Now that you have mastered identifying the things around you, it is time to learn the  DBT “how” skill of describing. It is perfectly ok to say, “uh, I know how to describe something” as I said it many, many times. And, as you will see, you are right, you do know! I’m just going to give you some pointers on how to describe something in an even more complete way!

One of the hardest parts when it comes to describing is to avoid being judgmental. It’s easy to slip into something like, “it’s ugly” very quickly. You want to stick to descriptive language. Ok, so you may feel that something is ugly, and what is it that makes you feel so? Take a close look, using your observing skill. Say we are talking about a small purse – like the one in this photo.

Instead of just saying it is ugly, think of how you feel/how seeing it makes you feel when you see it:

  • Does it make you feel ill?
  • Does it make you feel intrigued to know what it is?
  • Does it make you feel excited to find out more?

What is it about the purse that makes you feel that way? The phrases, “I notice” and “It appears” can help you in describing. Here are some examples you might use as answers:

  • It appears to look like a piece of raw meat with a harness on it.
  • I notice it has different shades of reds and pinks.
  • I notice it has a brown strap on it.
  • The texture seems to feel rubbery (assuming you were able to handle the purse).
  • It reminds me of Lady Gaga’s meat dress.
  • I notice that have feelings of distress the longer I look at the purse as it appears very unnatural to me.

Engage in the moment.

Be aware of all things you are experiencing and try not to avoid them. If you find your mind wandering off, recognize that and then come back to the exercise. If you are not sure of a feeling, can you describe it in another way? I sometimes refer to this as describing the elephant – it’s grey, large, has a trunk, big ears, and I am not sure of the name of it though. We all can picture that you are describing an elephant even though you can’t come up with the actual name.

Hey, by the way, just want to tell you that you are awesome! Remember, there are no absolutes as you work through learning these skills, so don’t go using those good/bad comments. Just as we work to be non-judgmental toward things, it is the same toward ourselves. More about that on the Being Nice to You page! As well, don’t compare yourself to others. We are all on our own journey here. And, just for the record, I notice that the more I look at that picture, the more I keep thinking that purse is really just disgusting!

Take a moment to try out this observe and describe activity!