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DBT: Mindfulness

Old 08-14-2006, 01:28 PM
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DBT: Mindfulness

Mindfulness

The purpose of mindfulness training is to learn to better observe your experiences and your environment. The objective “is to welcome experience rather than to control it.” So it is not a process that leads to solutions. It is a skill that makes solutions easier to identify and learn.

The goals of teaching mindfulness skills are
--improve one’s ability to recognize internal vs. external sources of distress;
--to help learn to observe rather than evaluate experiences;
--learn solution-focused coping instead of emotion-focused coping

Our scientific traditions emphasize analysis rather than extended observation. Mindfulness is learning to observe fully without judgment. We try to observe without analysis, as if the experience or emotion is new. Detach and describe as fully as possible.
This can be hard to do! We instinctively analyze, and in fact such analysis is part of how we function day to day. The goal is simply to get more practice at observing: “to sometimes choose to be mindful on purpose.”

An exercise can be based on the mnemonic ONE MIND:
Focus on One thing in the moment;
Focus on the Now;
Pay attention to the Environment;
Pay attention to the Moment;
Increase sensations (touch, taste, hearing, vision);
Strive to be Nonjudgmental;
Describe, don’t prescribe or proscribe.

One reason for practicing mindfulness is that many people automatically turn to escape and avoidance strategies when dealing with distress. This may include drinking, drug use, cutting, eating behaviors, etc. When someone learns to control one coping behavior, but still instantly moves from distress to escape/avoidance, that person may simply adopt another self-harming behavior. Moving rapidly through the process can make the harmful escape behaviors hard habits to break.

Slowing down to recognize the distressing feelings – even when it’s not pleasant to do so – may be a necessary way to start adopting different coping strategies. The recognition of what causes the distress, followed by full awareness of the distress process, may be necessary before trying to set goals or develop coping strategies. It may also help with the (later) process of putting the problems in perspective, rationally disputing the beliefs involved, etc.

The process of describing the experience or emotion illustrates the power of words, which is a key principle of REBT as well. Words can either define or distort experience. If you always look to others for approval, learning to define your own experience without judgment can build self-trust. There are useful lists of absolute words and possible substitutes in SMART Recovery essays (ref: Dr. Sarmiento’s web site,cyberpsych.com, and the ‘skysite’ linked at smartrecovery.org).

Exercises in mindfulness may be as simple as focusing on how it ‘feels’ to breathe, walk, or wash dishes. It can be a process of relaxing and feeling (concentrating on) each body part in turn.

Examples?
Put on a set of headphones and choose some music—enough for 15 – 30 minutes. Close your eyes. Carefully listen to each instrument in turn. Identify the patterns and rhythms: the sequences of notes, how the instruments trade the melody or harmony. Try to create a visual image in your brain of the instruments being played. Put them into a place and describe it in your own mind—what you would see and feel to go along with what you hear.

Select several foods of different textures and serve them onto a plate, along with sparkling water, fruit juice, tea, etc.. Sit and slowly experience each food’s smell, color, texture, crunchiness, mouth feel, flavor, aftertaste, and the sensation as it slides down your throat and into your stomach. Examples: celery, crackers, jello, peanut butter, yogurt, iceberg lettuce, fruit. Hold each piece up to the light, smell it with your eyes closed, chew slowly and thoroughly.

Turn off all the electronic things in your house, then sit very quietly and identify all the other sounds. Or go to a place in nature where you can be undisturbed, and sit with your eyes closed to identify and describe all the sounds—animal, human, nature.

Go into a quiet room and close the door and curtains. Light a scented candle and put on some quiet music of your choice. Lie down and focus on the smells, the sounds, and how your body feels. Breathe very carefully and rhythmically. Slowly focus on relaxing each part of your body, beginning with your toes and gradually working up to your head.

At some point when you are feeling tense, irritable, moderately angry, or glum, try a simple exercise: put your head in your hands and feel your body and ‘feel’ your brain. Describe, without using subjective terms, how you feel (hot, tired, your temples feel tight, thoughts are racing, etc.). Try to make some simple descriptive sentences about this: ‘When I am stressed I feel tightness in my chest and forehead’.

The idea is to become more aware of your surroundings, your experiences, your emotions, and to learn to describe them all as if you were observing rather than analyzing them.
Once we’ve achieved greater mindfulness, we can begin to describe the things that upset us emotionally in terms of how they make us feel, with the ultimate goal being to achieve more effective emotional control.
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Old 08-17-2006, 08:58 AM
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Don,
Thanks for this post. I'm going to play devil's advocate here for a bit, for the sake of clarity, ok?

How does describing things that upset us emotionally achieve the goal of control over our emotions? They seem to be two totally different actions -- one being description of self; the other control of self.

In short, I can describe my emotions rationally and without judgement. Yet, I cannot *always* control those emotions. Particularly if something happens totally out of the blue and not the norm of a particular context -- eg, my experiences at school last year.

Thanks for any clarification you can give. I think it will be helpful for myself and others.

Shalom!
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Old 08-17-2006, 11:53 PM
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Simple: recognizing the emotions, and what they are doing to us, is the first step to developing emotional management. They are two different actions, but they are related. The next step is to develop Interpersonal Effectiveness, which is a separate essay....DBT: Interpersonal Effectiveness
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Old 08-18-2006, 02:08 AM
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I think I read something about ascestics somewhere else on this forum, but this:

The idea is to become more aware of your surroundings, your experiences, your emotions, and to learn to describe them all as if you were observing rather than analyzing them.
Once we’ve achieved greater mindfulness, we can begin to describe the things that upset us emotionally in terms of how they make us feel, with the ultimate goal being to achieve more effective emotional control.
is zen. Apart from the "more effective emotional control", which wouldn't describe the experience of leaving behind the emotions as an expression of attachment.

This isn't a "nature did it first" type post. As a sometimes student of religion I'm fascinated by the way that religions encourage "mindfulness" in practitioners, rather than "wilfulness"
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Old 08-18-2006, 03:02 AM
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On this essay I worked with a counselor who practices in the South, and he said one of his problems with mindfulness exercises in the Bible Belt is that his clients often think he's asking them to (heaven forbid) meditate. Which is Eastern religion, and therefore unacceptable. So he often mentions that prayer can be a useful form of mindfulness.

A key difference between DBT and REBT/CBT is that we aren't disputing the emotions, or identifying/disputing the beliefs behind them necessarily. We are recognizing and accepting them, then managing our reactions. It's not really a conflict, anymore than REBT and CBT are in conflict, it's more a difference in the way one gets to the desired outcome of more effective management of how we respond to our own emotions.

A couple of times people have said to me that REBT seems to be denying or suppressing emotions. People who know more about REBT/CBT than I do usually respond that we are not doing so, we are simply changing how we respond to the emotions. But this approach seems to be more accepting of 'negative' emotions.

A big part of this is to simply slow down as you identify what you're feeling and how you're reacting. Just the process alone can help reduce the overwhelmed feeling we often get when life presses down. Sometimes the emotion passes and we're back on an even keel. It can be useful then to do a rational disputation of the underlying beliefs. Relax the body, and the mind will follow.
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Old 08-18-2006, 03:20 AM
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simply slow down
wise words
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Old 08-18-2006, 05:54 AM
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Got an example?
I always find that helpful...

Off to read the other essay....

Shalom!
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Old 08-19-2006, 07:16 AM
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Originally Posted by paulmh
I'm fascinated by the way that religions encourage "mindfulness" in practitioners, rather than "wilfulness"
I equate mindfullness with awareness
and willfullness with forcefulness.

Difference being, the former requires working with one's surroundings -both internal and external, like water flowing downstream;
whereas the latter oftentimes disregards the surroundings, like a bulldozer plowing through the land.
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Old 12-20-2008, 04:54 PM
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bump
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Old 12-20-2008, 05:13 PM
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Thanks DK....i ought to bump this every morning to use as my start of the day reading! I'm not practicing enough....then wonder why I'm not doing so hot
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Old 12-20-2008, 05:29 PM
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Cool.

Fits with the Buddhism I already like and is still the new big thing in coping with depression, which I have.



--learn solution-focused coping instead of emotion-focused coping
I need some of that!
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Old 12-20-2008, 05:32 PM
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You're welcome, Ananda.

Finding this thread reminded me that my therapist suggested DBT and gave me some material to look at. Here is what Wiki says:

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is a psychological method, based on Buddhist teachings, developed by Marsha M. Linehan to treat persons with borderline personality disorder (BPD).[1] Research indicates its application to also be effective in treating patients who represent varied symptoms and behaviors associated with spectrum mood disorders, including self-injury.[2] DBT includes the following key elements: behaviorist theory, dialectics, cognitive therapy, and, DBT's central component, mindfulness.
Dialectical behavioral therapy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

And the DBT website:

DBT Self Help
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Old 12-20-2008, 05:54 PM
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On my way to a meeting..but remind me to post the name of a book on I think mindflulness and depresson...of course I haven't read it yet...as rage seems to be the overwelming problem right now LOL
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Old 12-20-2008, 09:52 PM
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Thanks for the bump. Really enjoyed this one.
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Old 12-22-2008, 11:05 AM
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It seems almost unfortuante that Buddhism is included in the Spirituality forum. It seems more a philosophy of Mindfulness to me, which is more secular than spiritual.

It's about focusing on the observation of what is, rather than our own emotional reaction to it.
We could have so much more control of our own lives by simply being mindful.
It's in each individual's power to do so.
But damn, how quickly those emotions overpower.
Thanks for reviving this thread. It's powerful.
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