Dialectical Thinking: What Does It Mean To Think This Way?

Life goes so much deeper than our single point of view. It can be life-changing when we open our minds to view the world from more than a single lens. This is why Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) can be an effective form of psychotherapy for those looking to gain control of their emotions. Dialectical thinking is a great way to maintain a rational mind when your emotions fight to take control of your behaviours. 

Person using Dialectical Thinking

What is Dialectical Thinking?

Dialectical thinking can be defined as seeing that there are multiple different perspectives in a given situation. The thought process behind dialectical thinking is that every situation is full of opposite perspectives. To fully grasp the truth of the situation, one must first understand each side.
Dialectical thinking is a process that allows one to view the world from a multi-faceted perspective. Doing this enables one to consider situations deeper than they would ever be able to if they viewed things single-mindedly.

Single-minded thinking can certainly cause some issues to arise in our lives. If you only allow yourself to see the world from your perspective, your thinking patterns can become toxic- fast.

Viewing the world single-mindedly can send us down a rabbit hole of catastrophic thinking. When you cannot see the multiple perspectives on a situation, everything feels much more personal than it is. 

This is because the real truth can be found in understanding that two opposites can be true simultaneously. The ability to think dialectically allows people to avoid emotional reactions and perceive different situations rationally. How? By enabling them to understand that life is not black and white. Some fundamental aspects of dialectical thinking include:

Viewing the World from a Neutral Lens

Dialectical thinkers wouldn’t necessarily fall under the definition of an optimist or pessimist. Instead, they lie somewhere between, choosing to see the world rationally instead of from a single lens. Instead of jumping on one side or the other in perspective, dialectical thinkers allow themselves to observe the situation from multiple perspectives before they draw a conclusion.

Dropping the Extremes

Dialectical thinking is about finding a somewhat neutral ground in your perspective. This does not mean you can’t have a stance on anything. It simply means that you avoid the extremes, including words like “never,” “always,” “success,” and “failure.”

Accepting That There Can Be More Than One Truth

How easy is it to convince yourself that you are the one in the right when disagreeing with someone? When you are in a one-track thought process, the world appears to have only one truth- the truth that you resonate with most. 

Dialectical thinkers can accept that there is often more than one truth to any situation. You may believe that your decisions have good intentions, but that does not mean that somebody making different decisions does not. We see this reflected so often in news stories, action films, and politics. Dialectical thinkers are able to accept that their perspective is only one of many.

Examples of Dialectical Thinking

  1. Today I voted Labor, and I can see why others may have voted Conservative.
  2. I feel excited and terrified about presenting my school project.
  3. I am angry at my wife, and I still love her.
  4. This task is difficult, and I can achieve it.
  5. I feel sad, and everything is okay.
  6. I’m sorry that my actions hurt you, and I do not regret doing them.
  7. I love my partner, and I no longer want to be in a relationship with them.
  8. I disagree with your point of view but I can still respect it.

Benefits of Thinking Dialectically

Thinking dialectically can offer a wide range of benefits, including:

Changing Toxic Thinking Patterns

When your mind is on a narrow track, refusing to see more than a single perspective, it can become easy to fall into toxic thinking patterns. These thinking patterns can be ineffective, hurtful, and catastrophizing in many situations. Dialectical thinking allows you to see situations from a more realistic perspective- keeping your thinking patterns on a more rational track.

Gaining Control Over Your Emotions

One-track thinking can trigger emotional reactions. On the other hand, dialectical thinking allows you to take a step back and review the situation as it truly is before deciding how you will respond. This response-over-reaction process will allow you to build new levels of emotional intelligence you may not have reached before.

Helping You Live in the Moment

One-track minds tend to get so caught up in emotional thinking that the present moment passes them by. Viewing the world from a dialectical perspective allows one to see the moment for what it truly is- raising their levels of consciousness and self-awareness.

You Make More Effective Decisions

Dialectical thinking allows you to maintain a rational thought process when making decisions. This can give you greater confidence in your decision-making skills.

Improves Relationships

Single-minded thinking can cause immense problems in your relationships. When every canceled plan, disagreement, or rejection feels deeply personal, your emotions can begin to take the wheel, leading you to act in a way you may regret. Dialectical thinking allows you to see the world from multiple perspectives, allowing you to better empathise with the people around you.  

Letting Go of the Extremes

Many people find themselves in a black-and-white perspective of the world. To them, everything is either all or nothing. However, this way of thinking can leave a lot of room to miss the plentiful gray areas in life. With dialectical thinking, you release extreme thoughts that use words like “always” or “never.” Instead, you approach life from a more neutral, realistic perspective- seeing it for what it really is. 

In Conclusion

Dialectical thinking is a way of thinking that allows you to see the truth of your world better than emotional thinking ever could. This allows you to stop taking things so personally, prevents you from catastrophising situations, and helps you live a peaceful, more mindful life. If you would like to learn more about the ways we can help you with your dialectical thinking skills, we are here for you. Fill out the form below, and one of our team members will reach out to you!

About The Author

Picture of Ashleigh Wykes

Ashleigh Wykes

Accredited by the UK Association of Psychological Therapies, Ashleigh is our DBT lead and part of our outreach and mental health support team.

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