Life is full of choices. Sometimes we make the same choice over and over again without realizing that the consequences of that choice are not leaving us any better off in the long run. The good news is that you have control over your choices so that the consequences will put you on the path to more happiness instead of misery. This will take work, but with a pros and cons list, you can be well on your way to making positive choices for yourself in the New Year.
In Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), developed for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) treatment, making a list of pros and cons is one way to tolerate and manage distress. It is a fairly simple procedure, but it is best done when you are not in a moment of crisis. Creating a DBT pros and cons list and deciding on an appropriate action ahead of time is the best way to ensure that you won’t fall victim to taking the easy way out.
So what does a DBT pros and cons list look like? It is very simple. First, think of a situation that causes you a lot of distress, one that might be recurring. For instance, you may have a hard time getting along with a particular family member, which is sometimes a symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder. If this family member is critical of you or causes you grief in some other way, how do you react? You might react by doing something destructive to yourself by acting out BPD symptoms such as self harm, eating too much, or abusing drugs or alcohol.
Instead of immediately resorting to your default response, why not determine what the pros and cons are?
What Your DBT List Should Look Like
When you are creating your DBT pros and cons list, write down not only the pros and cons for the action, but the opposite of the action as well. Your list may look like this:
Hurting myself (a common symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder):
- Pros – Immediate relief, intense sensation that makes me forget emotional pain, and feeling of control
- Cons – Scarring, infection, having to hide the wounded parts of my body, and having people ask questions about my wounds
Not hurting myself:
- Pros – Healthy-looking body, no scarring, no infections, no questions from people, and feeling that I respect myself
- Cons – No immediate relief and feeling a loss of control
Once you see the consequences of your actions on your DBT list, the next time you are faced with a decision such as this one, you may feel better prepared to act according to what is right for you in the long run.
Because we might not always be able to see all of the consequences of a particular action, you may want to enlist the help of your DBT group members or DBT therapist to flesh out your pros and cons grid. Then, keep this list handy so that you can make better choices for yourself in 2011 and get a handle on your BPD symptoms.