DBT GROUP NOTES: PARTICIPATE AND THE ART OF TAKING ACTION PART 2

MINDFULNESS

Exploring the breath while observing your “non-participate monologue”. The purpose of the meditation is to help you recognize the internal monologues you have that pull you out of your experience. Noticing what holds you back from participating.

Meditation for Observing your Non-Participate Monologue

MORE IDEAS FROM THE ART OF TAKING ACTION

Elaboration on Starting, page 95

The challenge of starting leads to procrastination. When facing an assignment or even a hobby, the sense of needing to do it well or do it right becomes daunting. Even breaking a task down into smaller tasks requires prioritizing that can end up being overwhelming. There is a dialectic here, in that though breaking things into smaller tasks can be overwhelming, smaller tasks are easier to bit off. The key to starting is keep it light, just jump in to one of the available smaller tasks. For example, when writing a paper, perhaps just start by setting up your desk with notes and books and whatever materials you need. Or maybe just jump in to cull information from your notes to start an outline. With any task, you can commit to 15 minutes. Its easier to commit to 15 minutes with permission to stop, than to dedicate an entire afternoon to finish the project. Then if the participate skill carries you into the activity….by all means keep going.

Often the starting is the hardest part. The dread of starting is worse than the task itself.

The most important thing in dividing tasks is the psychological effect of making the task bearable….the tasks just need to be small enough that they feel conquerable. After that, starting is easy.

Gregg krech, the art of taking action p. 96

Elaboration on Not so Fast, p 129

Have you ever wondered, with all our timesaving paraphernalia, what happens to the time we save?

Donella meadows

This quote inquiring about what happens to the time we save makes me think of a joke I once heard (I went looking for it online, but can’t find it.) So a guy dies and arrives at the pearly gates and St Peter says, “Congratulations! For your 1,788,480 points !” The guy is surprised and responds, “I didn’t realize you were keeping track of points. What is the point system?”

St. Peter responds, “Oh no, we don’t have a point system. Thats just how many video game points you earned across your lifetime. We just figured since it was the thing you spent the most time on, it must be the thing that was most important to you.”

OUCH!

Catch your breath. The participate skill is about being fully present, not speeding through life. It is also about being mindful about what you participate in. How are you spend this one wild and precious life?

Multitasking takes us out of the task and into a kind of frenzied activity. Imagine pausing and letting your actions be deliberate.

Imagine slowing down enough to pay attention to what is important to you. This slowing down is a way of participating in life. Rather than rushing through it.Suppose we went at a slow enough pace not only to smell the flowers, but to feel our bodies, play with children, look openly into the faces of loved ones. Suppose we stop gulping down fast food and started savoring slow food, grown, cooked, served and eaten with care. Suppose we took time each day to sit in silence.

Hmm. Most of the world has significantly slowed down during the pandemic. The pulse of life has shifted during the pandemic. Think about what it means to participate during quarantine? Are there opportunities we are overlooking? Are we so lost in complaining about what we have lost that we miss out on what we might gain from slowing down?

Elaboration on Discouragement p 188

A student asked Soen Nakagawa during a meditation retreat, “I am very discouraged. What should I do?” Soen replied, “Encourage others.”

Well, how can we encourage others when we’re discouraged ourselves? Normally we think that there is a person who is discouraged and that is the person who is suffering. And there is a person who encourages them, and that is the person who is doing well–who is wise and has his act together. But Nakagawa Roshi says that when we are suffering, that is when we should provide encouragement to others. He doesn’t say, “first get yourself together, and then give others encouragement.” Its the act of encouraging others that heals our own discouragement.

Gregg krech

This makes me think of the Contributing skill in DBT. This skill is about getting out of your own mind and into helping others. When we contribute we are far less self focused. Another idea from Japanese psychology is an emphasis on “Other-esteem”. Rather than building up our self-esteem, which is considered too self involved. In Japanese psychology the idea is an emphasis on altruism. Of course, we encounter a dialectic here between wanting to not be self-absorbed/selfish and not becoming co-dependent either.

MORITA THERAPY

 Morita therapy is a Japanese psychotherapy which moves patients towards a position of accepting and living in harmony with nature, including the emotional fluctuations of their own authentic human nature, through a process of rest and action-taking.

“Developed by Japanese psychiatrist Shoma Morita in the early part of the twentieth century, Morita Therapy was influenced by the psychological principles of Zen Buddhism. His method was initially developed as a treatment for a type of anxiety neurosis called shinkeishitsu. Over time the principles of his approach have been adapted to outpatient settings and expanded to address not only emotional well-being but to improve function in many aspects of day to day life. 

Morita proposed that human motivation was influenced by two opposing drives; a desire to live fully (self-actualize), and a desire to maintain security and comfort. He noted that these two drives were often in opposition. To the extent that a person pursues their most valued goals (relationships, education, parenting, career building, etc) they often experience discomfort and insecurity (anxiety, self-doubt, financial or personal risk, etc.). Morita observed that the more people attempt to avoid or suppress feelings of insecurity the more it disrupts their ability to function. Furthermore, their attention becomes increasingly fixated on erroneous efforts to escape unwanted feelings, resulting in the paradoxical effect of enhancing the frequency and intensity of the very experiences they are trying to avoid. Over time this results in increasing intolerance of unpleasant thoughts, feelings, and body sensations; an escalating mental obsession with and related enhancement of unwanted experience; and a decline in a person’s ability to take purposeful actions.”

This description of Morita Therapy is taken from the website of the Morita School of Chicago. http://www.moritaschool.com/read-me

BEHAVIORS THAT INTERFERE WITH PARTICIPATING

AVOIDANCE

We are so deeply conditioned to avoid discomfort at all cost. Of course, this becomes hugely problematic when it means avoiding positive risk. So many of the amazing things that give life meaning involve enduring unpleasant, aversive experiences to achieve our goals.

For me, recognizing my endless pursuit of comfort was quit striking. This is a kind of mindfulness in and off itself. What am I avoiding? And what is this pursuit of comfort costing me?

RESIGNATION

Krech’s use of the word “languishing” is priceless and reminded me of the feeling of “Ennui” evoked in the travails of the existentialist parisian cat, Henri. In DBT, we refer to this as Staying Miserable. Wrapping ourselves in the shroud of our misery and marinating there. “In resignation, we are not trying to escape from our feelings, we are simply languishing in them. Rather than stepping back and observing our feelings we are overcome by them. Our internal experience dictates our conduct and our lives turn into roller coasters as they become mirror images of the constant fluctuation of our feelings.”

In DBT, we refer to that as mood dependent behavior. Where your behavior is dictated by your mood. Behavior therapies are focused on changing your behavior which often results in a change in mood.

COMPLAINING

Henri does a fair bit of this too.

So many dialectics when we consider Morita Therapy (japanese psychology). Think about western therapy. Much of it is clients detailing their heartbreaks, disappointments, struggles–and it does involve some complaining. If complaining increases suffering, and the goal is to decrease suffering, its like the client coming to the therapist and saying, “I have this terrible cake addiction. I can’t stop eating cake.” And the therapist replying, “Then let’s eat cupcakes together.”

However, we all need validation. Both internal and external validation. And how can we do problem solving with out understanding the problem?

Of course the answer in DBT is to balance acceptance of the client and their situation with pushing for change. But Morita Therapy introduces another challenge, not reinforcing complaining which can bring more energy and focus to the discomfort. We want to escape the hamster wheel of our own rumination.

ARUGAMMAMA: THE SOLUTION

This is a variation on Radical Acceptance. Its a deep acceptance of what is. Moving forward with acceptance of reality as it is.

Morita brings a wonderful twist here though by clarifying–this kind of acceptance is about accepting discomfort, depression, anxiety, anger, whatever your mental state. “The state of arugammama is one in which we do not try to escape from our emotional experience.” Rather, we bring it with us while we go about doing what is important to us.

Imagine your depression is a chimpanzee baby, you swing it up on your back and let it hold on while you go about your life. You take it with you. You don’t try to solve it.

“We accept the experience of depression and make no effort to escape. And we invite depression to accompany us while we make dinner, or go shopping or walk the dog. Our anxiety is our companion as we make our presentation to a room full of people. “

Thanks for indulging me with this–its what I imagine every time I hear this word.

HOMEWORK

Simply be Mindful of your use of the Participate Skill this week,.

Pay attention to how complaining, avoidance and resignation are interfering with a meaningful life.

And where you can use Arugamamma….

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Diana is a licensed professional counselor based in Nashville. She has been teaching DBT skills for the last ten years after writing her master's thesis about making DBT skills training interesting and engaging. She loves using story telling to help illustrate how skills can be used.

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