Beauty and the Borderline

A Journey towards Integration

Distress Tolerance: Alternate Rebellion

"Eve8" by Lisa Brewster - Flickr: eve8. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

You know those times when you have an overwhelming urge to scream “FUCK YOU!” in the face of someone who is trying to tell you what to do, or who to be, and they’ve got it all wrong, but they just won’t go away (from your thoughts, at least) even though it’s none of their damn business anyway?

Like Imagery (I.M.P.R.O.V.E.) and Self-soothe skills, Alternate Rebellion is endlessly creative.  There’s no right way to do it…as long as it works, that is.  But Alternate Rebellion is creativity under pressure, learning to channel those destructive urges into something less harmful and more fun!

 Alternate Rebellion
  • alternate rebellion is almost the opposite of distraction
  • sometimes problematic behaviours come from a feeling or sense of wanting to be rebellious or defiant, i.e. “Don’t tell me what to do”; “Forget trying to please this person.”
  • rather, channel that energy into something that is less destructive than the problematic behaviour would be
  • try to rebel in a way that you will not end up making things worse, hurting yourself or others, or going against your goals
  • do something (relatively benign) that feels like you are breaking the rules


So instead of screaming a swear word and (probably) being escorted out by security, I might want to stalk away and take an extra-long coffee break.

In DBT class, one of the counsellors told a story about how she really wanted to drop out of school just to piss off her overbearing father, but instead she dyed her hair purple and stayed in school.  She didn’t sacrifice her future goals AND her father freaked out over the hair.

I first used this skill on my parents, wearing my Trailer Park Boys t-shirt (with a large marijuana leaf right on the chest) to Sunday dinner.  They didn’t react, but I felt like rebel, and nobody got hurt.  Today, I frequently turn up the radio too loud, mostly just before dinner time when my kid is whining for snacks while I’m trying to make dinner and I consider throttling him.  Okay, not literally, but other parents of 4-year-olds will know what I mean.  (I don’t know how I’d parent without DBT;  those little kids really know how to push their parents’ buttons!)article-2548611-1B12BEEA00000578-886_634x413

Some of the most fun ways to use this skill involve the arts.  Write a letter of all the nasty things you’re just bursting to say — a poison epistle — and NOT sending it.  (I can’t count how many letters I’ve written…) Write and draw a satiric comic.  Draw a picture.  Make a video.  Start a blog.  You can use that negative energy to create some pretty amazing, if dark, works of art.


Ideas for Alternate Rebellion

The following ideas were generated by DBT participants to offer nondestructive ways to express rebellion.  Choose ideas appropriate to the situation.  Choose ideas that will not be harmful to someone else in your environment.

  • give an honest response instead of a polite one
  • go to a late movie in the middle of the week
  • leave the lights on all day
  • turn up the volume on the radio or TV
  • sleep late
  • do things out of order
  • do things out of character
  • speak out rather than staying quiet
  • dress in a non-conventional style
  • challenge statements when you disagree
  • choose mediocrity rather than drama
  • drop out of things that are not effective
  • follow your passion rather than your expectation640px-Sketching_(8925389363)
  • wallow in creativity
  • give yourself time to play
  • explore
  • say no to a friend or family member when they ask for a favour
  • write a letter to the editor
  • run instead of walking
  • food fight
  • roll down all the windows
  • play a different style of music
  • leave things out of place
  • shout or scream alone
  • express unpopular political views
  • wear jeans to church
  • buy something you have had your eye on
  • break out of roles expected of you
  • change your clothing colour preference
  • don’t cook
  • don’t clean house
  • express a diversified viewpoint
  • make up your own…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on March 30, 2015 by in DBT and tagged , , , , , .
%d bloggers like this: