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DISCOVER: SKILLS STUDIO: I don`t know : Surprise 101

Surprise 101

Surprise is the e-motion that gives us both the reactions of Wow and Whoa. Wowed is when we are surprised-awed, and Whoa is when we are surprised-startled/devastated.


Evolutionarily-speaking, surprise-whoa grabs our attention so we can respond to danger and disappointment. Surprise-wow delights us and rewards our curiosity and spirit of adventurousness and innovation. Surprise drives innovation.


Surprise is the magical ingredient that makes life amazing!


Babies playing peek-a-boo experience both surprise and delight while enhancing love and connectedness with their parents. Surprise is what makes punch-lines funny. Surprise makes the twists and turns of a well told story compelling.


Surprise whoa can be a problem if we are too easily startled or disappointed. Being startled takes us out of a moment, and hair-triggered disappointment makes it hard to enjoy relationships.


We can help our surprise-whoa by using skills like breathing and mindfulness based stress reduction such as the body scan. If our heightened startle response is rooted in trauma, then healing exercises like journaling are helpful.


Having trouble feeling surprise-wow? It may be that our mood is low, we’re being too cynical, we’ve become emotionally numb, or too judgmental. Start with a Beginners Mind. When our mind is open to new experiences and we treat every experience like it our first time, and let go of preconceived judgments, we free ourselves from all buzz-kill attitudes.


If we think with a beginner’s mind, then the world is filled with infinite delightful surprise.





Linehan, M. (2015). DBT skills training manual (Second edition.). New York: The Guilford Press.

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