A B C, It’s As Easy As 1 2 3

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is filled with skills that are acronyms. Some of these are ridiculously long and hard to remember, such as SPECIFIC PATHS, and as a result I never use them. One of my favorite skills, however, is the acronym ABC. ABC is part of the Emotion Regulation module, and each letter stands for a different way to take action in the present that will create improvements in your future.

A – Accumulate positives

Accumulating positives involves experiencing and remembering positive events which you can use to balance negative events that may happen in the future. For me, accumulating positives often means spending time with friends so that I can remember those times when I’m feeling lonely.

I also accumulate positives by accepting compliments when they are given. A year ago, just before my first therapist ended her internship, we were working on my difficulty with accepting compliments. I still struggle a little with believing that people mean the positive comments they make, but I have learned to at least be gracious and say thank you. Yesterday I received four compliments – two regarding DBT group and two regarding my stage management of a play – and I ended the day thinking about how I could reflect on those compliments when things are going less well.

B – Build mastery

Building mastery is about working on improving a skill. This can mean working at something you are already good at, in order to become even better. I do this every time I write for my blog or my book, or when I work on a knitting project.

Building mastery can also mean improving one of your weak areas. I do this when I practice things that I have a history of struggling with, such as doing business on the phone. Finally, you can build mastery by learning an entirely new skill, such as a previously unfamiliar cooking technique or how to do home repairs.

C – Cope ahead

Coping ahead means planning for things that could go wrong and taking steps now to minimize their impact. I cope ahead whenever I find a potentially useful phone number and enter it in my cell phone contacts. I’ve got the three local police departments and the county sheriff, the local hospital, AAA, my bank’s customer service line, poison control, etc. When I need help, it will simply be a matter of choosing the right contact.

I’ve also coped ahead today by finally learning how to operate a fire extinguisher. There was a large section in the paperwork from my new employer regarding what to do in case of a fire, and I felt very intimidated by the responsibility. I won’t know everything that needs to be done until I’m actually familiar with the layout of my workplace, but at least I now know how to use the equipment.


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