Opposite Action

When we went to an intensive trauma treatment program in October, we learned a TON of DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) skills. One of them is called “Opposite Action” and it’s part of the Emotion Regulation Module (there are four total – the other three are Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, and Interpersonal Effectiveness).

The basic idea is that you do something that is the exact opposite of what you’re feeling. So, for example, if you’re feeling really sad – you’d listen to upbeat, uplifting, happy music.

The point (I think) is to set off a chain reaction that leads to healthy, productive behaviors instead of unhealthy behaviors. They really loved to say the phrase: “It’s either helping or hurting.” So if you know you’re doing something that’s not hurting you, the odds are pretty good that it will (at some point down the line) help you.

Whatever. It’s lame, I know, but it actually works pretty well. I don’t always use it because I’m willful as fuck, but I’m working on that.

Anyway. When things sucked pretty badly last week, I did some shit that was definitely hurtful. But Andi bought me this badass coloring book that’s inspired by mandalas. I colored in many mandalas during our time at the Trauma program (they have huge books filled with them) and I actually found it to be very soothing. There were plenty of moments when I was coloring instead of punching people. And that’s important.

So despite the fact that I did self-harm (…twice) last week, I also took some time to color in this vehemently happy coloring book page with my new gel pens:


Maybe next time I’ll pick up the gel pens before I pick up the blade…?

Opposite action, yo.



25 thoughts on “Opposite Action

  1. Katy Messier says:

    I’ve loved DBT and am working on implementing a lot of the skills I’ve learned. Awesome coloring btw! We have a binder full of stuff to color that I print off the internet – it really is calming, distracting, and soothing. Plus in the end you get something tangible for your efforts which is always nice.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. alicewithptsd says:

    My therapist suggested coloring to me last week. I havent tried it, but she has these big coloring books of more geometric type pictures. I’m glad the coloring helped, and i love the gel pens. 😊 I’m stubborn and willful, too, but knowing that coloring was helpful to someone else makes me more likely to try it. Anyway, I’m glad some of the DBT skills are helping when things are hard. Xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Andi says:

      Hi Alice! Thanks. It’s one of those things where I always roll my eyes when someone suggests it, but then once I’m actually DOING it, I’m surprised at how much it really does help me. It’s not a fix-all, but it’s a nice distraction when you need one, you know? -J

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Anxious Mom says:

    Lovely coloring, J! I can see how that would be soothing, might give that a try myself.

    Btw, “willful as fuck”–I’m saving that one for later.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Rachel says:

    Julia, my favorite skill from the emotion regulation module is opposite action! I agree, it really does work. Glad you’re utilizing DBT skills. That therapist seems willing to help out, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Devin says:

    Right now I am doing an Intensive Outpatient Program. We do a lot with cognitive Behavior Thinking and coping skills. When I am done with this program, my therapist is going to try and get me into a DBT program. I’ve not done this before but heard a lot about it! So now it’s time to try it. I also enjoy the coloring. I’ve been doing it a lot while in groups this last couple of weeks. Being an empath, I pick up a lot of other people’s emotions. The coloring helps me to be able to listen but keep a little bit of distance.

    And I LOVE your picture!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andi says:

      Thanks, Devin! We are also an empath, so I understand the burden of carrying around everyone’s emotional “noise”. I like how you describe coloring as allowing you to listen, but at a distance. I think that’s what coloring does for me, but with the internal noise – if that makes sense? I hope you get to do a DBT program because I think it’s a great tool. -J


  6. mm172001 says:

    Creativity usually seems to turn my emotions around and I use it as opposite action (Emotional regulation) and distraction (distress tolerance). Glad you found something that helped calm you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. ambivalencegirl says:

    I so dislike dbt and no reason really other than it does feel “lame”. I did a session in which we did nothing but listen to music and color. I love music and drawing and how what we listen to not only changes how we feel but also what we draw or color.


  8. Guezt says:

    I spent a lot of money and six months on DBT, and found it not very effective. Basically, your therapist tries to “talk” you into more adaptive thoughts, behaviors. The advice given is generally universal, and can be gotten from a good friend for free. Way overrated, plus the therapist didn’t respect my religious values. The therapist that helped me most was an older social worker who treated my whole life. I mean, I had real problems that couldn’t be talked out of.


    • Andi says:

      Hey, that’s a good point – I think the tenets of DBT seem very “common sense”. I also think the benefit of being in treatment with someone who uses DBT (or any modality) is that you then have someone to process the experience of using new skills and developing new patterns. I’m not sure problems can be “talk out of”, as much as that therapy is a resource in which “talk” is the main medium through which work is done. I’m glad you found someone who helped you!


      • Guezt says:

        I said in my statement it was “not very effective,” yet you said “I’m glad you found someone who could help you.” Doesn’t compute.


      • Andi says:

        I was referring to the end of your comment where you said an older social worker helped you the most. Interesting the way you responded to that reply.


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