Beauty and the Borderline

A Journey towards Integration

Core Mindfulness: “How” — Non-judgmentally, One-mindfully, Effectively

“How” skills are meant to be practiced all together at the same time.  To do something mindfully means to do it non-judgmentally, one-mindfully, and effectively.

Taking Hold of Your Mind: “How” Skills

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NON-JUDGMENTALLY:

  • See but DON’T EVALUATE.  Take a nonjudgmental stance.  Just the facts.  Focus on the “what,” not the “good” or “bad,” the “terrible” or “wonderful,” the “should” or “should not.”
  • UNGLUE YOUR OPINIONS from the facts, from the “who, what, when, and where.”
  • ACCEPT each moment, each event as a blanket spread out on the lawn accepts both the rain and the sun, each leaf that falls upon it.
  • ACKNOWLEDGE the helpful, the wholesome, but don’t judge it.  Acknowledge the harmful, the unwholesome, but don’t judge it.
  • When you find yourself judging, DON’T JUDGE YOUR JUDGING.

ONE-MINDFULLY:

  • DO ONE THING AT A TIME.  When you are eating, eat.  When you are walking, walk.  When you are bathing, bathe.  When you are working, work.  When you are in a group, or a conversation, focus your attention on the very moment you are in with the other person.  When you are thinking, think.  When you are worrying, worry.  When you are planning, plan.  When you are remembering, remember.  Do each thing with all of your attention.
  • If other actions, or other thoughts, or strong feelings distract you, LET GO OF DISTRACTIONS and go back to what you are doing — again, and again, and again.
  • CONCENTRATE YOUR MIND.  If you are doing two things at once, stop and go back to one thing at a time.

EFFECTIVELY:

  • FOCUS ON WHAT WORKS.  Do what needs to be done in each situation.  Stay away from “fair” and “unfair,” “right” and “wrong,” “should” and “should not.”
  • PLAY BY THE RULES.  Don’t “cut off your nose to spite your face.”
  • Act as SKILLFULLY as you can, meeting the needs of the situation you are in.  Not the situation you wish you were in; not the one that is just; not the one that is more comfortable; not the one that….
  • Keep an eye on YOUR OBJECTIVES in the situation and do what is necessary to achieve them.
  • LET GO of vengeance, useless anger, and righteousness that hurts you and doesn’t work.

-Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder by Marsha Linehan, p. 113.

The ability to approach life non-judgmentally is a key component to mindfulness and DBT.  Most of us don’t realize how judgmental we really are.  One exercise to become aware of your judgments is to carry little click counter with you everywhere, and every time you catch yourself making a judgment, you click it.  At the end of the day, you’ll have a count of your judgments.  (This exercise is from Marsha Linehan, and a “click counter” seems a bit out of date.  I imagine several free cell phone apps exist that will serve the same purpose.)

As you become aware of your judgments, you’ll start making them less and less.  In a future Core Mindfulness lesson, we’ll talk about Nonjudgmental Stance, but for right now, the important thing is to become aware of your judgments.  Remember, be gentle with yourself!  You’re not going to stop  making automatic judgments right away — give yourself time to learn and grow.

One-mindfully is a challenging skill — the mind has the tendency to drift away to other things no matter how hard you try to focus.  Just gently bring your mind back to whatever it is you’re focusing on, no matter how many times it slides away.  Buddhist monks spend their whole lives trying to do this, so don’t judge or be hard on yourself if you don’t get it right away.  The secret is to keep practicing, every chance you get.  When you try to do things one-mindfully, you’re not allowing yourself to ruminate, to let all those “automatic thoughts” that cause us to worry, or get angry or depressed, take over your mind.  It increases joy in the activity you are actually doing, and lessens some of the stress we load up on ourselves.

Personally, I met some stiff inner resistance when I was first challenged to do something effectively, as opposed to the way I thought it should turn out.  “It’s not fair!” I thought.  I became self-righteous, putting my principles ahead of the task at hand, and I judged the other person and the situation.  When we’re not being effective, it’s usually because we have some idea of what should happen, according to what we think is right.

Road rage

There’s nothing wrong with standing up for your beliefs, but sometimes you have to weigh what’s really important.  For example, I’m really mad at the driver of the car in front of me because he just cut me off, forcing me to slam on the brakes.  (I wasn’t forced to lean on my horn, but I did anyway.  Hah!)  I’d really like to give the guy a piece of my mind, but if I do that, I’ll be late for my appointment.  I can’t afford to miss it, so I take a deep breath (or a few) and move on.  Being effective in a relationship with a lot of baggage can be especially tricky (just look at the history of the Middle East) but it’s worth it (either to improve the relationship, or to see the surprised looks on the faces of the people hoping you would fail).

Now that we’ve covered the Core Mindfulness Basics, we’ll move on to Distress Tolerance skills.  We’ll come back to Core Mindfulness later, to deepen our understanding of mindfulness and mindful living.

For now, try to record your practice of mindfulness — WHAT you did, and HOW it was.  You’ll start to notice patterns and preferences to build on.  Good luck!

Other resources:

DBT Skills Handbook, pp. 16 and 18

Non-judgmentally, One-mindfully, and Effectively@WikiBooks

Nonjudgmental Stance@dbtselfhelp.com

Transcript of From Chaos to Freedom:  This One Moment: Skills for Everyday Mindfulness, a video lesson by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D.

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