This is the 16th. of May. So the second one last week, I didn't do any PowerPoint slides. And I think I'm not going to do any, because I think a lot of people are gonna listen, mainly by podcast, because it's a lot easier and more versatile to be in different situations. And then a lot of people have been used to listening that way. So just to let you know. And I'm always open to feedback about how it's going and and whether it's going working for people. So this, here's where we're at, as well, what I'm going to teach today.
Two times ago, I started into the topic of mindfulness. And I had a whole thing about mindfulness, and what is mindfulness and what is not mindfulness. And it was not specific to DBT. And then last time, I did one on mindfulness within DBT. And first I spent part of that time on just one, how do we think of mindfulness within DBT?
And then I moved into the ideas about what what are the three states of mind that Linda had articulated, right reasonable mind, emotion, mind and wise mind, and then I spent time on wise mind. And today, the idea is now if you get to this point in the mindfulness skills, the question is, how do you get into wise mind? One of the people watching and listening last time, Natalia, asked about how one would use the six skills in order to get into wise mind. And that was a good question.
And sort of a segue into today, and I talked a little bit about it. But I do want you to be listening, because to all six of the skills, which I'm not going to cover today, my intention today was to cover the three what skills observing, describing and participating. And I'm just, I'm just not sure how long I can go or whether I'll technically get cut off at six at seven o'clock. Because this is the way the whole module is laid out. It's a beautifully laid out module in in organizing everything around wise mind.
And I want to tell you, I think the entire skills package of DBT the all the tools in this in the DBT workbook, you might say, I think they all could be organized around the concept of wise mind, in that everything is ordered to in order to get to wise mind to strengthen wise mind to preserve wise mind to sustain wise mind, I think wise mind is not emphasized enough as a central organizing concept of the whole thing. Because almost all of the other skills, and the skills of how to what to do when you're distressed and how to accept reality, even when you don't like it, and how to regulate your emotions and how to deal with relationships. They almost all depend on the concept of being able to be mindful. It's like a prerequisite for them. And also they all protect, being able to be mindful and at the center of being mindful is moving towards Why is mine that mysterious concept. That's never easy to articulate. And I took a fair amount of time last time talking about it, but can always take questions about it.
So I want to talk about the first three skills that I wanted to Use the first three skills and get into them. So here's how I want to start that.
The day when when I start thinking about these core mindfulness skills, I start at the following point. We live in a constant ongoing stream of experience, just think of yourself as you're in a stream, and you're standing there, and it's just always going, and it's always bringing you new stuff.
And the stream includes all of the things that you pick up with your five sensory modalities. That's all the stuff outside yourself. That's very raw data, you might say, into the system, the system being your central nervous system.
And then there's all of this other data that's coming from inside yourself, which is your awareness of images and thoughts, your awareness of emotions in yourself and your awareness of impulses and urges in yourself. So that the idea is that these things are always flowing by, in you and out of you, it isn't like there's any anything else this is it.
And your nervous system is set up largely, to pick up all these things to register these things to assess these things, and to send them on to other parts of the nervous system or to other parts of view, or to your life outside yourself. So it's just the the core skills of observing. And describing and participating are three maneuvers, think of it as a gear shift in a car, you've got three gears that you can move among, you can move to observing whatever that experience is, including self generated, experiencing.
In other words, you're walking, no one else made you walk, you walk. And you notice the sensation of the ground against your feet, noticing that sensation of the ground against your feet, is observing. And that's one thing you can do with that, without labeling it without doing anything else with it, you could just walk around and notice the experience.
And actually Tich Nat Hahn has a whole book about how to walk. And it's really brilliant. I mean, there's so many points of wisdom, embedded in these very practical recommendations that he makes, like putting your foot on the on on the earth and moving it in a certain way. And realizing that it reminds you that you are here you are on the earth you are in this present moment.
So that's one thing that you can do is observe.
Or you could shift gears and you could turn to describe, which is just kind of like a step away from observe. And I'll get back to that in just a minute. Or you could shift gears and get to participate, which is a different kind of gear. Because it's the gear not of standing back. And observing what's passing through or what's emerging in every moment that you're alive.
Or describing what you're observing in every moment you're alive. But it is actually sort of jumping in with both feet entering into what's happening. And becoming part of what's happening. Observe and describe are both based on on an a concept that you can be separate from your experience. And you can observe it or you can describe it.
Participate is where you become your experience and there is no separation. And you could do this even with breathing with breathing, you can observe the sensations of breathing inside yourself.
You can observe your belly move when your breathing or your chest move when you're breathing. And you can describe the nature of breathing. Breathing as the actually in the Buddha's sutra, on breathing, teachings on breathing.
He had 16 teachings on what you can do with the breath. And the very first one is while breathing in you say to yourself I am breathing in or just say breathing in or just say in.
So that's describing. while breathing in you just breathe. You say I'm breathing in. It's very simple, very straightforward.
So it's still based on though that you are standing in a way experientially just outside of the breathing that's happening and you're describing it, to participate in breathing would not be to describe it not to be to observe it, it would be as if you could imagine yourself almost being inside your breath.
And your breathing almost from the inside, there is no separation, you can't say I am breathing, you are just breath. You are breathing, you are breathing, you are observing yourself breathing. So there are these three gears. And they are unbelievably helpful. They it's so simplistic a model. That is amazing that it was come up with at all.
It reminds me of when I wrote a paper, cut an article a couple years ago on mentalization, and DBT. mentalization, if you know anything about what that is this concept that we just do every second, we just do it all the time. So it's almost impossible to describe. And even the experts in it, when they describe it, they say, I'm not sure I've gotten to the cross. Why is bind is like that, and participate like that. They're all like that. They're all these kinds of things, because they defy ordinary language, which is based on separations. It's a it's a lack of separation. Okay, so you're in this your base constantly and I mean nonstop, day and night, from the time of birth till death, we're in a stream of experience of sensory experience of ideational experience of imagery experience of urge experience of just constantly and therefore what you do with it becomes very important. People who don't have many skills for managing it. Get in terrible situations, they on at one end of the spectrum, they get in the situation where they are overwhelmed by experience. They are overstimulated, they are overwhelmed. It's like too much all at once. And even.
And even being just in a conversation for some people can be that. And being in a crowd, being at my party on my birthday, with like 27 people in my house, which rarely has more than two guests, is like, Oh my god, there was nowhere to get away. I mean, I go from one room to another. And here's another not only people, but important people in my life, not important people and anyone else. Yeah, I guess they are. But not, they're not important people. I mean, so it was like, Oh my God. And here's another one.
And here's another one, it was hard to get out of the stream. In a way, I'm used to sort of regular retreats, you might say, like moment to moment. And so one can be overwhelmed by experience. And it's weird, because some people because of their nervous system, and because of their lack of skills can be overwhelmed by the smallest amount of experience. And so they need to live in a way that minimizes all experience. And that's the only way they can live. They don't necessarily mean to be like distancing themselves from the world, it is what they need to do to survive. Because some people, it's just too much. And I think we're all there some of the time, you know.
So that's one end of the spectrum of trouble.
The other end of the spectrum of trouble is the need and the mechanism of constantly shutting down experience, like blocking it out, shutting it down, avoiding it and just living without it. And of course, that's a big problem in life. Because for one thing, to do that with experience of the nature of the experience, I'm talking about what your thoughts, feelings, images, impulses, and outside stuff coming in.
The way the nervous system works is if you block those things, it's really like a wound that closes up before it's fixed. And it festers. So those things don't go away. In fact, you want to make sure something doesn't go away, keep saying keep blocking it, because that maintains it. And so that's one problem with the strategy of blocking, but you're gonna have sympathy for the person that has come to that strategy.
And, and, and also the other problem with that strategy is it means you're kind of living blind. You're because you're blocking out all the data that other people are using in order to navigate the universe. So if you're, if you're living blind, and it's a real problem with the skill of observing, if you can't observe accurately what's going on, and you need to block things out because you've been traumatized, or because you're anxious or because you're overwhelmed or because you've never learned this, any of these skills, then you you're blocking out all this stuff that tells you what's coming at you. And and therefore you really you're it's just you're just getting these messages.
So you need These skills and these are three core skills. They are really Linehan was so right to call them core, because they really are just so basic and so important. there and and they are I sort of think of them as the way you sift through reality. you sift through stimuli, you sift through sensory experience.
And you're just always sifting, you're observing this, you're describing it, you're observing this, you're describing it once in a while you participate. And it's sort of like these basic things that you can do. Somebody must be getting home in my house, because my dogs are barking. So let me tell you about observing. Oh, my god, there's so much to say.
And I've done podcasts before on observing early and early in my record of podcasts, if you went back to one of the one or two of them, right, one or two, podcasts, one, two, or three or four, somewhere at the very beginning of these as some really ones where I was, I wasn't meaning to teach the skill of observing, but I was talking more about the principle of what it is to observe.
So what what is it that so great about observing, like, why do we want to do it? I'm going to start there. Why?
Because in Linehan's manual, that's how she starts, she talks about why do we do each of these, and then she goes into, what do we do to do each of these, and then she goes on and make some other comments about them.
So these don't directly parallel what she what she said.
But first of all, when you observe, it means you are really touching, direct experience. So like I said, about the bottom of your feet. When I said about breathing. When this pod when this zoom cast today wasn't working, technically, I sat here and I was noticing, I was just observing, my breath was faster than usual. I felt anxious, I noticed sort of the signs of anxiety in me, I noticed my thoughts were speeding up, I noticed some thoughts I was having that were on the judgmental side of things that I didn't know what I was doing, I noticed thoughts just that I was a beginner at all of this.
And to the degree that I could just notice them and directly touch them. With my capacity to observe, that was helpful to me. If I couldn't just do that, I would have been in more trouble. Like I might have believed the judgments instead of just observing the judgments. And I might have just believed, oh, my God, this is a catastrophe, because it seemed like one in my brain. But what then I then I would just observe, oh, well, what's going on, and then I would describe it, put it into words. And I'd realized this is not a catastrophe, this is the technical difficulties. There's a big difference. And, and and I felt badly because I knew that there were at least a very few people who are waiting.
But fortunately, two of them emailed me right away, which was great. And I was able to email back. But I think that so the first real advantage of observing is that it brings you into direct contact with the reality of the present moment. And there's only one such moment and and it's this one right now. Now, it just went away. Now we're on another one. It just keeps changing.
But it is the reality of the present moment and on the unique features of the present moment. So it brings you in contact with that. And it allows you to directly touch what's going on there, including misery, including pain, this is one of the hardest things I have getting across to people who are suffering, which is that observing includes observing your own misery.
It isn't just observing wonderful things in order to feel better or observing neutral things in order to distract yourself from misery. It's also observing pain, and observing misery and there and that's hard to get across. If you've been living a life of a lot of pain and suffering, it's very hard to get across that. Oh, you should be you should be paying attention to that because the person thinks well, I have been paying attention to that. And they have.
But there's this other concept that comes from the Buddha, called the second arrow. And the second arrow is the first arrow is you might say is pain or misery, like you are inflicted by loss, afflicted by loss or you're afflicted by physical pain, or you're afflicted by some other type of painful emotional experience. And that's just real.
That's something to observe. That's something that will evolve that something that's reality, but then what you do with that next is the second arrow. The second arrow can be your thinking, oh my god, this is never going to go away. And that's the second error. The second arrow is worse than the first arrow or the second arrow is this should never have happened to me. The second arrow is why Did I get this This isn't fair. A second arrow is, I'm such a jerk. No wonder this happened to me. All of these our second arrows are what I've called in previous podcasts, when we talk about observing, add ons. There's reality, and there's add ons. So you observe something, but then the add ons kind of do you in, and they convert you from having pain or misery to suffering. And the suffering people say is optional. It's sort of easy to say that except you're if you're somebody who's suffering, it doesn't feel very optional. And so I find it to be invalidating terminology sometimes. But I think you get the idea.
The second great advantage other than it bringing you into the present moment in direct contact with reality is that you get data about reality. So you know, like, we're a system and our system, the whole sensory apparatus that we have within us as organisms, is to bring in data about our world around us and our world inside us. And if we're getting accurate data, it's really helpful. If we're actually seeing what's going on, it really lays the groundwork for functioning more effectively for changing things if we want to or for accepting things if we need to. And so if we're not getting accurate data, because we're distorting it on the way in, you text somebody, they don't text you back.
Okay, that's data. Okay. You notice the absence of a text coming back within the timeframe that you're used to getting a text back, and it hasn't come back? That's the first arrow, that's the data.
The second arrow, the add on, is, I wonder if they don't want to talk to me anymore. Maybe they just didn't want to hear from me. Maybe this person doesn't like me anymore.
That's really not data. That's an assumption. It's a guess it's a hypothesis. It's a, it's a sometimes it's a judgement, those kind of things. But so what you want is to get accurate data.
And what Linehan writes in her manual about this is that if you can't use observe effectively and see reality, including all of its negative features, as well as its positive features, you're like a blind person trying to cross a room that has a ton of furniture in it. And you just keep running into stuff because you didn't see it. And then it just keeps magnifying your problems. So this being able to accurately get data is another very important thing. And I think that the about the question about why is mine, one of the reasons that observing accurately reality is critical for getting to why is mine is that why is my needs to see what's going on, you need to have accurate input, whether you're, whether you're using emotional mind or reasonable mind, you need to have sort of accurate versions of reality, or else you're going to start out with a distorted version. And the strangely enough, if you really stop and notice yourself very long, I do this with myself, sometimes. It's unbelievable how quickly we distort what's real, into what we assume.
It's just almost automatic, and think it is automatic, I think, you know, the brain isn't a big place, everything's within a couple inches of each other practically. And it goes very fast. So as soon as you notice, you know, you could notice the leaves falling in the fall. And you could just notice that and notice, gee, isn't that interesting how that leaf hangs on until the last minute, and then it's twisting?
Or you could do an add on and say, Oh, my God, it's fall. Now winter is going to be here. Oh, no, it's the end of the best part of the year, oh, my God, I'm so sad. And all of that understandable. And that, but you're you're outside of the realm of observing and describing, then you're in the realm of assuming and judging and interpreting and associating. And that's a different world. And we base so many of our choices on this false data. False data always coming in just data, that's fo data.
And so we we need, the more we can just see what's going on. And now this requires doing a lot of difficult things like being off your cell phones for long enough to actually pay attention to data that's coming in. Because you know, if you're on your cell phone, or you're playing a game, or you're obsessing about things, or you're, you're on the cell phone, sort of the equivalent of the cell phone, in your life, whatever that is, or in your mind, which are ways to kind of like bring in concepts bring in information that is not directly the real information of a relationship or what's coming in around you. It is real stuff. If you can keep your mind about you. You can say I'm noticing the sound. I mean, I'm noticing the input of all of this information.
The problem with that I find is not that it isn't real data, because it is it's that it's so quickly captures your interpretive mind and your mind. That's telling us story all the time. And you're you're hearing the story of the news or the story of a video game or something like that, you're caught up in a story, which, which makes it harder to appreciate a real data that's going on. I in previous podcast sometime going back, but I wouldn't expect most of you to know these, you know, I told a story at one point have a cousin of mine, who didn't get back to me when I emailed him, and I had phoned him and I was trying to get to him.
And I became convinced over a period of a year that he was really angry with me, and he was fed up with me. And he was a very important friend, he was he was one month apart, and we grew up together out in Oregon in a small town, and we were like, real values.
And we, you know, we've always had a good relationship. But I started to build my, my emotions and my actions and my thoughts, not on data, but on the assumption about the data and the fat. And that just one example alone, I think we do that all the time. So you just always want to be saying, what's actually happening? What's really going on? What did I really notice, I, you know, in my job as a psychotherapist, on a daily basis, maybe on a patient by patient basis, what I feel like I'm doing a lot of the time is trying to get back to what actually happened.
And then where'd you go with that? What actually happened? And how did you then feel about that? But did you forget what actually happened?
The girl I've talked about once before that, that that was, was in her high school, and she had a crush on a boy and the boy walked by her when she was standing by her locker, and she didn't look at him, and he didn't look at her. And he didn't say anything to her. And she didn't say anything to him. And she ended up you know, in a terrible state of mind by that night, she couldn't get it out of her mind that he ignored her.
Now, he didn't I mean, so she made an assumption. Now maybe he ignored her as something you'd only know by if you could get his intentions, but we can't observe other people's intentions, we can only observe what other people do.
So she got caught reacting not to not to reality, she got caught reacting to her interpretation. And and that was really did her in badly.
Another thing that's valuable from observing is that it affects a separation between two parts of yourself, the observing self and the observed.
And let's say the observed is the experiential data that's coming in through your sensory system, about the external world or about your internal world. And that's always coming in. And so there's that that's what's being observed. It's impermanent, it goes on all the time. It's always changing. It rises and falls, it's replaced by other things.
And then there's your observing self, your capacity to observe, I'm not saying there is a self that you could find somewhere. But there is this capacity to observe what's going on. And so there's, in a sense, you can set up your mind as if your life is like on a stage. And you sensory experience and everything that's happening in your life is going on on the stage.
And you're extricating yourself from that and sitting in a balcony seat, and you're seeing what's going on. And that's a very helpful experience to be able to step back, step back, even during my party, I sort of sometimes just stepped back and I looked across the room, I thought, oh my god, there's my brother mark, all the way from Portland, Oregon, came here without me knowing he was coming, totally blew my mind.
My son took me out to breakfast. And jack because I was thinking he and I were doing something together. And lo and behold, my wife and my other son are there. I thought, Oh, what a great surprise. And lo and behold, sitting across from them at the table with hoodies over their heads are my brother from Portland and my sister from Seattle, and then flown out on a red eye the night before.
And it isn't like we're a family that ever does that kind of thing. So it was like, Oh my God. And so many times during the party, I sort of observed, I got back into my observer seat, my balcony seat, looked across the room, I thought oh my god, there's my brother mark, talking to my friend, Jan, hug my friend, Bob, oh my god, two parts of my life that I never thought would touch each other touching each other, I would just notice how that felt.
And that's how I got through the party and had actually a very good time I had to observe and describe, observe and describe and some of the party I was just participating. I was just like in the party, you know, and so that that separation can be very useful and observing is the activity that helps you get in the balcony seat. Then there's the interpersonal benefits of observing because when you observe And you're with another human. And maybe it takes the form of listening to them. And psychotherapists do this. And friends do this. And parents do this. And it's sort of like that.
It's just this magical thing that's completely, you know, unrecognized.
It's one of those silent things that happens in the world that no one ever knows.
But if you are actually there, present, observing, while someone else is telling you something, it not only bring you in contact with the real data of what's coming from that other person, and then you can listen, and you can ask more about it.
And you can check that out. And it's what results ultimately in being validating to another person.
But it starts with just observing, and just observing what they're saying, and what the tone of voice is and how they're feeling, what their facial expression is, what their body is like.
And if you just observe, you create in them a feeling of being listened to, that's deep. And then what happens, they actually become if that's, if that works for them right, then if they're not overstimulated by that. That's a deepening experience, and then they're more likely to respond to you in a way that's more meaningful, or they're more likely to observe themselves, which is another valuable thing, because maybe being listened to very deeply, which is a form of observation, allows them to have that experience of being listened to very deeply, and then they can listen to themselves very deeply. So there's a lot of powerful interpersonal effects of observing.
That I think is just a critical part of it, and a big a big payoff. So that's another big payoff. Gosh, wouldn't it if I don't miss Yes. Those are, those are the main things we've covered more than the ones that that Marsha suggested, largely getting accurate data about the world of reality being in the here and now anchoring yourself in the here and now. Okay. Let me just I'm going to, I can just the timing is unfortunate, because of the technical problems today, I'm gonna have to stop soon. But nobody has cut us off yet. So I'll just say a bit more about observing and at least cover this one.
Observing is the core of the core skills. A lot of the concepts that spread through all of them, are embedded in the observing skill. What makes observing so difficult if it's so great, what makes it so difficult? Well, for one thing, our lives are not organized around it in our society or in our communities, often in our families, and often in our attention to media. It's just always there's just always interference, interference interference going on.
And then people find that they had a very important experience one day when they just went to lunch in some quiet place, and it was the best time they've had any year, like they just or they took a walk. Or they went on vacation, and they went in the woods, if they don't already live in the woods.
And or just everything slowed down. And they stayed at their house, but it's the first time they noticed their house in a month. Because they've always been busy, busy, busy. And so I think buisiness and multitasking are just the direct antithesis of that capacity to be there observe, be in the present moment, and really sift through it, and see it and hear it and feel it as it is. So that's one thing.
I think another thing that makes it so difficult for people to just observe is that actually there are things they don't want to know about inside themselves. They don't want to remember a certain experience that is triggered every time they start to notice their breath, or their body or something outside themselves. So it's it's these experiences that make it so that you have to send the segment off parts of your experience and shut it out. Because if it comes in, you're just not ready to cope with the associated misery or the associated bad memories that are related to that.
So that's another reason i think it's it's hard to, to observe lots of things.
We're also just programmed, we're conditioned to shut to jump to the add ons. That was the other one I had already said. But I think people do that so quickly. They don't know they're doing it. It's one of the hard things when you try to teach people these things. If they're not used to these concepts that you think are so valuable. It's sort of like it isn't these things are not so apparent. They would be valuable to penetrate through the assumptions that you make. And the gloss you have, oh, let's say you, let's say you had a presidential inauguration and there were 40 million people. And but then you say, oh, there were 100 million people there.
Well, that's an add on. I mean, if the person just said, there were a lot of people there, and I was happy, that'd be great. I mean, that's like a direct transmission of direct experience. But if you're always needing to shape your experience, to match an internal concept of being the greatest being the best, or in other people's case being the worst, and being the lowest, I mean, I've worked with people before that every week, say, It's worse than the previous week.
And they've been saying that for like, six months, I think, How bad can it get? I mean, I understand it's really bad. And but I think that's the way the person has of representing for themselves, things are terrible. They've never been worse.
And so it's just that it's not probably accurate. And so there's a way in which you know, you're adding the second and third and fourth arrow on to the first error, or the first gen being bad enough to begin with.
But if you can just let yourself observe the first arrow, the pain and the misery that comes from the first arrow, sometimes you find you can endure it.
The other thing my brother brought me other than great joy was a cold, which is just like we were as kids, because we had we shared the same room growing up all of our years. And I used to draw a line in the middle of the room, I literally put tape down. He and I were going over this, he remembered it.
And I would tell him not to cross that line, and not to let his germs cross that line. Because I had a lot of sickness, the first few years of my life, and I swore I'd never get sick again. So here he is bringing me germs across the country. It's really not very nice now, but I think Okay, look. I'm going to start next time. Just saying a little more about how to practice observe.
Let's see, did anybody send a question? There's a comment here anyway. Yeah, it's just a comment because of past. Oh, Beth, you said this. Because of past negative experiences, like yelling, and so on. Parents often have had a very hard have a very hard time with relationship.
Mindfulness. Yeah, absolutely. Because, you know, they can't enter into a relational encounter without that being like, part of the experience already. It's a hijacking. It's a hijacking from the past conflictual or yelling experiences with the present.
So it's very hard just to see what's actually going on. And that we all do that to a degree, you know, we're all biased by our past. We're all conditioned. And we're always always selecting what we're seeing, we always have our favorite add ons.
You know, there's always the people who are, they always add on that they're being they're being abandoned because they were abandoned, and they're looking for that. And it feels like abandoned, they're always add on that they're being hurt. And they're always having fun, but things are great. So I think that's true. So feel free, those of you who are listening to write anything you want, because now it's going to be a whole three week gap before we get to describe and participate and then on to being non judgmental, and one mindful and effective. And they're all interrelated. So I'll be thinking about these things and thinking about what we do next, but I'd be glad to hear anything anybody wants to write in the meantime. So thanks, guys, for hanging in there through the technical problems. And we'll be getting on those earlier next time. So it doesn't happen to see how to understand that. Okay, adios amigos.