You may be thinking, “ DBT and math in the same title?” Yes, you read that correctly! Most of my clients have a strong dislike for math. I am the complete opposite–after I graduated from college, I began a masters degree to teach math. In my second semester, I came to the conclusion that I did not want to be a teacher, and after much thought, I decided to pursue a masters in mental health counseling (my original plan). During my masters program, I held a clinical position at Oasis, where I had the opportunity to observe DBT. Observing Dr. Shutt and Dr. Friedman teaching DBT, really affirmed my decision to become a therapist .I would be able to help people AND teach; the best of both worlds!!
You may be wondering, what DBT and math have in common? When introducing clients to DBT, I typically present the following two equations:
Pain + Acceptance = Ordinary Pain
Pain + Non-acceptance = Suffering
So what does this exactly mean? Let me elaborate. When we are experiencing something painful and add acceptance to that pain, we get ordinary pain. Ordinary pain is much easier to tolerate, cope, and deal with. When we have pain and add non-acceptance, we create suffering for ourselves. Suffering is self created and harder to get out of.
Non-acceptance can come in many forms. For example, it can be avoidance, pushing something away, ignoring something, or procrastination. We can think of pain as something minor, like washing the dishes, or something major like confronting anxiety or depression. When we think about washing dishes, if our narrative includes, “This is so annoying, I can’t believe I have to do this, I hate washing the dishes,” we create more suffering for ourselves and most of the time, if you are like me, WE PROCRASTINATE the task! Once I bring acceptance towards doing the dishes, meaning, I start doing them and tell myself “I’m choosing to do this,” I actually find it relaxing and don’t mind doing it at all. In fact, it becomes more of a mindfulness practice. When we accept situations, tasks, and responsibilities, they become easier to manage.
Part of our Life Worth Living includes accepting life and the things that are in “front of us”. My favorite DBT assumption is that while we may not have created our problems, we are responsible for solving them. In order for us to solve our problems we must accept them! In order to move forward towards our goals, and in order to build our life worth living, acceptance is key and can help us get out of suffering!!