Our culture demands us to put ourselves in boxes and to assert black-and-white beliefs about everything.
“You’re either Republican or Democrat.”
“You’re either for me or against me.”
“You either agree with me or we are no longer friends.”
What would happen if we practiced walking the middle path between two extremes?
What if instead of either/or thinking, we embrace both/and?
What is Walking the Middle Path?
In Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), one of the foundational skills is called “walking this middle path”. We do this by embracing dialectical thinking.
Dialectical thinking is the opposite of polarized thinking. It is about finding the synthesis between two seemingly opposing ideas. It is about walking the middle path to find freedom from judgment and extremes. It is embracing nuance in the gray areas and rejecting black and white answers. It is rejecting all-or-nothing thinking and finding integration.
Dialectical thinking is the foundation of my approach to therapy and much of my approach to thinking about the world.
I believe it is also very consistent with the way Jesus thought. Jesus was full of paradox, both welcoming sinners and calling them to change, both forgiving sins and requiring repentance, both offering grace and speaking truth.
One of the main dialectics in therapy is embracing both acceptance and change. This is also the first step in addiction recovery programs. We have to first accept and admit that there is a problem before we can change it.
Often we spend our time and energy trying to deny problems, avoid them, ignore them, and push them away. Instead, we have to take an honest look at ourselves and accept our past before we can confront what needs to change. Acceptance in this context does not mean approval. It is simply an acknowledgement of what is, admitting a problem, and accepting help to change it.
What are some of the dialectics of your identity? Parts of yourself or your beliefs and values that may seem incongruent, but you embrace both and find the beautiful integration of the two parts.
For me, I am both a Christian and a feminist. Both a mom and a professional. Both conservative in some ways and progressive in others. Striving to practice both grace and truth in my work and in my writing.
How would dialectics change the way you think? How would embracing “both/and” instead of “either/or” free you to walk the middle path instead of staying in a box?
I encourage you to explore your own dialectics and practice nuanced thinking about your beliefs.