DBT: Emotion Regulation

Primary source for this post: DBT Skills Training Handbook and Worksheets, Second Edition, by Linehan, Marsha.  Copyright 2015


So… first, a public service announcement: I am out of town.

I mean, not now.  Not as I am writing this.

But as you are reading this, I am out of town 🙂

So if I have not replied to you in a while, or visited your blog, please know I HAVEN’T FALLEN OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH!

When I return home I will reveal the location of my big trip!  read up on all the stuff I missed, and all shall return to our accustomed status quo.

OK everybody!  Let’s kick the day off by learning about

Emotion Regulation

People have strong emotions.  And that makes for great art, deep thoughts, close relationships, and beautiful lives.  However, emotions are also complex and messy, and can result in tense situations, awkward family dinners, and even violence.

That got intense really quickly!

Why, in fact, you may ask, do I even have emotions? What’s the point of those nasty little buggers?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  Here are some purposes of emotions:

  • Adding beauty and depth to human lives
  • Motivating us to act, especially in emergencies!
  • Communicating with others
  • Signals that something is wrong, or warning signs

Just like everything else in our world, emotions have been twisted.  There is a good purpose for them.  But they can be evil little devils!  And the troubling thing about emotions is they can be difficult to escape from and control, because they can come and go like lightning, are affected by thousands of factors like circumstances, specific situations, the music you’re listening to, and the state of your physical body and spiritual soul.  Because emotions are so powerful and potentially hurtful, from the time a child is very small, their parents are already training him or her in the discipline of:

Emotion Regulation.

This may sound like simply self-control.  And it is, to some degree.  It also identifying your regular triggers that spiral you into negative emotions, and learning to either avoid those situations or have a specific plan of how to deal with those emotions when they are triggered.  It is keeping track of your mental health, and the way your emotions impact it.  It is also learning to simply identify the emotion you are feeling – like how when parents tell children to use their words, you must learn how to healthily express to yourself what you are experiencing and dealing with inside.  We need to be able to stop negative feelings in their tracks, learn how to change them if necessary, and decrease our helplessness when it comes to emotions.  For me, doing certain things like spending an excessive amount of time alone, not getting enough sleep, or listening to certain kinds of music can really increase my susceptibility to the dictatorship of my feelings.  So together, let’s learn to regulate our emotions.

#1 Sometimes you cannot stop negative emotions.  But just because you feel something doesn’t mean you have to give in to it.

There was a time when I would deny that I was struggling with anger.  I didn’t want to admit I was struggling between forgiveness and bitterness.  So I just told myself, ‘I won’t feel that.  I refuse that feeling.  I am not angry.  But God, I choose to forgive them.”

And there was my inconsistency.  How can you forgive someone if you refuse to admit they hurt you?

You can love someone and still feel hurt by them.

You can love someone and acknowledge the hurt.

When I was trying to deny to myself and God my problems, I just wouldn’t let myself think about the past, or my anger.  I would tell myself I had already forgiven them, and distract my mind.  But at night, I fantasized about getting revenge.  I had nightmares.  I even had outbursts of anger, alone in my room, towards them.

Finally, one day in my journal, I wrote down the reasons I had originally been angry and hurt.  I just wrote it all down.  And I told God I was going to forgive them for those things.  And I asked God to forgive me for not forgiving them sooner.

Did my struggle go away?

Not automatically.  I still struggle.

But now, I know I am on the right track.

The pain is easing.  I no longer see those people as just villains.  I can stop when I start relive the past, or the pain.  Sometimes almost every day I have to choose to forgive them, think kindly of them.  But I have a lot more peace towards them than I once did.

The point is: stop telling yourself what you should be feeling.  Deal with what you are feeling.

#2 PLEASE do P.L.E.A.S.E.

Please is an acronym – surprise!  And it has to do with the patterns that will be helpful for you as you try to stay on top of your emotions.

P – Treat Physical

L- ILlness

Yes I know.  It’s a stretch.  But that’s P and L.  Treat your physical illnesses.  If you have medication, take it.  If you have a diet you need to be on for things like diabetes or high cholesterol, try to be consistent.  You don’t have to have perfection.  But try to make a habit of helping your body heal when it needs healing.  It keep you around longer for those you love, and really help your emotional well being.  I get so depressed when I have to be a sick invalid 😦

E – Balance your Eating

Try as best you can to not eat too much or too little, but simply what your body needs to function.  If there are foods that make you feel horrible, keep track of them, and avoid them.  Again, don’t achieve perfection – in fact, none of us can!  Just try to keep a healthy relationship up with food.  If you struggle with this, you can always get professional help.

A – Avoid mood-altering substances.

No illegal drugs.  Those are just off the table, period.  I know it’s so hard, and is easier said than done.  But drugs will just really make it ten times harder to figure out your real emotions and to think clearly.  This is out of love, guys!  And be sure to drink responsibly, too.  Know thyself, and thy alcohol tolerance level!

S – Balance Sleep

I struggle with consistent sleeping patterns, and sleep too much, or too little.  Find a good bedtime, and stick to it like glue.  I just need 8-9 hours of sleep to feel optimal.  I don’t get that every night!  But when I do, I am a lot more positive and healthy.

E – Get Exercise.

Even if it is just fifteen minutes, friend!  Or if you take the stairs instead of the elevator.  Pinterest has a lot of short workouts.  I even work out sometimes while watching a movie!  Find something fun and doable.  If your goal is too enormous, like lifting weights for 2 hours, you’ll probably never do it.  So have fun, and maybe just walk your dog today.


There is a ton more that could be said about emotion regulation.  For now, just try to accept reality – the reality of the emotions you are feeling.  And little by little, incorporate the habits of PLEASE into your life.

I hope this is encouraging to you guys.  Don’t be too hard on yourself.  Just take one moment at a time, and keep breathing.

We’ll end with a few myths about emotions:

  • All painful emotions are a result of a bad attitude
  • If others don’t approve of my emotions, I shouldn’t be feeling them
  • Creativity requires intense, out-of-control emotions
  • Emotional truth is what counts, not factual truth
  • It is inauthentic to try to change my emotions
  • Emotions should always be trusted
  • Being emotional means being out of control
  • Some emotions are stupid
  • Letting others know I feel bad is a weakness

I love you guys!



8 thoughts on “DBT: Emotion Regulation

  1. Great post, Shannon! It really inspired me, especially the part about feeling a certain way, then choosing not to act on it. Usually easier said than done, but when we’re able to, the outcome is worth it. 🙂 I hope you’re having / had a great time wherever you went on your trip, girl! xxx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much! I just got back from Winter Harbor, Maine! And I’m so glad the post inspired you; this past month I’ve really been working on P.L.E.A.S.E! It really makes a difference for me, and I wanted to share it with others.

      Liked by 1 person

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