The following is a synopsis of a weekly Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) group lesson, based on the work of Marsha Linehan out of the University of Washington. This week’s lesson is actually outside of the normal DBT content, it is solely based on the codependency literature, specifically the work of a wonderful fellowship called CODA.

New Disclaimer: I LOVE doing this, I think it is desperately needed, and I WANT to do it. However, I have zero time to do it so, while I am committed to giving it my all, I may fall behind or skip a week or two. I apologize in advance for that, and for the fact that I will not be spell checking, fixing formatting, or doing a read through before I post. No offense, but I gotta draw the line somewhere!

Interpersonal Skills Module: DEAR MAN, GIVE, FAST

So this week was weird because Tuesday’s group was cancelled for snow and Wednesday proceeded with more of the same, reviewing a lot of scenarios where we would need to use a DEAR MAN (When our Objective is the most important thing), a GIVE (When our Relationship is most important), and a FAST (when self-respect is at risk), but focusing on GIVE and FAST. It is important to remember that any of the singular parts of all 3 of these approaches is useful in most cases, so you can do a little mixing and matching. For example, suppose you want to end an unhealthy relationship. If the relationship is extremely threatening or damaging, like say a person who is seemingly dangerous is stalking you or a bully is really scaring you. In this case, you may want to cut off all communication with the person by blocking them on all social media, telling those you trust and care about that this is happening, and committing to not contacting that person again. BUT, if you are ending a relationship with someone who is unhealthy but not necessarily scaring you, especially in a case where you haven’t clearly told the person that you don’t want anything to do with them, it is best to use a FAST to set a clear limit that they can understand. After you clearly and directly tell them that you need to end the relationship, then you may choose to block them on social media and avoid any interaction with them. It is always best though to first assert ourselves clearly and honestly, unless to do so would put us in harms way.

Another good example of how to mix some of these skills is if we are ending a relationship that isn’t necessarily toxic or unhealthy, but it is best for us if we end it. We do have the right to choose not to be in relationships with people, and although I am a huge proponent of trying to forgive people and keep people in our lives if appropriate, there are times where we need to distance ourselves, temporarily or permanently.

For example, I had a dear friend in high school who I spent a lot of time with for a couple of years. When we got to be in our early 20’s, we drifted apart a bit, but still spoke here and there. I bumped into her somewhere and she asked me to go to a flea market with her. I really liked her and wanted to go, but she had a bad habit of ditching me, where she would agree to come pick me up and I would be left waiting for her, becoming angry that I then had nothing to do and feeling sad and abandoned by her. So when I saw her, I told her, clearly and assertively that I would love to go with her, but that she has failed to follow through at times in the past, so if she makes these plans with me and doesn’t show up, I am going to have to end our relationship.

Well lo and behold, she didn’t show. She did call me a couple of months later out of the blue, happily asking how I’ve been and pretending nothing had happened. I reminded her of the limit I set with her and that because she hurt me again, I couldn’t stay friends with her. She was really hurt by me, seeming shocked that I would decide this and feeling that I was being unfair. This was a hard conversation for me to have, and a hard relationship for me to give up, because she was sweet and meant well, and we had lots of fun together, and went through lots of pain together, but she wasn’t available to me consistently enough so I felt I had to do it.

In the above example, I could have done a DEAR MAN, but also Validated her, and been Gentle in my approach, because I didn’t want to hurt her. I could also use the FAST in my approach, to be fair to her, make no apologies for my decision, stick to my values and be truthful about how she effected me.

Next week’s blog will focus more on ending relationships, and on making friends and, for Wednesday night, dealing with Intimacy fears.