Distress Tolerance – Part Four (Pro’s and Con’s)

The final part of the distress tolerance module is about thinking of pro’s and con’s of tolerating or not tolerating a situation. The end goal of this process is allowing yourself to work out and understand that the pro’s of tolerating a situation far outweigh the pro’s of not tolerating it – and this can only be really made clear by listing them and comparing them.

The easiest way to do this is using a pen and paper. Draw 2 columns, with a line half way down making 4 squares. In the top two squares you are writing Pro’s of Tolerating and Con’s of Tolerating and in the bottom two squares you are writing Pro’s of Not Tolerating and Con’s of Not Tolerating.  (Note: This is different to listing the pro’s and con’s of a situation. You are listing the pro’s and con’s of doing something as opposed to NOT doing something – there is a difference).

Side Note: The distress can be anything from a bad situation such as an attack or rape, to a simple but stressful decision such as whether or not to take a job. What I am trying to say is this pro/con comparison can be used for a wide variety of things and can prove to be very helpful.

Here’s one I made earlier!

pros and cons

Things to think of when writing out pro’s/con’s include the long term benefits of your actions, how good you might feel afterwards (for example, when the urge to self harm has passed, how good it feels that you didn’t succumb). Think of how bad you feel, the regret, after acting on impulse. This chart aims to help you make an INFORMED DECISION.

This was an example that I made up, to explain how to use the chart. I am going to use it when I have the urge to self harm. (In this example also, by the time you have thought through everything, the urge may have passed anyway)


Notice how there are many more PRO’s for tolerating, and CON’s for not tolerating. Seeing this is a visual form should help you make the decision to tolerate the distress, which can be done using other distress tolerance methods such as distracting, improving the moment or self soothing. Try this for yourself when you find yourself with a decision to make, or a situation which feels hard to bear.


DBT Self Help

DBT Online Classes (Free)

Marsha Linehan’s Skills Training Manual for Borderline Personality Disorder

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