This session will discuss "Opposite Action," a dialectical behavior therapy technique. When feelings become too intense or harmful or when they cause dysfunctional emotion-driven behavior, DBT encourages the use of this technique. The point is not to deny the validity of your feelings but to reframe them in a way that will help you reach a more positive outcome.
There are good reasons for how we feel. Even if what you're feeling is unpleasant, know it's okay to experience it. When our emotions compel us to behave in ways we later regret, problems start to occur. The following are some examples:
Indulging in substance abuse as a coping mechanism for sadness or isolation is a recipe for addiction and relapse, at worst for those already on the road to recovery.
Avoiding necessary tasks and challenges because you're afraid that failing might ruin your chances for success in school or the workplace.
Allowing your anger to lead to verbal attacks might damage your relationships.
Emotional impulses are problematic because they can magnify the initial response. Emotion-driven behavior can lead you to be more engrossed in the feeling. So, here is where the opposite action comes into play. Instead of feeding an emotion, doing the opposite might help you control and shift your state of mind.
Although we may all feel a diverse variety of complex emotions, most people respond to complicated feelings in predictable ways. By observing your patterns, you may improve your ability to identify negative emotions and gain confidence in your ability to control them. Apply the opposite action skill when your feelings are at odds with the facts or when giving in to them would harm your well-being or the situation at hand.
How to do Opposite Action:
- Give a name to the feeling you want to alter. Consider if there is a valid reason to reduce or moderate this feeling. Is it too much for you to handle? Do you feel compelled to engage in risky or damaging behavior?
- Make sure you have all the facts. Have you misread the situation or overlooked any crucial information? Find out whether the circumstances warrant the feeling. In other words, "do the facts support it?"
- Recognize the corresponding body language and actions. What are your facial expressions and posture like? What are you saying, and how are you expressing it?
- Identify and explain the urges you feel to take action. Pay close consideration to your impulses, wants, and cravings.
- Figure out whether acting on or expressing the feeling will help. The question is, "If I give in to this impulse, will it make things better or worse?"
- Recognize an opposite action. What are changes in body language you can make that don’t convey fear, for instance? Is there a way to adjust your posture such that it belies strength rather than weakness? Is there a way to confront your fears head-on rather than run away? What other, more positive, and healthier activities can you engage in when you are bored or anxious instead of resorting to drugs or alcohol?
- Make a firm decision to do the opposite action and dedicate yourself to it fully. Consider why you wish to control your emotions while you consider committing. What consequences have you encountered in the past when you let your emotions control your actions? Did you or anybody close to you suffer substantial damage?
Doing the opposite action might be difficult. We're not going to pretend otherwise. However, the sharp edge of intense feelings may be swiftly dulled by doing the opposite action. When emotions are strong, and you're in the thick of things, it might be challenging to use this skill. However, planning opposite-action strategies when feeling calm may equip you with a powerful weapon for managing your emotions.
Contact a luxury detox and dual diagnosis treatment center like Wish Recovery to learn other DBT techniques to help you get started on the road to recovery.