O = Observe  


 Now that you are breathing, slowing things down, and sitting in your safe space if that’s where you need to be. It’s time to Observe what is happening all around you, and more importantly, what is happening within you. See if you can evaluate who it is that’s involved in the current situation, and notice, without reacting, what it is that other people are doing, or saying. Then look within to listen to your current story, while mindfully breathing, see if you can notice what part of your personality is present in your system, is there an emotion, a thought, or an urge to react that’s pushing to the forefront of your behavioural responses.

Describe the first thing you notice, whether it’s a thought, a feeling, or a physical sensation, just describe it from a nonjudgmental point of view. Labeling the experience this way is the art of cognitive defusion. To unblend from a part that is trying to take control of your personality system is an important part of the process, otherwise we just become the part that’s responding to the activated story. To make effective choices, it is important that we recognize the difference between our stories and what’s actually going on, that we don’t jump to conclusions. Instead, take the time to gather the relevant facts of the situation to then establish what your available options are.

When in the “O” phase of the DBT STOP Skill, this is the opportunity to explore the other skills you may have available to you. Often, we begin with Checking the Facts, deciding if the story you are reacting to is actually what’s going on, or is it a creation of an active schema that is in your system. Usually, it is somewhere on the continuum of actuality vs fiction, and rarely is it a black and white, all or nothing scenario. There are many skills available in DBT and Schema Therapy, all of which can be activated in the “O” phase of the DBT STOP Skill, and this is why, for me, this is THE Most important skill of them all.


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