DBT Mindfulness HOW Skills

Yesterday in my DBT Skills Group, we learnt about the HOW Skills of Mindfulness:

  • One-mindfully
  • Effectively
  • Non-judgementally

Here is the worksheet from the group, outlining each of the HOW Skills and explaining how they can be utilised effectively.

We spent most of the time we had talking about the ‘Non-judgementally’ aspect of the HOW skills. Apparently it is common in DBT for clients to get stuck on this skill specifically, because of course judgements are such an integral part of modern day society, and because in certain contexts they can feel so justified too. One member of the group was finding it difficult to understand exactly how and why judgements can be so damaging, and so we spent a lot of time talking this through.

We talked about two different types of judgements – discerning judgements vs. evaluating judgements.

The former refers to judgements which are neither positive nor negative but which are necessary in effectively making a decision. For example, if you look outside of your window every morning to see what the weather is doing in order to make a decision about what clothes to wear that day – you are making a discerning judgement. You are using facts and evidence to effectively influence your decisions and behaviour from a Reasonable Mind perspective.

An evaluating judgement, however, is when you label something as good or bad, so that the situation or person you are describing becomes defined by your subjective experience. For example, if I look outside of my window in the morning, see that it’s grey and raining, and think to myself what a disgusting, ugly and crappy day it is today – I am making an evaluative judgement. Here, an individual is in a state of Emotion Mind, during which emotions and behaviours are likely to be influenced in a way that only increases suffering and decreases acceptance levels and happiness.

We all agreed that the aim here would be to decrease our use of evaluating judgements toward people, places and things as being ‘good’ or ‘bad’, by instead expressing our experiences of them in a more descriptive and less black-or-white way.

For example, instead of saying “That was the shittest and most pointless film I have ever seen in my life”, one could say “I did not particularly enjoy that movie. In my opinion it lacked substance and I found it difficult to feel connected to the characters”.

Ultimately, though only subtly different at times, thinking more descriptively and less judgementally actually results in decreased suffering, increased wisdom and decreased reactivity.

It sounds totally worth it, but it is actually really hard. Especially for individuals who experiences a lot of internal banter, high anxiety and low self-esteem, the judgements seem to come thick and fast. Our homework for the week is to therefore use a little device called a ‘clicker’ to keep track of the number of judgements we make during a specific time frame within the week, with the aim for the count to decrease, being Mindful, and over time.


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