It is a universal truth that life can be incredibly challenging. It can, and often does, throw us into painful and upsetting situations that we did not ask for, and are sometimes ill-equipped to deal with. That being the case, understandably, we don’t always respond in ways that serve us best in the long term. We may even regret how we behaved after the event or be left confused and distressed by how we reacted.
At Rutland House, we firmly believe that every client is doing their best to navigate their way through these challenges. Yet, at the same time, we acknowledge that not everyone feels they have the skills to cope with the intense emotions that arise during these difficult times. This is where our DBT service, and specifically our distress tolerance module, can help.
So, we hear you ask, why would anyone want to stay distressed? A good question, after-all, it is a curious reality that, on its own, learning to tolerate distress will not make your life better, nor will it solve your immediate problem. That being the case, you could be forgiven for wondering why distress tolerance is such a fundamental part of the DBT programme here at Rutland House. The short answer is that if we can learn to better tolerate distress, we are less likely to engage in behaviours that will make the situation worse. Not only that, staying in the moment affords us the opportunity to take a step back and make choices that will actually improve our current situation. This is all easier said than done, of course.
When we struggle to tolerate the distress that invariably arises during difficult times, strong emotions can surface and cause us to be overwhelmed. Seemingly, and without any other option to hand, we can feel like the only alternative to gain relief is utilising tried and tested (and often impulsive) behaviours that have worked for us in the past. These may take the form of self-injury such as cutting, alcohol or drug abuse, disordered eating, and other risky or potentially life-threatening behaviours.
At first glance, these short-term solutions appear to make sense, at least in the heat of the moment, as they may indeed provide temporary relief from the pain of feeling overwhelmed. Yet, at the same time, these so-called ‘solutions’ often bring their own complications and distressing emotions, which of course only add to the original distress. For instance, we might now feel shame or disgust at our behaviour or even be in physical pain. Thankfully, there is a better way, and this is where distress tolerance comes in.
Suppose we learn to stay in that difficult moment, resisting the urge for that short term fix. Why? Well, it is from this position we can begin to break this painful cycle of making the situation worse and instead create an opportunity to unlock the door to many more available options that a better for us. Options that will not only soothe the initial distress but allow access to a whole host of other skills that will lead to a healthier and more balanced life. Our DBT programme clearly defines these life-changing skills and provides the support and knowledge needed for every individual to master their challenging emotions… and build a life that is truly worth living.