One of the more challenging aspects of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is walking the dialectic. While the core components of distress tolerance skills are readily applicable to daily life, I often find myself struggling to explain the benefit of holding two opposite emotions in the mind without being swayed by either. Invariably clients ask: “Why would I want to do that? Being angry is hard enough. Why would I want to create space to feel love and anger fully at the same time? If I can’t stop feeling these things, can’t you at least help me to pick one and deal with that [emotion]?” But thanks to Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot, I now have a DBT avatar to share with clients, a character who embodies both the principles of dialectical thinking and whose actions demonstrate the benefits of walking the dialectic: Diana, Princess of Themyscira, Wonder Woman of the World.
Diana walks the superhero dialectic without denying the contradiction of being both a powerful warrior and an emotional being. In fact, it is her ability to hold this dialectic in balance that helps her to succeed throughout the narrative of the film. During the pivotal No Man’s Land sequence, Diana’s awareness of the superhero dialectic helps her to identify her role in the battle. Her emotions lead her towards compassion and her heroic training helps her to confirm that No Man’s Land is the place to fight. Had she chosen one skill set over the other she would not have succeeded: it is the combination of emotional connection with the stranded villagers and her heroic abilities that empowered both Diana and her fellow soldiers to fight and win the day.
Diana’s compassion for herself and others enables her to hold these two competing superhero ideas, without bending under their weight or choosing one over the other. Clients often struggle to make space for contradicting feelings about a person or situation. By inviting clients to see that holding two opposing ideas or emotions at once can empower a person to greater action, Wonder Woman helps us to demonstrate for clients the purpose of DBT. Additionally, Wonder Woman shows clients that self-compassion can be the key to creating balance within such a dialectic. Self-compassion needn’t be a passive practice. It can be the vital act of a warrior. In fact, it is Diana’s compassion for herself and all of humanity that helps her avoid the usual superhero pitfalls of brooding despair (Batman) or self-isolation (Superman).
I plan to continue inviting Diana into the therapeutic space. Her narrative helps clients to see dialectical work as not just an important part of their therapeutic journey but as a vital tool for superheroes and warriors. The Diana dialectic empowers clients to be the change they wish to experience in their own lives while holding space for the many contradicting feelings such change brings.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is an evidenced based practice created by Marsha Linehan, PhD, that teaches individuals how to decrease anxiety, increase emotional regulation, and mindfully approach triggers or upsetting events in daily life. ↩
As many of you may have noticed, we’ve run a bit behind on our blog this Spring. Here at BBC, we’ve been hard at work on a secret project that we can finally share with you:
In early January 2017, Justine & Larisa were asked to contribute to Sterling's popular Pop Psychology book on Supernatural. A beloved fandom here at BBC, we were only too happy to jump right in! This was our first foray into book publishing & it proved equal parts rewarding and challenging! What they say about the editing process is true: you’re never really done.
Justine co-wrote a whopping 2 chapters with fellow clinicians! While Larisa & Justine wrote 1 chapter together. Working on this project together has genuinely been a dream come true and we can’t wait for the final book to debut in bookstores in October.
3 cheers for summer & a return to regular posts!
For those of you counting at home, yes, that means Justine co-wrote a grand total of 3 chapters! ↩
The Family We Choose
Many of you may already know this, but the Supernatural fandom is kind of a big deal around here at BBC. We aren’t alone in loving this show – it’s on its 12th season for a reason! With twisting plots, Geek culture references galore, and a rotating cast of sharply drawn characters, there’s a lot to enjoy. But it isn’t what keeps us coming back.
Supernatural engages us because of its community both inside and outside the show. The family of choice created by Sam, Dean, Bobby, and Castiel invites fans to recognize and appreciate their ability to create community with these characters, and with fellow Geeks who love them. Sam and Dean remind us that it’s normal to have a challenging relationship with our family of origin.
But, as Bobby reminds us in season 3: “There’s more to family than blood”. In other words, family neither begins nor ends with the people with whom we share genetic material. As adults, we get the opportunity to seek out connections with new and different people.
Sometimes, they’re angelic.
Sometimes, they’re demonic.
Rarely are they exactly what we expected.
But when we find those people who see us and celebrate us for who we are – well, it’s a transcendent experience. This month, BBC celebrates both our irl and fandom families for reminding us that each of us deserves a community who loves, respects, and celebrates us for who we truly are.
BMO and the Power of Play
Some of you may already be familiar with Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time series. But, in case you aren’t, here’s a quick summary:
Adventure Time is your classic hero’s journey with post-apocalyptic twists, bubble gum heads-of-state, and a robot/video game console/VHS player/alarm clock/camera/best friend who self-identifies as gender fluid. Have I lost you? Stay with me.
BMO, voiced by the talented Niki Yang, is the personification of play on several levels. BMO is an actual play tool since zhe is the means by which Finn, the human, and Jake, the dog, play their video games. BMO is an instigator of imaginative IRL role play games for him/herself and his/her friends. BMO engages in zher own playtime with BMO’s alter-ego the [gender-yet-to-be-self-determined-robot, Football. Perhaps BMO’s creator MO says it best:
If you’ve been to our office lately, you’ve probably seen our collection of Adventure Time plushies. We bought them for a number of reasons (Larisa is a forever fan), but our main objective was to encourage ourselves and our clients to embrace play. In psychotherapy, play can be a powerful tool for processing trauma, relieving stress, and learning social skills. It can be easy to spot the power of play for kids, but at BBC we believe it is an equally powerful tool for adults.
In our current political climate, there is much to do. We at BBC often find ourselves thinking there is not enough time to do all that is required for ourselves, our clients, and our country. Making time to play can feel self-indulgent. But it isn’t. Play is restorative. It can remind us of our purpose in the world of work. Play is fun. By engaging in fun, even in the darkest times, we nourish our resilience – the ability to try again even in the face of unspeakable odds. So in between the work and the responsibility, we encourage you to play. To remember with BMO that growing up doesn’t mean losing the whimsy of fun:
2016 was a hard year. As it drew ever so slowly to a close, we at BBC found ourselves holding our collective breath. Waiting. Was one more bad thing going to befall the world before this year drew its close?
We catch ourselves projecting onto 2017 a great many expectations. The more optimistic among us thinking: “You’ve got to be better.” The more realistic adding: “Surely you can’t be any worse.” Put another way: As this new year begins to unfold, we wonder: just what level of the rpg are we at?
Role playing games are known for their misdirection. You think you’re at the end, but you’ve only just begun. From a logistical game play standpoint this makes sense; you want to keep the player invested and engaged. But this move only works because it mimics the way life itself moves: A journey peopled with a collection of characters for whom there is neither a discernable beginning nor a concrete end. It is the moment of now that we have, both in life and in the games we play.
Projecting, worrying, screening for what is to come in 2017 is a normal human response. It is a response that is understandably amplified this year. We encourage you to remember that what we have is the present now. In that now, we can choose to move towards connection, compassion, and care for ourselves and others. In that now, we can both ask for help and offer help.
As we embark on 2017, BBC invites you to remember that you do not have to make this journey alone. The Legend of Zelda taught us it’s safer to go together.
Role-playing-game. We at BBC are big fans of both the board game and video game varieties. ↩
BBC is in no way profiting from mentioning Dragon Age: Inquisition. We - ok maybe just one of us - really dig the game and think that it works for this extended metaphor. ↩
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