Dialectical Behavior Therapy In Action: Using Skills at Disneyland

Woohoo, you’re going to Disneyland! With all of your family! Or all of your friends! All with demands and opinions and expectations! It’s going to be fun, right?! Everyone’s saying it will be. But when it’s over, you feel like you’ve spent more time deciding what ride to do next or where to eat than actually doing anything, you are sunburnt, there have been arguments, tears, fighting, storming off, you’ve swallowed back retorts to at least 15 invalidating statements, and you firmly believe that people should have to pass a test and obtain a license to operate a scooter. What happened?

Disneyland is one of my favorite places in the world, AND (dialectically speaking), I find Disney trips with large groups of people exhausting. It’s hot, crowded, you walk miles over the course of the day, and expectations are high all around. It’s difficult to stay skillful and effective, or even to come up with skills you CAN use in the moment. Next time you go, consider trying some of these DBT skills:

  • Disneyland is full of unique sights, sounds, and sensations—take a seat in Fantasyland and Observe the tiny children in princess outfits, Describe what’s around you!
  • Participate on the rides—if you’re with children, follow their lead and play along with them. Pretend that you really are falling down the rabbit hole on Alice in Wonderland, or that you did just dodge a snake on Indiana Jones! It can really increase your experience of joy.
  • It’s hard to get a bowl of ice water to TIPP the temperature, but there are bathrooms all over the place where you can splash your face with water and hold your breath. Sitting in the front row on Splash Mountain can also do the trick!
  • Distractions are ALL OVER the place. Distract with a ride, a sign, hunting Hidden Mickeys, or even just looking at the décor—almost every inch of Disneyland is designed to create an atmosphere. Look at the details!
  • Self-soothe with taste with any of the million delicious treats there are to eat, appreciate the images around you, or pop in to the air-conditioned theatre on Main Street to watch some classic Mickey cartoons and appreciate the relative peace.
  • COPE AHEAD. Disneyland runs much more smoothly with a little bit of planning. Do you know what rides you and your family/friends MUST do? When are you going to eat? Are you going to split up, or stay as a group the whole time? Do a little research—there are loads of blogs and tips online to help you prep!
  • A neat way to practice Opposite Action at Disneyland is to change how you walk. Skip off to your next ride if you’ve got enough space, or tip toe very lightly as you move through a queue.
  • Put away your phone (unless you’re distracting with it or using it to play a game with others)—practice Mindfulness of Others in queues. It’ll help increase your sense of connection, and definitely helps the time pass more quickly.

These are just a few ideas to get you started—there are more ways to practice skills at Disneyland than there are themed outfits and mouse ears. And don’t forget an external battery pack—you’re going to want to make sure you have enough battery to use phone coaching if you need it!