A Journey towards Integration
Pros & Cons is one of my favourite skills, because it helps you to make it through crisis situations, and to focus on your long-term goals. (I consider it the first of the Dialectical Skills, because it’s a wonderful introduction to looking at an issue from all sides, and it can be especially effective during a “splitting” crisis.)
Thinking of PROS & CONS
Make a list of the pros and cons of tolerating the distress. Make another list of the pros and cons of not tolerating the distress — that is, of coping by hurting yourself, abusing alcohol or drugs, or doing something else impulsive.
Focus on long-term goals, the light at the end of the tunnel. Remember times when pain has ended.
Think of the positive consequences of tolerating the distress. Imagine in your mind how good you will feel if you achieve your goals, if you don’t act impulsively.
Think of all the negative consequences of not tolerating your current distress. Remember what has happened in the past when you have acted impulsively to escape the moment.
—Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder by Marsha Linehan, p. 169
Here’s how the good people at Ontario Shores presented Pros & Cons to my group:
PROS AND CONS: Think about the advantages and disadvantages of doing something AND not doing it.
|Don’t use marijuana||
When I first learned this skill, I used it for EVERYTHING. What are the pros & cons of writing a nasty letter to my mother-in-law? Of going out for a cigarette? Of working on my taxes now or tomorrow? Of smoking a joint or having a glass of wine? Does it sound tedious? Maybe not to us Borderlines, many of whom, like me, have decision-making problems. In my own example, above, smoking a joint may be appropriate at times, like when my child isn’t around and when I don’t have anything else to accomplish (ah, LBK = life before kid, those were the days) but often I am just too busy, and have too much to lose, to smoke marijuana all day (though if I keep collecting AirMiles I’ll have enough for a one-way trip to Jamaica when I’m 80!).
After a week, I started to get quicker and using the Pros & Cons skill. Soon I could list and remember the pros & cons of various actions in my head, even in the middle of situations that formerly would have sent me into crisis! But most importantly, I learned to start looking at everything from multiple points-of-view, and to get out of the black/white, all-or-nothing, extreme thinking that so often made my crises much worse. Each situation is unique, and what is right one time may be inappropriate or harmful another time.
DBT Skills Handbook, pp. 64-66
How to Use the PROS AND CONS Skill by Life on the Borderline
DBT Distress Tolerance Skills by Kate Comtois, PhD, MPH, pp. 15-16
DBT: Pros and Cons Skill from My Dialectical Life