Duck or Rabbit?

This week we went over describe skills in DBT class. Believe it or not JUST describing is tough! I put a picture of a bedroom with toys and clothes covering every available surface on the screen and ask the class to describe it. Instead of descriptions I often get a bunch of judgments. Messy, chaotic…I also get ‘should on- a phrase courtesy of Albert Ellis -and told how no child ‘should’ be allowed to keep a room like that!

Judgments and all the ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ can get in the way. They get in the way of just plain seeing what is there. They get in the way of accepting what is and dealing with it. Thus, sometimes we just need to describe without judgment or rules.

drawing of an optical illusion which can be seen as a duck or a rabbit.
drawing of an optical illusion which can be seen as a duck or a rabbit.

How do judgments and rules get in the way of seeing what is there? One way is to give us some preconceived notions of what we should see. Another exercise I do is give each student a card with a word on it, duck or rabbit. Then I show an old German drawing of the duck/rabbit. Most of the time people see what was on their cards. The opposite possibility has to be pointed out! When I plant a notion in their minds, that is the only way they can interpret what they see. Pretty limiting, yes?

Although we do the exercises with exterior, concrete things, they can be done with bodily sensations and emotions as well. There are some emotions people do not believe are good (judgment) or that they are allowed (should-ing) to have.

For example, let’s take fear. “Wimps are afraid of a little thing like fuzzy vision! I am a (fill in the blank e.g. war veteran, ex-cop, mother of four boys) and, let me tell you, nothing scares me!” Having that mind set may keep people from seeing what else is going on between their own two ears. That is in the lower parts of the brain, the emotional center.

So, since one cannot address what one cannot recognize and acknowledge, what is the game plan here? (Because we know THAT attitude is a bunch of crap. Whistling in the graveyard, although sometimes there is a place for whistling in the graveyard. See opposite to emotion).

The answer to the question I posed above that lengthy parenthetical phrase? Describe! Queasy stomach that feels like I ate a rock, heart pounding, shallow breath. Damn, that IS fear!

And now we have circled back to acceptance and change, the stalwart concepts of DBT. You cannot accept what you refuse to perceive. You perceive what is really there by describing it without the interference of judgment or rules.

Thus endth another lesson. Try the duck/rabbit on somebody. It’s sort of cool!

Next: We Won’t Discuss It

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