In my experience, there are a few skills taught in DBT that elicit some strong reactions. One of those skills is - Loving Kindness. It is in the mindfulness section of DBT and involves practicing loving thoughts and intentions towards others and towards ourselves.
I, personally, have a difficult time with this skill. In theory, I understand it and think it is an important skill. I understand there is research showing how effective Loving Kindness meditation can be. I understand that it will have positive impacts on my life if I practice it.
In practice, I rarely use it independently.
Loving Kindness involves saying statements (either out loud or in your mind) wishing well to yourself or to others.
When I first learned the skill I had a pretty big reaction to it. It was ridiculous, was pretty much where my brain went. I did not say this to anyone, no, I simply thought it. How could me thinking, “may you be well, may you be safe…” have any impact on anything. It just seemed like a load of bull to me. I did not want to be that person who ended up looking silly when I expressed skepticism only to be shown that it actually does work, so I remained quiet, even teaching that it is a helpful skill.
Still not my favorite skill, afraid I still judge it a bit. And, I recognize that this skill actually does have benefit. I’ve practiced it a number of times in group settings. I’ve led the practice a number of times when someone else thought it was the thing to do. And it’s always been helpful to me when I’ve practiced it.
There is something about thinking, “may I be well, may I be safe, may I be at peace, may I be healthy,’ or any other set of positive wishes that you like that begins to sink in and starts to cultivate some of those thoughts into something else. Into something, dare I say, real.
As I’ve done this meditation before, there is a sense that those wishes are showing up just a little bit. There is the sense that maybe I am well and safe and at peace and healthy. Maybe not completely any of those things. And maybe there is just a piece of those wishes that are true inside me.
Then we can practice Loving Kindness towards others, including people that you hate, or people you are currently upset with. The power here is in changing what is happening inside. Really, if I am upset with someone else, I am at dis-ease. I am disturbed or distressed in some way. Loving Kindness can help soften some of those sharp edges inside that may have been essential for survival at some point, and aren’t really serving us too well now.
I don’t know if the thoughts and intentions head out into the universe and have an impact on the person I’m thinking about. I don’t know if putting those thoughts out there, putting out intentions, does anything outside of myself. I do know, from the times I’ve practiced, that it does have an impact on me. I know that I start to feel a little more well, a little more safe, a little more at peace, or whatever other thoughts I’ve chosen for the practice.
And I got an idea a few weeks ago from someone else who said they use a guided loving kindness meditation. I've fought that for some reason that I cannot think of at this time. So, I tried that and it was easier for me to do that as a guided meditation rather than simply on my own.
So here's a little script to practice with if you want, credit to Linehan from the DBT Handouts and Worksheets for the wording:
Get into a comfortable position you can hold for several minutes (generally sitting with back straight, feet flat on floor, or lying down) and bring your attention to your breath.
Repeat the following: May I be happy
May I be healthy
May I be safe
May I be at peace
When you complete that for a minute or so, move on to a person you care about. Put that person's name in instead of 'I'
May ______ be happy
May ______ be healthy
May ______ be safe
May ______ be at peace
Next move to someone you want to have more compassion towards but currently do not. Put that person's name in the blank.
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