Tag Archives: distress tolerance

What Causes People to Change? When It’s Painful To Change But More Painful Not To

Pain and Suffering and the Pain of Change

Pain is a type of distress.  It’s a natural part of life.  Pain is designed to be temporary.  The purpose of pain is to PUSH US TO DO SOMETHING to end the pain…so we can return to a pain-free state.  Pain is a call to action.

Alike most things in life, we have two choices when it comes to pain.  We can either LEAN INTO the painful situation and change things or we can work hard to avoid dealing with it.

If all we do is work to avoid pain…if we don’t Lean Into it…if we don’t deal with it…if we refuse to accept it…if we refuse to do what’s needed to get through it …OUR PAIN WON’T GO AWAY.  It’ll be with us for a long time.

Running from our problems just prolongs our agony and brings us to a chronic state of suffering… a long-term condition of being overwhelmed with despair and stuck in the same place and time… and we don’t move forward.

We want things to get better in our life, but we’re NOT WILLING to do the things that will make our life better.  We want life to change, but we’re not in the mood to change.

We generally DON’T CHOOSE to make major life changes “out of the blue” or on our own.  Change usually happens when we’re FORCED to make changes.  And most often, we make changes when we have NO OTHER CHOICE but to change.  We generally let things get SO BAD that the pain of living like we’re living is MUCH GREATER than the pain of change…and that’s when we begin to change.

If we really want our life to change, we have to make changes…despite the distress of change.  Our life isn’t going to get better unless we do things that make life better.  When people make major life changes, a strong commitment is made, like, “Come hail or high water, this is going to happen.  I’m going to do what I have to do, no matter what.  I’m so tired of living this way.  I refuse to allow myself to live like this any longer.”

Excerpt from Chapter 11 “Distress Tolerance” of the DBT-CBT Therapy Workbook entitled: “Out-of-Control: A Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Workbook  for Getting Control of Our Emotions and Emotion-Driven Behavior” (Melanie Gordon Sheets, Ph.D. – 2009 – Recovery Works Publications)


Radical Acceptance – “Accepting the Unacceptable” – From a DBT-CBT Workbook Perspective

We have a choice to accept difficulties as they come our way…
To lean into them and to get a game plan for dealing with them
AND a choice to Follow Through until we can Get Through…
OR we can choose to avoid, ignore, and numb-out our pain and problems
And stagnate in our pain and suffering.

When we choose to confront things
With an attitude of acceptance
That gives us the serenity to change the things we can
And the wisdom to know our limits.

Acceptance of our life situation and what we need to do about it…is a way of turning suffering we cannot tolerate into pain we can tolerate. It’s a way of turning hopelessness into hope. Most of us have been suffering the pain of our lifestyle and choices for years…and somehow, we remain willing to experience ongoing pain and misery because of them. We’re somehow willing to suffer long-term pain, but we’re not willing to go through the temporary pain of change. We’re somehow willing to dwell in a painful past, to remain in painful situations, and to continue painful addictions and impulsive behavior. We do so because we’re unwilling to accept and undergo the changes that will bring peace and stability.

Radical Acceptance involves accepting what we’d normally consider unacceptable. When we LIVE BY Radical Acceptance, we CAN ACCEPT something whether or not we approve of it and whether or not it’s right or wrong, fair or unfair, or pleasant or unpleasant. Radical Acceptance is about CHOOSING TO ACCEPT whatever is in our best interests to accept.

We MUST ACCEPT whatever we HAVE TO accept because NON-ACCEPTANCE keeps us emotionally troubled and stuck in negativity. To have peace, we must accept many things whether or not they’re acceptable. We must accept things from the past and present. Anything in the past that’s unfixable, we need to LET IT GO. Anything in our current life that we CANNOT CHANGE, we need to accept that it MAY NOT change. Anything we CAN change, we must LEAN INTO…to MAKE THE CHANGES we CAN MAKE. Our Recovery Goal is to live a life that MAXIMIZES peace, stability, meaning, and productivity. To do that, we MUST ACCEPT what has happened HAS HAPPENED, what we’ve done, WE’VE DONE…then, we need to LET IT GO…so we can GO ON with life.

From pages 313 and 316 – Excerpt from “Out-of-Control: A Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Workbook for Getting Control of Our Emotions and Emotion-Driven Behavior” by Melanie Gordon Sheets, Ph.D. – 2009 – Recovery Works Publications

How to Motivate People to Change – Some Keys to Recovery from a DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) and CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy) Recovery Program

From the perspective of a psychologist in a state hospital treatment setting and a population of individuals who have struggled with recovery over time, I believe insight and understanding is a key to creating a desire to change. I believe it greatly helps people to see the big picture of their life and come to an understanding of why their life is like it is…that is, why they have lost “everything” or most everything they’ve ever loved or cherished…or why things always end up so bad…or why anything good never lasts. I believe folks need to grasp that this life outcome is a product of how they have tried to cope with upsetting life events over time…and the way their life is today…is because of the progressive and worsening consequences of their self-destructive coping mechanisms (drugs, alcohol, verbal and physical aggression, suicide threats and attempts, rebound relationships, and other emotion-driven coping choices). I believe that once they grasp that the quality of their life is based on how they attempt to cope with daily life and major life stressors…once they realize that how they cope with life is responsible for the current state of their life….once they really get this…motivation for behavioral change often follows. In the group I do, they are also taught that part of being wise (use of DBT’s Wise Mind) is not only knowing what to do (Wise Mind Game Plan), but it is about “following through with what we know to do”…because there is nothing wise about knowing what to do…and then not doing it! I believe insight and understanding is an initial part of behavioral change. I also believe that knowledge that change is possible is essential. I believe they need to really get it that other people have done it and have made it through. They have to have this knowledge…which breeds hope that the recovery process actually works…that people do recover and live satisfying and meaningful lives. I also believe personal empowerment is a key ingredient. They have to believe that they can do it…that they have the skills and understandings necessary to pull it off.

Thus, they have to understand why things are as they are..(insight and understanding), they have to recognize that change is attainable (knowledge and hope)…and they have to think they can do it (personal empowerment). Of course, they also need the knowledge, skills, and resources for getting through the tough times that are part of making and undergoing major life changes (life-enhancing coping skills, support system, hobbies and activities, busy-ness). They have to understand the concept of Distress Tolerance…that things will be hard, but they must Get Through It…that recovery is not easy…and in fact, it will be one of the hardest things they’ll ever do. They are also taught that change typically does not occur until we are sick n’ tired of being sick n’ tired…that we have to soooo hate the way things are…that we’re willing to do whatever we’ve got to do to change things…that we refuse to live like this any longer. I believe that people need to be filled with recovery attitudes…or rehab-itudes…and they need to be prepared for the fight of their life…which for many is the fight FOR a life (a decent life) and for others, it is a fight for life itself…because the severity of their consequences has escalated into things being so bad…that it comes down to “life or death”…

When the pain of living like we’re living is greater than the pain of change…that’s when most people decide to change…and the question for the rest of us is…how bad do we have to let things get before we’re willing to make changes! It’s a shame that we’re such stubborn creatures, that we have to let things get so bad…before we’re willing to make changes! If only we knew then…what we know now…how we could have spared ourselves of such long-term pain and suffering.