Doing the Opposite of How I Feel (DBT therapy technique)

Earlier this week, I talked about how Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) has helped me deal with difficult emotions. Another technique I’ve learned in DBT therapy is about taking opposite action. I was thinking about this technique this morning as I felt my laziness creeping in.

Taking opposite action is part of DBT’s emotional regulation techniques. As I understand it, the key is to identify the emotion I’m having, be mindful about it, and think about what action I want to take next.

For example, when I feel fearful, I usually want to isolate. The same thing happens when I feel sad. The problem is, isolation typically leads me to feeling even worse. With opposite action, I examine the emotion and feeling I have, and then I push myself to take a healthy action.

This is easier said than done. Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed by my emotions that I have to take a “time out,” so to speak. But when I take opposite action, I usually feel crappy at first but begin to feel better much sooner.

This morning, I felt my usual urge to sit around and read all day. This sounds nice at first, but then the inertia sets in. Next thing I know, I’ve been reading for hours and putting off things I could’ve been doing.

I use opposite action in other ways, too. I mostly use it for chores around the house I don’t feel like doing and, especially, for doing light exercise, like taking walks around the block. It’s like that common refrain: Pushing to exercise myself is hard, but I feel great once I do it and it’s over!

My opposite action for today is to work on my freelance writing assignment and take things moment to moment. My freelance assignment is usually due a week after I receive it, so it’s easy to push it off. It’s that procrastination/perfectionism thing.

Hope everyone is safe, healthy, and well right now and, if you want, take some opposite actions today.

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