Competing Values: The Battle Within

Dialectics often occur just inside ourselves. Have you ever noticed a time when you thought, "I could do this, but on the other hand I could do that," and you just don't know what to do? Or got stuck between needing one thing and wanting another?  Or said to yourself, "I shouldn't feel this way (angry, sad, guilty)" even though if you’re honest with yourself that is indeed how you felt?

You are in a dialectic when you're telling yourself that something (like an emotion) that is happening ought not to happen. The feeling is taking place, but you just really, really want it to be different or have a hard time tolerating it.  Both are true at the same time - you feel that way, and you're desperate to have it different.  It's not an either/or

thing.  Instead, it's a both/and thing.  

When I noticed that I had forgotten, I wondered how I could be so sad in the morning, and then be so carefree in the afternoon. I felt guilty, like if I really loved him I would be sad all the time.

 yes  and  yes

Am I a Jerk?

vase and face?

"Maybe it means I didn't love him," I thought.  But the truth was I really did love him, and I wasn't sad in the afternoon.  Both were true at the same time.

Synthesis is about resolving tension in the dialectic.  Again we can ask,"What's being left out here?"  Even when it's just inside us.  Synthesis means saying yes to both sides, and

figuring out how the universe holds both true.  So in the case of my dog, maybe it means something like this: sadness comes and goes, like ocean waves.  It washes up, and then washes away, even when we've suffered a great loss.  I'm sad for a time, and then sadness fades, and later it returns, and so on.  That's just how it is with our feelings.


The idea here is that we can let go of narrow ideas of either/or, or right/wrong, or good/bad, and just see both sides as they really are.  We can take it on faith that even if we do not understand how things are, somehow they must still make sense.  It doesn't mean that we approve, or condone, or even like it.  It just means we radically accept (another DBT skill): we can acknowledge from deep within ourselves that things are as they are.

Everything, absolutely everything in the universe, 

is unfolding exactly as it must.


Letting Go

The main idea in making a synthesis is in letting go of that tiresome insistence and tyrannical demand of:

I'm right, you're wrong

Things shouldn't be this way

I should be different, feel different, act different

You should be different, feel different, act different

It's not fair

I'm bad

What's Wrong with Me?

Once many years ago I had a dog that died.  We had a funeral for him on Easter Sunday morning, and buried him in the back yard.  I was very sad as my dad wrapped him in his blanket and lowered him into the ground. He was a good dog, and I really loved him.  And then later that day I was having fun playing with my friend and it was like I had forgotten all about him.


Effective synthesis within oneself means letting go of the shoulds and accepting that things are as they are, and acknowledging a greater truth that encompasses each of its parts.  Of course this does not mean that a person must like how things are.  It just means that to see truth, one has to acknowledge all that is, including both sides of the struggle.

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