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What is a Dialectic?

A dialectic is is the synthesis of two seemingly opposite ideas.  It’s like when two people see the same event and describe it totally differently or like when, on a “good day”, you love your job, but, on a “bad day”, you hate your job.  Dialectic synthesis is recognizing both sides of the story are valid and have truth.

An example of a dialectic challenge is saying you have to accept everything as it is to live a happy life or you have to change everything.  There is no middle ground.  The synthesis or the dialectic solution is to embrace both ideas – we can learn to mindfully accept that things are the way they are and we can change reactions, habits and other behaviors.  

Discovering the synthesis between logical mind and emotional mind is another fundamental dialectic in DBT.  At the extreme, our logical mind sees the world as though it’s a math problem to be solved and our emotional mind goes up and down with the situation.  It’s easy to label ourselves or others as logical or emotional as though there is no middle ground.  In reality, we need both logic and emotion to be fully present in our lives.  The synthesis of these two is called wise mind, the place where our choices are informed by both logic and emotion.

There are countless dialectics.  DBT helps people learn skills for finding balance and stopping the chaotic, and often exhausting, ping-ponging between extremes such as:

~ vacillating between love and hate for others or self

~ feeling totally incompetent but acting as if you can do anything

~ feeling every emotion intensely and then numbing out completely


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