Alternate Rebellion

This is a perfect time of year to be discussing the DBT Skill of Alternate Rebellion. The beginning of the year is when we tend to make resolutions we hope to initiate and maintain, notably around behaviors that are detrimental to our overall goals and values. Initially developed to curb and contain addictive behaviors, Alternate Rebellion is a purposeful Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) skill that offers alternatives to acting out in harmful, ineffective ways towards oneself or others. For example you may be a consummate ‘people pleaser’ who never says NO and who wants to set strong boundaries for yourself. Your friend asks you to help them move on the weekend and based on the fact that you never say NO to them, they will likely not take kindly to you saying NO!

By learning to channel and reinforce saying NO into something less harmful and creative, implementing the skill of Alternate Rebellion can be a powerful antidote and encourages a creative approach to finding replacement behaviors. There are a list of creative suggestions that this skill suggests like:

    • Give an honest response instead of a polite one
    • Go to a late movie in the middle of the week
    • Leave the lights on all day
    • Turn up the volume on the radio or TV
    • Sleep late
    • Do things out of order
    • Do things out of character
    • Speak out rather than staying quiet
    • Dress in a non-conventional style
    • Wear different or shocking make-up
    • Challenge statements when you disagree
    • Choose mediocrity rather than drama

If you want to rebel and act in a way contrarian to your usual and ineffective style, don’t do anything to make things worse. One of my favorite Alternate Rebellion behaviors is to put an item of clothing on inside out which acts as a reinforcer to stick by my conviction – such as saying NO to that friend without experiencing guilt. 

Alternate Rebellion allows you to be rebellious without being destructive and to find replacement behaviors with the help of a reinforcer. The reinforcement is using an Alternate Rebellion behavior. There’s no right way to do it…as long as it works, that is.  But Alternate Rebellion is creativity under pressure, learning to channel those destructive urges into something less harmful and more fun!

Written by Dr. Michele Lob PsyD., CEDS, MFT#39932, Executive Director of DBT Center of Orange County

Photo Credit: I.am_nah on Unsplash

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