I’m really glad I decided to read The DBT Skills Workbook and Rising Strong in tandem because they’re very different in style – the DBT book is all straight to the point, facts and lists and instructions, while Rising Strong is, well, written by a storyteller. But ultimately they’re both about learning skills that can help you cope with the bad times in life, and I like the way they fit together.
I’ve just read the rest of the first chapter of the DBT book, which was about relaxing and self-soothing. These are things that… well, let’s just say that I struggle! I don’t think I’m ever really relaxed, which is a very difficult thing to do when you’re always in pain. But that doesn’t mean I can’t learn to soothe myself when I’m in distress. In fact, I very much hope that I can, because it’d be really useful.
And so, on to the gist of this section. It consists of lists of suggestions for soothing yourself using each of the five senses. I quite liked this way of looking at the act of self-soothing; it felt a bit more structured than a whole list together might have been. My relationship with my senses is a little bit rocky, but I found at least one idea in each section that seemed worth considering.
From the smell section, I wrote down ‘smell a book’ because books smell delicious, new or old, and of all the things I love the smell of, they’re probably the most accessible to me. Reading the vision section, I reminded myself that I love illustrated books, and that I have lots of art I want to hang on my wall. I have ‘drinking tea’ for taste. Hearing is harder, but perhaps I can take more notice of how different music makes me feel and choose it more thoughtfully. All I have for touch is ‘find nice things’ but hopefully I’ll manage that too.
Writing each of these ideas down, it doesn’t sound like very much. The thing is, though, every little thing helps. The more items I have in my toolbox – or rather, the more lolly sticks I have in my mug! – the more options I have when things happen and I need ways to cope. I’ve put the soothing ideas in with my Distraction Lolly Sticks because there’s a lot of overlap, and they’re all ways of being able to mitigate the bad feelings in the moment.
But although I’m pleased to have a few new ideas in my repertoire, I also feel that the writers of The DBT Skills Workbook have missed a trick here. There are more senses than the five that we get told about and I can’t help wondering whether there might be some really useful self-soothing techniques to be found from thinking about the extra ones. For example, one of my most instinctive ways of self-soothing is to rock. I think this is linked to the sense called proprioception, which is what tells us where the parts of our body are and how we are moving them.
And that’s what my homework’s going to be. I want to do some research about the other senses, and consider ways of soothing myself using them. Hopefully I’ll be able to add a couple more lolly sticks to my mug.