The Diary card: good, bad and even ugly

If you’re like most folks doing some kind of dbt practice, filling out the diary card is…well…a pain the ass!  And you may be experiencing a lot of resistance to filling it out, which (if you’re anything like me), you may be rationalizing so that it doesn’t sound or feel like resistance at all.  Do you forget to fill out the card?  Does it never seem to be around when you actually do remember to fill it out?  *Sigh*.  Damn diary card!  😉

The bad news is that to give your therapist, or yourself, is that filling out the diary card is so crucial that it would really be in your best interest to actually fill it out.  Don’t take too much time thinking about it; it’ll take maybe two minutes.  Are you willing to do some problem-solving re: how you can get yourself to fill it out?  Sticky notes?  Reminder messages on your phone or via email?  Asking someone else to remind you (yeah, peer pressure is verrry effective 😉 ).  Whatever you need to do to fill it out – `just do it’.  If you’re one of those people who negotiates with him/herself, you need to someone get the diary on the `this is not negotiable’ list.  In fact, the less you think about it the better.  Just do it!

There are many reasons why filling out the diary card is in your best interest; here are just a couple that come to mind:

1. You already practice a lot of skills!  Even before you started dbt you were already skillful.  Yay!  You’ll learn that many of your skillful behaviors are on the diary card – just in `dbt-speak’.  I guarantee that even if you think you didn’t use any skills that day, if you woke up and lived another day, there are multiple skills you can check.  So it can be really uplifting and reinforcing to experience the `yay me, I practiced skills!’ moment that filling out your diary card can bring you.  And after you fill out the diary card, you can `pat yourself on the back’…which immediately adds at least one skill you can mark off on your next diary card.  Actually, more than one…wise mind, encouragement, accumulating positives (okay, that may be a stretch), opposite to emotion action (if it was)….and probably more. Oh, mastery.  And willingness.  Damn, you’ve already got a pretty impressive diary card for the next day!  You go Skill Monster!

2.  Just seeing every skill written down, at least once a day, will increase the likelihood that you will both remember the skills later and use them.  Because one of the most important aspects of dbt is that the skills `come out of us’ in the `real world’, it is really important that the myriad of potential skills actually pop into our head when we’re in a situation and wondering what to do.  In fact, I highly recommend that you carry around a diary card with you (or any reminder of all the skills), so that you can pull it out when you’re stumped….or when you’re on the bus, and want the person next to you to stop talking to you.  Or just to study.

We’ll talk at some other point about how some people are `rule-governed’ (they do what they’re told), and others are `contingency-governed’ (they do things because they care about the consequences).  Most people fall into one category or another.  I am definitely contingency-governed.  But, sometimes the consequence/reward/punishment still doesn’t get me to do something I really don’t want to do.  In those cases, I have to shut my mind off as much as I can and just make it a Rule.  Capital ‘R’.  As in ‘Rawr!’.  Two examples of things I need Rules for: showing up at meditation practice, and filling out the diary card.

Honestly, it took me a couple of months before I regularly filled out the diary card.  It took a lot of problem-solving for me to fill it out.  In the end, I simply (yeah, as if `simple=easy’ *snicker) had to take away any choice in the matter.  No thinking allowed.  Just do it.

Sheeesh.  I don’t even like Nike. 😉


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