Monday, March 28, 2011

Do I have the skill????

When we are faced with a problem our automatic response is to get rid of it. Either by ineffective shut-down and avoidance or problem-solving it. Ideally we will want to problem solve in order to be sure that it doesn't return like a pesky rash or something. Otherwise we are increasing our pain. 

OK, so let's problem solve then!



The first place to start in finding a solution is to evaluate whether or not you have the skills that will be needed in order to solve the problem. So ask yourself:

"Do I have a skill that will work here?"

Skills are new, effective behaviors used to replace ineffective behaviors.

If you find that you do not have the skill, then learn it. There are three types of learning:

  1. Modeling or Observant Learning - observing behavior in others and using it as a model for your own behavior - for example: learning to dance requires that you spend time observing the instructor for a time and then you are able to practice and perform the dance yourself. This type of learning can especially be difficult when you are dealing with a learned behavior from childhood. For example, if when your father got angry, he yelled and your mother retreated. You would then learn, by observing this behavior, to when you are confronted with angry, yelling people, you retreat and leave. Now, as an adult and this situation arises, yet the person yelling is your spouse; the more effective way in handling the increased conflict is to deal with it and face it. I am not suggesting you stick around and get yelled at or even start yelling back, but the physical action of walking away, over time will lead to your "walking away" in a metaphorical sense too.
  2. Learning through consequences or Operant Learning - Whatever happens after a behavior either increases or decreases the likelihood that the behavior will happen again. A behavior that produces good outcomes tends to increase. A behavior that produces bad outcomes tends to decrease. This one gets tricky because what we know ultimately is an ineffective course feels good or produces something positive in the moment, therefore we repeat the behavior. For example, overeating reduces our anxiety and stress after a busy day. Overeating leads to a positive outcome (reduction in anxiety and stress) Hence, overeating is likely to occur in the future under similar circumstances. You can see where this one becomes detrimental, if we don't face our problems, instead we overeat, drink or use drugs to avoid...and it works! But it is also so damaging to our well being in the long term. Understanding this, it becomes so crystal clear that all these ineffective behaviors that we have learned have been perfectly caused. It makes sense. Real sense. It is no longer is a matter of it not making sense, it is now a matter of it being ineffective. Looking at it from this perspective releases us from judgment and turns our attention to be squarely on, what is effective and what is not?
  3. Learning through Association or Respondent Learning - Learning that occurs when a natural, automatic response is paired with a neutral cue, to the point that the cue automatically produces the response. An association is learned and continues to affect behavior, even when it no longer makes sense or is not justified. So picture this, you were left alone as a child (a really young child) producing feelings of fear and abandonment. You would then learn to associate being alone with that fear. As an adult, there are many times that we are alone and it is perfectly normal and indicates no threat, however you become gripped with fear because it was hard-wired based on a natural instinct we have programmed in us, it just isn't justified in a particular circumstance as an adult. Some may find that their reaction to their therapist taking a leave of absence, vacation or moving on to another practice, is extreme. The fear is overwhelming. Naturally, a degree of anxiety would be justified, but the intensity is likely related to respondent conditioning. 
Understanding how these different ways of learning impact you in your personal experiences is going to be highly effective when you attempt to problem solve an ineffective behavior:

  • Say, you are finding that you are having a hard time staying focused and your personal awareness has been significantly compromised the skill to use would be mindfulness with wise mind as your goal. You would then be prepared to make a decision or conduct yourself effectively in high anxiety situations. 
  • Tolerating (this may not solve your problem, but the idea here is to prevent it from getting worse - essentially stay in the bad) the skill to use? Distract - Self-sooth - Improve the moment - Pros and Cons list.
  •  Regulate (not trying to solve the problem just yet, but rather changing your response to the situation as the situation is) Skill: Build Positive Experiences, PLEASE Mastery, Mindfulness to current emotions, opposite action.
  •  Communication with those around you, especially those that tend to be high-conflict relationships. The skills: DEAR MAN, GIVE, FAST.
Virtually all of these skills are talked about in detail over in the forum: My DBT Life Group & Forum. If you find a skill that isn't there, please post a question or comment about it and if I don't personally get to a description of how that skill works, someone from the group will!

Next, you will want to make this observation: If you have the skill yet, you are not using it, why? What is the obstacle preventing you from using your skill? One of these three could be the culprit:

  1. Environment? Then contingencies. Change the A's and C's The A, B and C's are: (A) Antecendants (what perimeters have been set up to help to prevent ineffective behavior?) (B) Behavior and (C) Contingencies (what perimeters have been set-up to cope with an ineffective behavior?) Say you do not carry cash around (antecendant) because you tend to purchase alcohol when you are triggered, but somehow you end up being able get your hands on some alcohol and you drink it all. Your contingency plan would then be to call so-in-so and they are to be your go-to person. However, this person actually encourages you to "let it out" and you end up engaging in your target behavior. What you need to do is change the A's and C's, so that the likelihood of you first-of-all, getting your hands on the alcohol is extremely reduced, and then if you slip you can still prevent engaging. You keep altering and tweaking your A's and C's until you find the balance that works. 
  2. Thoughts? Your thoughts are turning towards judgments, which are ineffective. You will then need to modify your thoughts, go back to mindfulness. Keep going back, every 5 minutes if need be, until your thinking is more from wise mind, balanced and on baseline. 
  3. Emotions? Then exposure with response prevention/alternative response. 

Have a go at this information, chew on it, process it, and insert it into your own personal experiences, then please; let us know how it works (or doesn't) for you!

MJ