In my last post, we explored embracing the seemingly contradictory aspects of ourselves, a strategy known as “dialectics” that is the foundation for dialectical behavioral therapy. Working with dialectics can often feel like we’re tapping into a tug-of-war, or like we’re “ping-ponging” between feelings that don’t seem to go together. This might mean struggling over being strong but needing to ask for help, or being in a relationship but still feeling lonely.
Though this work is not easy, accepting our paradoxes can lead to a greater sense of harmony and inner peace. I have seen through my own experience and that of my clients that taking a dialectical approach to our mental health can improve the way we relate to our inner worlds as well as the challenges we face in our outer worlds.
On my own journey with dialectical thinking, I keep a few practices close to my heart that help ground me in all of the confusion that comes with, well, being human! Feel free to try these out if they serve you.
Connect with your wise mind. Though this part of us is sometimes hard to access, our wise mind always knows there is more than just one side to whatever challenge we’re facing. When I start to doubt my own values or belonging, I check in with the wisest, most honest part of me by focusing on my breath. You can try breathing in with the word “wise” in your thoughts, then breathing out with the word “mind.” Do this several times, and see if you can slowly descend into that quiet, centered inside place. As you feel more centered, you might even ask your wise mind a question that addresses a challenge you’re facing. When I was feeling apprehensive about my new living situation, for example, I asked my wise mind, “Do I belong in Ubud?” With practice, it becomes easier to discern what our own inner knowing is telling us.
Choose opposite action. Try to name the emotion that you are feeling most strongly, and what urge is tied to that emotion. If the emotion and urge doesn’t serve your highest good, wholeheartedly take the opposite action of your urge. This could mean assuming a proud posture if what you’re feeling makes you want to curl up and get small, for example, or talking openly about something that makes you feel shameful.
Develop a Teflon mind for criticisms. We sometimes face judgement and criticism from others for the contradictions we embody. One of my favorite things to do is imagine those criticisms slipping off me like a nonstick Teflon pan, which helps me not take them personally. Usually, comments from others are simply a projection of their own challenges.
Practice radical acceptance. Learning to trust ourselves takes time, patience, life experience, and a lot of trial and error. Many of us try on different identities, and you might be struggling to know who the “real you” is. Try to be patient with yourself. By radically accepting the confusion and uncertainty that comes with being human, we get a little bit better at listening to our intuition and going our own way. Radical acceptance of this oftentimes arduous journey looks like saying “yes” with body, mind, and spirit to the process—even when it feels frustrating. The paradoxes and contradictions inside of you make you the uniquely fabulous, one-of-a-kind, perfectly imperfect human that you are.