Introduction

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is the most effective treatment for people suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), even before medication. However, the entire DBT booklet and practices can be really tough to learn, hard to follow, and easily forgotten. I’ve been doing heavy DBT therapy as a patient for about nine years. People in my current DBT group laugh because I could basically teach the course by now: I was even asked to do one session! Today, I’ve decided to start my series of each DBT skill in depth. To start off, I wanted to check in with my favorite one of all…Check The Facts!

Why Check The Facts?

It is quite literally what the name is, checking the facts is taking the time to check the facts of the situation you are trying to digest. This can come in handy especially if you struggle with mind-reading. People with BPD tend to focus on one fact of a situation and throw out all the others, this is because of our tendency to make everything into a black or white situation. By taking the time to check the facts we can learn the entirety of the situation without making rash decisions or harsh judgements.

Step One

Step One is to understand the most important part of checking the facts…a fact cannot be counted as a feeling, assumption, or any type of mind reading. It’s easy to sit down and say “I feel like my boyfriend hates me”  but this is NOT a fact! This is both a feeling and an assumption. A FACT would be, “My boyfriend chose to have dinner with his family tonight instead of coming to my house.” It’s really hard to differ facts because it’s easy to misinterpret them which is why many people stay away from this coping skill. This skill is best used for people who can stick to a regimen and are more reasonable thinkers than emotional. Learn more about wise mind here.

 

Example…

Situation: My Mom told me to clean my room and when I didn’t she called me useless.

Thought: I think my Mom hates me.

Emotion: Sad/Guilty

Facts: I didn’t clean my bedroom when she asked me to, she called me useless, she has been under a lot of stress since my family is coming for a big party tonight, she has been lashing out at everyone in the house lately, later that evening she told me she loved me. 

Step Two

Step three revolves around identifying your impulses. You’ve now checked the facts, identified your feelings, thoughts, and emotions, and now it’s time to identify your impulses.

Example…

Situation: My Mom told me to clean my room and when I didn’t she called me useless.

Thought: I think my Mom hates me.

Emotion: Sad/Guilty

Facts: I didn’t clean my bedroom when she asked me to, she called me useless, she has been under a lot of stress since my family is coming for a big party tonight, she has been lashing out at everyone in the house lately, later that evening she told me she loved me. 

Impulses: I have the impulse to not attend the family dinner and stay in my room during the party. 

Step Three

Step three is when it’s time to reassess the situation, just because you are focussing on the facts does not mean you can’t take thoughts and emotions into consideration…they are just as valid. But don’t get sucked into the stories they tell…that’s where knowing the facts comes in handy. Recognize how you feel, read over the facts, assess your impulses, and then reassess the situation.

Example…

Situation: My Mom told me to clean my room and when I didn’t she called me useless.

Thought: I think my Mom hates me.

Emotion: Sad/Guilty

Facts: I didn’t clean my bedroom when she asked me to, she called me useless, she has been under a lot of stress since my family is coming for a big party tonight, she has been lashing out at everyone in the house lately, later that evening she told me she loved me. 

Impulses: I have the impulse to not attend the family dinner and stay in my room during the party. 

Reassess: My Mom is under a lot of stress and has been lashing out at people around the house, she called my sister lazy which isn’t true, so maybe she doesn’t think I’m useless but is overwhelmed and is taking it out on the immediate family. This is unacceptable behaviour for the family but knowing the reason behind her sudden shift helps me sympathise with her. 

Step Four

Put it all together. You have determined the facts…is this situation acceptable? Are you valid in your reaction? Are you overreacting or underreacting? How should you cope? Should you approach this person about the situation or wait? Is it a time-pressing matter? I can’t tell you the exact information for all of these questions because each situation can be vastly different. But if you follow these three facts and remember the base of this skill: a fact is not a feeling, you will be able to identify and react in a more healthy way to the situations around.

Example…

Situation: My Mom told me to clean my room and when I didn’t she called me useless.

Thought: I think my Mom hates me.

Emotion: Sad/Guilty

Facts: I didn’t clean my bedroom when she asked me to, she called me useless, she has been under a lot of stress since my family is coming for a big party tonight, she has been lashing out at everyone in the house lately, later that evening she told me she loved me. 

Impulses: I have the impulse to not attend the family dinner and stay in my room during the party. 

Reassess: My Mom is under a lot of stress and has been lashing out at people around the house, she called my sister lazy which isn’t true, so maybe she doesn’t think I’m useless but is overwhelmed and is taking it out on the immediate family.

Put it all together: This is unacceptable behaviour for the family but knowing the reason behind her sudden shift helps me sympathise with her. I can approach my Mom and let her know how I feel and set boundaries. I want to see my family so just because my Mom is stressed doesn’t mean I should isolate and avoid the party.  

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