Core mindfulness skills are one of the sets of skills taught by Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). Unlike other behaviour therapies, DBT focuses not so much on changing behaviours as on accepting your feelings, and learning to observe them and let them flow away from you. Core mindfulness skills teach you to do just that, by capturing your thoughts.
Core mindfulness skills see the mind as composed of three facets:
1. Your “reasonable” mind is the one controlled by rational thoughts and which enables you to think logically, assess situations based on facts and make sensible decisions. In this state, you are in control of your emotions and they don’t affect your behaviour.
2. Your “emotion mind” is, on the contrary, a state where you “react” rather than weigh pros and cons, and when your feelings are in the driving seat. Unfortunately, the reasonable mind will never silence the emotion mind on its own, not even if you are aware that it is what is going on!
3. You use the “wise” mind when the reasonable mind and the emotion mind have been integrated, and you are able to take into accounts your feelings without letting them dictate the next step.
Developing this wise mind is the focus of core mindfulness skills. Through practical exercises, it teaches you to bring together all the different ways you can “know” something, such as logical analysis, intuitive understanding, and knowledge of what to do with it for example.
As always, DBT provides you with easy-to-memorise acronyms
These skills aim at helping you to take hold of your thoughts through the following processes:
You will be encouraged to concentrate on observing your feelings; how they fluctuate; how long they last for; your physical reactions to them, and notice how they come and go like waves. But the goal is not to immerse yourself into a maelstrom of overwhelming emotions, but to let them slide off you like water on a duck’s feathers.
You will be asked to describe how you feel, using factual words. The idea being this exercise is to express nothing less, but nothing more than your feelings, without “embellishments” or exaggerations, so that you can embrace situations just for what they are, rather than how you interpret them, and remove any form of judgement.
When we get anxious about something, our anxiety tends to become the focus of our attention, so much so that we are unable to connect with the people or activity. Through various exercises, you will learn to “be” in the situation and to be yourself.
The “HOW” skills will teach you how to use and involve your wise mind in your daily life by building on the WHAT skills.
1. Non-Judgmental Stance (NJS)
You will practice how to see circumstances factually without judging them, yourself or others. This thought process is about removing opinions from your evaluations, as well as all the “shoulds” and “musts” that litter our minds, and just see and accept things as they are, without seeing them as good are bad.
2. One thought at a time
Mindfulness is anchored into the fundamental principle of being in the moment, and concentrate on one thing at a time. You will be encouraged to apply this throughout your day, ignore distractions, do everything with your undivided attention, and to pro-actively notice when your mind wanders and bring it back to where you are.
As simple as it may sound, you will be surprised to see how often we can get distracted, even within a few minutes. You should know that it is perfectly normal, and that it will happen less often with practice.
You will learn to identify what works for you, again, from a factual point of view, and by staying away from emotional connotations as much as possible. Nothing should be “right” or “wrong”, “fair” or “unfair”, things are what they are.
This acceptance will make it possible for you to manage situations better and with less strong feelings as you learn to navigate the situation you are in, rather than the situation you would like to be in. It will also help you to let go of anger and resentment, which, most of the time, will cause you more hurt than the circumstance or person it is directed at.
Counselling in Auckland at the Robert Street Clinic
DBT and core mindfulness skills are a set of tools which have been helping people deal with all sorts of problems, from depression, anxiety, to PTSD and childhood trauma.
The Robert Street Clinic is a private practice which includes skilled DBT therapists who have vast experience treating a range of issues, short term or long term.
If you are looking for a DBT therapist in Auckland, email the Robert Street Clinic or call us on 09 973 5950.