DBT Skills: Emotion Regulation Part 1

**UPDATE: Things worked out and I can keep going to class!!**

I had to stop attending my online DBT Path Class because I am now going to be paying rent! Yes, I am finally getting my own apartment with B! This is all great news but now that it is Monday (the day when I would have my DBT class) I feel very nervous. My goal is to continue with the emotion regulation module on my own and while I do feel capable, it felt more safe and was definitely more fun to do it in class. So, I will share it with all of you and it will still be awesome because many of us seem to have started doing our own respective DBT classes around the same time 😛

In order to properly understand and use emotion regulation skills, it is important to know what your emotions are and what they do. The first couple pages of my DBT workbook briefly go over scientific aspects of emotions which I will write about in parts. It is very interesting to learn about emotions and I highly suggest you learn more! I have found it helpful to learn about the physical manifestations of emotions when managing the emotional side of emotions.

To put it simply, emotions are signals within your body that tell you what is happening. 

We have two types of emotions, primary and secondary.

2 Types of Emotions


Emotions, how we feel and think about them, are never as simple as Primary or Secondary. Our Primary reaction can change in the same situation based on a variety of factors and our Secondary emotions can be so numerous and overwhelming. This can all happen very quickly and lead to a lot of pain. If you’re like me you will relate to this quote,

“It’s possible that your primary emotional reaction to a situation can set off a limitless chain reaction of distressing secondary emotions that cause you much more pain than your original emotion does.” -The Dialecitcal Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook, pg 122

I have frequently found myself in more distress BECAUSE I became angry than I do over WHY I became angry. Last night, for example, B wanted to make dinner a certain way. I explained to him why I felt we should do it the way I wanted to. B kept saying it should be his way and I was becoming angry that he wasn’t listening to me (primary emotion- anger). A minute later I began to feel worthless, guilty, and sad that I had become angry (secondary emotions). I these secondary feelings then caused a flood of memories to come back which left me very shut down. The secondary was worse than the primary.

Emotion regulation skills come in to allow you to cope with the primary emotion and stopping the secondary emotions from ever coming to the surface. Secondary emotions will happen though and emotion regulation skills can help then also.

I am nervous about the emotion regulation skills module. For years, I have just given in to what I was feeling and even relied on distress tolerance too much or used it incorrectly. Can I actually do this? The idea of being able to develop control over my emotions is empowering and as with any new skills needs to be practiced. I will succeed and I will fail, but I will learn from each and go forward.


5 thoughts on “DBT Skills: Emotion Regulation Part 1

  1. Pingback: DBT Skills: Listening to Emotions | Pride in Madness

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