• Samantha Toth

Using Positive Assumptions to Overcome Judgment

Updated: Jan 1

One of the lesser known traits of ADHD is emotional dysregulation. This is a trait that usually isn’t overcome with medication alone, so often we turn to various types of therapy and coaching. One therapy in particular, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), is particularly useful for treating conditions marked by an inability to control emotions.

There are several components to Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, but it starts with seven core assumptions. These core assumptions center around the notion of radical acceptance, a key component of DBT that requires us to fully accept the realities of our situation before we can begin the process of changing them. It is important to note that these assumptions are made of everyone, not just neurodivergent folks.

These assumptions cannot be proven; however, the ultimate goal of these assumptions is to become less judgmental of ourselves and our surroundings. So, let’s take a look at how these seven core assumptions, established by Dr. Marsha Linehan, can help us in our daily lives and our education.

Skills Training Assumptions (Linehan 2015)

1. People are Doing the Best They Can

The first core assumption is that all individuals are behaving and expressing their emotions in the best way they can at the present time. Not everyone has access to all the resources they need at all times. We still have to assume that they are doing their best, just like we would want them to assume we’re doing our best.

2. People Want to Improve

The second core assumption has us believe that all people want to improve their lives. No one is looking to stay static in their existence. It’s important to remember that we are all striving to grow and develop in meaningful ways.

3. People Need to Do Better, Try Harder, and Be Dedicated to Positive Change

Just because the first two core assumptions have us believe that people are doing the best they can and want to improve, that doesn’t mean that will be enough to solve the problems at hand. Dedication to positive change is difficult. Accepting this dedication as fact allows us to overcome judgment when dealing with more difficult situations.

4. People May Not Have Caused All of Their Problems, But They Have to Solve Them Anyway

The world is outside of our control. We can only control the way we react to our circumstances. As such, this core assumption, has us believe that we can change our behavioral responses to the outside world in order to solve the problems that occur in our daily lives.

5. New Behavioral Skills Have to Be Exemplified in All Relevant Contexts

It’s great to learn a new behavioral skill in one context, such as individual or group therapy, but learning how to exemplify and use that skill throughout your life is important too. This assumption has us believe that everyone is practicing and discussing their experiences with using these skills regularly.

6. All Behaviors, Actions, Thoughts, and Emotions are Caused

The sixth core assumption is pretty self-explanatory, all behaviors are caused by something, known or unknown. The cause could in internal or external, but there is a cause and that cause will lead us to our final assumption.

7. Figuring Out and Changing the Causes of Behavior Work Better Than Judging and Blaming

This assumption truly challenges our radical acceptance. In order to create positive changes in our daily lives, we must figure out and change the causes of our behavior. We have to validate that the causes of our behavior are part of our reality. It’s a lot easier to place blame on one factor or another and judge ourselves and others rather than accepting that these problems are a part of the chain of events that we can learn to control our reaction to.