DBT: Identify Your Personal Values

This week’s Interpersonal Effectiveness homework in my DBT class included a section on identifying your interpersonal values. Knowing your interpersonal values guides you in how to respect yourself and others.

First, I was asked to list any of my interpersonal behaviours that diminish self-respect (of you or another person).

My interpersonal behaviour diminishes the self-respect of myself and another when someone does something I don’t like and I get angry and tell them it’s stupid.

The question then asked that I write down “sins of omission”- things I should have done but didn’t.

I should explain to the person why I disagree/don’t like what they are doing or accept that they do things differently from me and that is ok.

It was in writing the next part that I began to laugh at myself a little bit. The following questions asks that I list my values about how people should be treated. These values serve as basic rules about what I and others are entitled to in a relationship (ie: partner, friendship, co-worker etc.).

  1. Be treated with empathy
  2. Know that I am someone they can come to for support and I to them
  3. They know they can make mistakes and I know I can make mistakes
  4. That they can have fun with me and I can have fun with them

Can you see why I began laughing? The contradiction between what I do and my values is pretty obvious. In my one example, I violate ALL of my interpersonal values. I am not treating someone with empathy when I am getting angry with then and saying what they are doing is stupid. I am not letting them know they can come to me for support when I am being very unsupportive. I am not letting them know they can make mistakes if I am getting angry at what they are doing. I am not letting them know that they can have fun with me if I am being so rude.

The main core values that I disregard a lot are number 1 and 3. Because I get angry so frequently and so intensely it can become impossible to be empathetic towards other people and sometimes I am angry because they have made a mistake which doesn’t communicate to them that it’s ok to make a mistake. Β What’s also interesting about the number 3 value is that in my previous relationship mistakes I made were deeply criticized and I was constantly battling with that partner about seeing mistakes as natural, human and opportunities for learning. I believe I am acting out what I experienced for years. It’s not an excuse, but a reasoning for why that behaviour and thought process has come about.

I always knew that how I behaved and what I believe in didn’t match but writing it all down, in combination with what I have learned so far about Interpersonal Effectiveness has helped me see the vastness of the disconnect and not only how it hurts others but it also hurt me as I am not being true to my own values.

Acting in your relationship according to



24 thoughts on “DBT: Identify Your Personal Values

  1. Interesting post… I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how some of my values and actions can be very contradictory, and that I struggle a lot with following my instincts (bad behavior) vs. following those values. Sounds like a worthwhile exercise!

    • I found it worthwhile πŸ™‚ Seeing things written down has always made it concrete for me, more real. Also, we all know we have values but have we actually taken the time to identify them? I know I hadn’t until this exercise. Thanks for commenting!

  2. The one thing that struck me is that getting angry is natural–it’s not something we have control over. What we can control is how we behave and react to our feelings.

    • Exactly! I try and explain that to people, that they have control over everything after the initial feeling, and many do not believe it. I have experienced it though and it is something I do still have to work at remembering. It’s a nice feeling to know that we do have control! Thanks for commenting!

      • I am not well versed, but I did enjoy my brief stint. Refreshing is the word that comes to mind. CBT just gets old, particularly if you have been in therapy for awhile as I have over the years. It eventually just got stale for me. I guess it also depends on the practitioner. Ideal therapy doesn’t FEEL like therapy – sort of like the saying if you love what you do, you never really work a day in your life. I also feel that practitioners should be constantly expanding their horizons with conferences and peers.

      • CBT does get old. I also didn’t like how my counsellors never explained to me what it is or even that there were other options.

        I agree that practitioners should keep learning. I was always happy when my former social worker said she couldn’t see me on a certain day because she was attending a conference. She also did sand play therapy. Interesting, I tried it once with her, but not really for me (although I do love to just put my hands in the sand).

      • I also think art therapy especially music therapy is highly underpracticed. In fact, outside of a hospital setting, it is rare. Also, groups should me more prevalent outside of a hospital or IOP program.

      • I very much agree! Where I am in Ontario, Canada, once you get past basic CBT (outside of a hospital) you have to pay for the services. I can find DBT where I am but I have to pay over $100. I can find music therapy, art therapy, all types but I have to pay. It makes me wonder how many people could be helped if we didn’t only publicly fund CBT. I am grateful that my DBT class is online and accessible because of it and that my parents offered to pay monthly for the class. The class also offered a sliding scale payment so my parents are paying the lowest amount.

  3. Reblogged this on Me: Finding the Missing Pieces and commented:
    this post is remarkable, it feels like you were specifically talking about me. i just had a similar blowup with my daughter, where i violated especially #1,3. Im glad you made this post, it helps to see the cognitive disonnance in what how we want to behave v. what we actually do.

    • It’s very easy to forget our values when we’re upset. Do many of us even know our values? I am glad that you got something out of this post. It was a relief to share it. Thanks for commenting and reblogging!

  4. Way to rock a post, woman. This is so right on, so substantive I raise my hands and do the wave. I dance for you in gratitude and joy. Meredith

  5. DBT: Finding your identity and core values is not one of the easiest of skills to learn or do but it well worth it. I may have not liked doing core values at the time I am beyond thrilled that I did them. I am now don’t meet the criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) due to the very difficult work I did with DBT. My therapist calls me her “recovered borderline” Just know that the DBT skills to work. with a lot hard work and don’t forget to practice them skills either. —–Gertie

    • That is fantastic! Congratulations on all hard work you did! Your story makes me feel very hopeful πŸ™‚ I need to remember to practice. I’m the kind of person that will abandon something if I don’t get it right the first time but I can see these skills are worth it!

  6. Pingback: DBT Skills: Onto the Next Module | Pride in Madness

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