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Healthy Self-Doubt

Updated: Mar 1, 2023

FAMILIES! If you have a loved one who needs to be right, who is intolerant of different perspectives, who is often rigid and wants to control others as well as over-controls their own behavior then you will want to PRACTICE AND MODEL RADICAL OPENNESS AND HEALTHY SELF DOUBT.

Radically Open DBT, the protocol for working with persons who suffer from overcontrol, has an important fundamental skill for clients, therapists, and family members to learn and practice: Self-inquiry.


This is a practice of looking, listening, and feeling within. It is a process of questioning in a way that opens one up to move toward "one's edge." This edge might be the edge of fear, or shame, of anxiety. It might be the edge of not knowing. It might be the edge of physical discomfort. It is like getting outside of one's comfort zone with openness and a nonjudgmental curiosity of inner experience. Self inquiry is not so easy, however.


To get started, self-inquiry can begin with "healthy self-doubt."


Healthy self-doubt:

  • We are in a temporary state of openness to unexpected information or events that provide an opportunity to learn something new.

  • We are able to consider that our way of thinking or acting may be inaccurate or ineffective--without falling apart or harshly blaming others.

  • We don't take ourselves too seriously, and we can have a sense of humor, laughing at our own foibles, strange habits, or unique quirks with a sense of kindness, knowing that all human beings are imperfect and make mistake.

  • We take responsibility for our own actions and emotions by not giving up, avoiding, or escaping when we are challenged.

  • We communicate our curiosity, openness, and willingness to learn from the world and from others with words and also with our tone of voice, facial expression, gestures, and actions.


When we are in a place of unhealthy self-doubt, the experience is quite different.


Unhealthy self-doubt:

  • We fear self-examination.

  • On the surface we may appear willing to question ourselves or admit a mistake, but deep inside we are convinced that we are right.

  • We feel unfairly judged and may harbor resentment toward people we believe are responsible for triggering out uncertainty or forcing us into unwanted self-examination.

  • We have a secret desire not to change or not to be challenged.

  • We may express unhealthy self doubt in a passive manner, by sulking, pouting, giving up, or behaving helplessly, and this actually communicates that we are closed to further feedback in a way that damages our relationship.


Moving toward our "edge" and cultivating healthy self-doubt is a secret to healthy living. We need to be more open only when we are closed! But how do we know if we are being closed? Our way might seem so right it seems hard to question it. Or it might feel so important to us that it just seems natural that others should feel the same way. Or we just trust ourselves because we so often notice details, errors, or oversights that others miss. If others question the relevance of a detail, perspective, or the reasoning that is important to us, it can be infuriating.


If we are trying to convince others (or ourselves) that we are open, then we are probably not! For sure the quickest way to become open minded in the heat of an argument would be to pause, closed your eyes and take a deep breath, then ask, "I have a question for you and it is important to me. How open-minded do you think I am being right now? I ask because this is something I am working on and it is important to me. I know that I am changing the subject, but I am curious, what do you think?"


I invite you to try cultivating healthy self doubt. It might even help you more toward your edge, learn something new, and live with more openness...in addition to teaching your loved one how it is possible to be a little less closed and a little more connected to others.








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