction between the two, and while implying that "being" is somehow better on some level. As far as I can tell what is usually meant is that "doing" is doing active things (and maybe doing them quickly and maybe not spending much time in reflection), while "being" is doing relaxing/meditative/reflective things. But if I point out that both of these count as "doing" then I seem to transgress their expectations in some way and they don't like it at all. The other way the language seems to be used is in terms of whether someone "seems busy" -- which I submit has more to do with the expectations that are on their plate, especially when we're talking about people in any kind of recognised ministry, who seem to be expected to complete really rather more tasks than one person possibly could, while also holding some kind of commitment to "being, not doing" so that they do their tasks in a calm, relaxed and open way no matter how pressed they are for time etc -- the unstated implication is almost that if one is holy enough, hard things don't take effort and one never appears frazzled. It's utter hogwash, of course. Will a practice of prayer and meditation help one appear less frazzled and do things more calmly? Well, maybe -- but that won't look the same for everyone, and for some people it might lead them to e.g. political activism.

I find this incredibly frustrating, partly because people are not saying what they actually mean but using some kind of shorthand-that-is-a-lie, and partly because for me, going for a bike ride is more likely to calm me down than sitting watching a candle (or whatever). If I am upset I am perfectly capable of ruminating in circles until I get more upset even if to an outside observer I appear to be sitting quietly and calmly. There are traditionally meditative activities that I do find helpful/prayerful (rosary and plainchant sometimes get given a pass into "being" territory, and writing a journal can also help me and is a useful example when I'm dealing with people who are much further down the candle); but so can having three days of a fairly busy schedule where I don't have to do much self-directed, unstructured work at all but I do have to turn up at places and interact with others in structured ways. For me, that might not be "doing rather than being" so much as "having an external structure in place to prevent me disappearing so far into my own anxiety that I can't find my way out again". Unfortunately the latter also leads to neglecting self-care for me, so it isn't a great long-term solution, and my physical health is not good enough now to endure the very busy schedule I once kept, but it was absolutely crucial in things like me surviving highschool. Turns out feeling stressed because I was busy was, in fact, a better option for me than feeling stressed about various other things going on at the time, which it was not yet safe for me to examine properly. (Also, telling a church musician in December or late in Lent that she should be "being, not doing" is a laugh and a half. No, I'll feel better when I know I've done all I can to make everything go smoothly, and not a moment before; I am busy but that does not mean I am freaking out. Fuck off, or help. Ah, being on sabbatical is great.)

The long and short of it is that I have things I wheel out as "being" things which I know damn well are "doing" things (in the sense that I can write htem on a to-do list) but will usually pass the arbitrary categories that other people have made. If I trust the person I might ask them what they mean by the distinction.

TL;DR: I think even very intelligent people can't always use words to say what they mean, and I think that might be happening with this book. Making a unified list seems like a good plan. Maybe a Venn diagram?

Another thing that occurs to me (and may or may not be any use to you) is that if I have too many options on a list of possible things to do, I get overwhelmed and don't do any of them. In my daily to-do list my strategy for dealing with this is to pick three things from the Big List, write them on a post-it, and then carry the post-it around with me until the things on it are done. I can do the things on the post-it in any order I feel like, and I try to include two easy wins and one more difficult task. If I write four things on the post-it I may get nothing done at all, or just go off-piste and back to the big list instead, and it just doesn't work as well. So, I don't know how the book envisions you choosing the distraction things or the soothing things, but if it were me I would be tempted to have some kind of system or algorithm for deciding which things to do; for me that might be narrowing it down to two or three options ad then picking one, rather than trying to pick one from a longer list, or it might be context-based algorithms (what is an option at home may not be an option when out and about; what is an option in London may not be in Aberdeen, and vice versa. In practice, I tend to learn patterns for contexts that I am in a lot).

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