What?

This page is a rehash of the duck/rabbit and the DBT ‘What’ skill of describe. It will also hit on a little no-no called being judgmental. These are extremely tough concepts. I was told someone did not get it, meaning a number of someones did not get it.

Bringing me to my first thank you. Thank you for speaking up. In group I can (sort of) see the blank looks. Can’t do that in cyberspace.

Secondly, thank you for saving me from myself! I already had two rooms cleaned, two loads of laundry run and the second load of dishes in. The domestic goddess impersonation was getting out of hand!

Third thank you for the compliment on my teaching abilities. You are too kind.

OK. I will probably break this into two or three pages because I have already talked too much, but let’s start with ‘what’ skills in DBT. What skills are ‘what we have to do to be mindful’. They are each done in three ways: one-mindfully, effectively and non-judgmentally. These are the ‘how’ skills.

The first ‘what’ skill is observe. This is really hard because we are a language-oriented species. Observe is to take everything about something in without using words. No labels. No descriptions. My favorite example of this is an infant. You parents, etc, know that look that basically says “I don’t know what it is, but it sure is interesting!”?  That is observe. He does not have labels to categorize it or words to describe it, but he is taking it all in. Observe has no words and no categories.

Why is observe important? It lets us take in everything and reject nothing. There is a saying in martial arts to the effect:

“with the beginner there are many possibilities.  With the master, there are only a few.”

Sometimes phenomenal discoveries are made by the young because they don’t know enough to know where they should be exploring. They explore everywhere and find things the experts miss.

Describe has words but no categories. You simply describe what you see. Google ‘messy room photo’. The one I use is the one with the white teddy bear on the bunk-bed ladder. Can you describe it without categorizing or passing judgment? It takes practice! Describe is: the bear is white and red. The bear is on the ladder. There is a cup on the dresser.

Judgment is: “it is an awfully messy room! It is probably a girl’s room because of the purse and teddy bear. She is a girly sort of girl but she is a real slob!”

How does this relate to us and mental health? Excellent question! Suppose that picture was not a room but your mind. You just got your diagnosis of AMD and you are in a tizzy. How helpful is it to say “My mind is a mess! I am a mess! It is awful how befuddled I am! I should not be this way!” I would say not very helpful.

Now suppose instead you observe what is going on:

“My heart is racing. My stomach is upset. That was a thought about my car. That was a thought about my job.”

Does describing sensations and thoughts sound like a better plan? I believe it is.

At over 500 words now. Let’s do judgment on the next page.

Next: preconceived notions

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