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
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kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)

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