Check the Facts

DBT Self Help - Letting Go

Emotion Regulation is the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy module that teaches how emotions work. It provides skills to help manage emotions instead of being managed by them, reduce vulnerability to negative emotions, and build positive emotional experiences.

The facts of any given situation aren’t necessarily what causes us distress. It is more often our interpretation of the situation or thoughts or emotions related to it that cause the upsetting emotions we experience as distress. An event happens and we start having thoughts and feelings about it, which sometimes can warp our memory of the original facts of the situation.


For example, maybe you were expecting a call from your sister on Wednesday but she didn’t call. You feel disappointed, sad, and a little rejected. You may say to yourself, “my sister never calls” because it certainly feels that way. However, if you check your phone, you’ll see that she called you last week. 


Checking the facts is an important first step to use when there’s an emotion you want to change.



Ask yourself these 6 questions to Check the Facts

  1. What emotion do you want to change?
  2. What is the prompting event of my emotion? 
    1. Describe what you observed with your senses
    2. Challenge judgments and black and white thinking
  3. What are my interpretations, thoughts, and assumptions about the event?
    1. What are other interpretations of the event? 
    2. Look at other points of view.
  4. Am I assuming a threat?
    1. Label the threat & assess the possibility of it occurring
    2. Think of other outcomes
  5. What is the catastrophe?
    1. Imagine it occurring and you coping with it well
  6. Does my emotion and/or its intensity fit the facts?
    1. Ask Wise Mind


Your Emotions Fit the Facts If….


  • Your own behavior violates your own values or moral code
    • Example: you shoplift an item you don’t need and you consider yourself a law-abiding person


  • An important goal or desire is blocked, interrupted, or prevented
    • Example: your child spent all the money in your savings fund for a new car
  • You or a loved one is hurt, insulted, or threatened by others
    • Example: You are punched in a fight
  • The integrity or status of your community is threatened
    • Example: Someone accuses your friend group of all being liars


  • Someone else has something you don’t have that you want or need
    • Example: Jenny got the promotion you wanted instead of you


  • Loving someone or something enhances your or a loved one’s quality of life 
    • Example: You love your partner and they make you happy and improve your life
  • Loving someone or something increases your chances of meeting your personal goals
    • Example: You love doing math and you want a job in accounting


  • There is a threat to the health, life, or well-being of you or a loved one
    • Example: Your mother is diagnosed with cancer


  • Something you are in contact with could poison you
    • Example: you touch rat poison
  • Somebody whom you truly dislike is touching you or a loved one
    • Example: someone who assaulted you hugs your friend
  • You are around someone whose behavior could harmfully influence or damage you or your group
    • Example: You’re in a car being driven by someone who is intoxicated


  • Something important to you that you desire is in danger of being damaged or lost
    • Example: Your mother says she’s giving her jewelry to your sibling, not you
  • Someone is threatening to take something important to you away
    • Example: Your ex-partner says they are taking your shared cat with them


  • You have lost someone or something permanently
    • Example: someone you love has died
  • Things are not the way you expected, hoped, or wanted them to be
    • Example: you become disabled and are no longer able to live abroad as you once planned


Intensity and duration of an emotion are justified by…

  • How likely it is that what you expect will actually happen
  • How important that outcome is to you
  • How effective the emotion you’re feeling is in your life right now

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