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So You've Been Called Stubborn... Try Radical Openness

Are you the type of person who likes to have all your ducks in a row, your desk in order, and your closet color coded? Do you make lists to the point that you can never get everything on them completed? Have you been called stubborn too many times to count? While there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these quirks, they can at times create strife and anxiety in some people and even impact interpersonal relationships. That is when these rigid quirks become a problem.


How Can Rigidity Impact Your Life?

Rigidity or the lack of flexibility can often create different problems or difficulties in our lives. It can impact us at home in our daily routines. When we get too rigid in our daily routines, it can lead to us feeling overwhelmed, or like we are “losing control” when a routine doesn’t go as planned. If we wake up late one day, for instance, and don’t get our workout in, we might obsess over the workout all day but refuse to fit it into the rest of our day because that isn’t where it belongs. Sometimes we don’t get to eat the healthy lunch we are used to and we might shame ourselves and not focus on other things that we need to get done.


This lack of flexibility can impact us at work if we are rigid about doing things the way they have always been done. We might not feel trusting of others completing tasks because they won’t get done our way, leaving us to do more work than we are capable of accomplishing in the 8 hour work day and working overtime. It can also impact professional relationships when changes in leadership occur. These types of changes often lead to other changes in how things are done in a company, and if we are too rigid to try doing things differently, we might end up seeming argumentative and uncooperative to others.


These behaviors can also impact our personal social lives. If a friend of ours doesn’t see eye to eye with us on something, we might argue with them, avoid them, or cut them off altogether. In romantic relationships we might be bothered by small things that our partner doesn’t do “right” according to us, leading to unnecessary arguments and further resentments. We might even look at others as below us when their moral standards don’t align with ours, making ourselves seem arrogant or pretentious to others.


What is Radical Openness?

Radical Openness is a type of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (RO-DBT) that targets issues of rigidity and overcontrol in individuals that are impacted severely by these traits. RO-DBT teaches individuals how to become more flexible in thinking and behavior through what is known as self-enquiry and other skills stemming from Mindfulness practices.


Self-enquiry starts with Mindfully observing your responses to everyday situations; for instance, maybe you notice that when you receive an email from a colleague asking you to make changes to a document, your face becomes hot, your jaw clenches, you feel angry and think to yourself “how dare they request changes when this document is perfect already!” Once we Mindfully notice this experience we start the self-enquiry process by asking ourselves a question such as “what can I learn from this anger I am experiencing right now?” Later on, when we have more time, we continue the self-enquiry process by asking ourselves more and deeper questions surrounding the incident. The point is not to come up with answers but with more questions that could lead us to a deeper level of understanding within ourselves. Practices should be kept to 5 minutes or less for each situation but you can always return to do 5 more minutes at a later time for each of them.


How Does Radical Openness Help With Rigidity?

While self-enquiry is the core skill in RO-DBT, the program teaches other skills to establish greater openness and receptivity towards others, flexible control within our lives, and to help with having strong and healthy relationships with at least one other person. Skills include ways to relax and feel safe in situations, being able to communicate more effectively with others, engage in novel experiences or situations without over-preparing and recognizing when self-conscious emotions (shame, embarrassment and guilt) are not necessary or how to move forward when they are.


With each skill comes further self-enquiry practices to establish and maintain flexibility and openness of mind and behavior. Over time symptoms of anxiety and depression will decrease, interpersonal effectiveness tends to increase and relationships are strengthened with the self and others in our lives.


RO-DBT training can be done in groups or individual therapy. Reach out to us today to see if you might benefit from this therapeutic intervention or to schedule your intake.


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