DBT Diaries – Week 7

Week seven of DBT and the week has been horrendous. I started some new medication over the past couple of weeks and the side effects floored me. Mainly extremely high anxiety which left me incapable of concentration, relaxation or sitting still. It genuinely felt like I had put my skin on backward, so heading to therapy wasn’t high on my list and I considered on several occasions not going but in the end, I did. I did find it hard to concentrate and was rather fidgety but I’m glad I went.

*Please remember not all groups are run the same way and your experiences may be different to mine. There is no right or wrong as everyone is different, this is just meant as a little insight into the topic for those who are interested.


This week’s topic was the final (I think) of the distress tolerance skills. This week we looked at willfulness and willingness and how to use half smiling and willing hands to manage willfulness and accept reality with your body. It sounds silly I know but bear with me.

Willfulness vs Willingness

Willingness is the readiness to engage with and participate in something fully – in this instance life. It’s doing just what is needed in your current situation, listening to and acting from wise mind. Therefore, willfulness in this context is refusing to accept reality for what it is or doing the opposite of what you know works. It can even be trying to fix every situation – not all situations can be fixed at least not immediately.

Half smiling and willing hands

As mentioned earlier half smiling and willing hands are ways to practice radical acceptance with the body. There is some scientific evidence (although I haven’t read it) which says unclenching your hands when angry or relaxing your face and allowing a gentle ‘smile’ or upturning of the corners of your mouth (as found in Buddist meditation) can help to turn the mind toward accepting the situation or at least relaxing.




I think the reason this works is you can’t say half smiling willing hands when you’re wound up without stopping to laugh at yourself because it sounds so silly. Whether that’s the case or there is some scientific reason behind it, from what I have seen so far it does actually work.

When our therapists started telling us about this I did cringe actually. I mean it sounds a bit cliche but the more I heard and tried it the more I chuckled and joined in being silly with my peers – definitely not something I expected after a week of extreme anxiety. As we tried the skills out I did struggle as I couldn’t concentrate enough to think of a recent time when I had been wilful or reconnect to the emotions I experienced. However our homework this week is to give it a go, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

I’ll let you know how I get on next week – wish me luck.


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