Opposite Action

Last fall I discovered Dialectical Behavior Therapy.  I went to a program that taught me valuable skills on how to think differently and reframe unhealthy behaviors and thoughts.  Life is all about how you react to what comes your way, not running away or avoiding difficult situations.

That reminds me of a David Foster Wallace speech I love, “This is Water.”  I was first introduced to it two and a half years ago after discussing perception and changing the way you think about life’s annoyances and challenges.  The 2005 Kenyon College commencement speech by the late Wallace brought up daily routines such as traffic, career and going to the grocery store.  Although the day to day adult routine can be a grind, is possible to change the way you think and react to situations- not every moment needs to be meaningless and obnoxious.  Not every challenge must be something that gets in my way.  

I’ve thought about the speech and lessons from Wallace in my everyday life.  I recently moved to a home with new roommates, am looking for a new job and lost three people to addiction; not to mention all of the other curveballs that life throws my way.  Instead of feeling sorry for myself and running away from my problems, I thought of the speech and my favorite DBT skill: opposite action.

Do you remember the Seinfeld episode where George is at the diner and ordered a different lunch, asked out the pretty lady and admitted he lives at home with his parents?  He was shocked to learn that doing things different worked in his favor.  That’s a great example of opposite action.  I have recently been implementing it into my everyday life as well; I’ve been reaching out to people instead of isolating, talking through my problems and admitting when I am at fault.

It’s been scary, but I’ve been surprised to learn my new behaviors are working in my favor.  Being honest, open, and connected with people has proven to make life so much easier and so much more serene.

I still have some amends to make and have some loose ends to piece back together, but I am grateful that I have begun to learn to open up to other people and grow my wings.  Life does get a little easier when you do things different and change the way you think- one day at a time.

About Kristin Fehrman

Boston-based writer. Living beautifully at Mindful in Style.
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