DBT Skills For Parents: Understanding Dialectics
Nick and I had a camping and wine weekend in Summerland. One of the sommeliers said something that really sent me back to my DBT skills, specifically recognizing dialectics around us. He was talking about Gewürztraminer wines and their distinct flavor, and he quipped, "The exact reason one person hates it makes another person love it."
DBT stands for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. The "dialectic" part comes from recognizing that opposites can exist at the same time, and that living without suffering is about recognizing those dialectics. Opposing sides and forces are everywhere. Once you start looking for them, dialectics pop up everywhere.
Dialectics and Parenting
Being a parent, specifically being a mother, dialectics seem to show up even more. Some examples from motherhood:
- You accept your "Mom tummy" but want to change things about it.
- You can be mad at your kids but love them to pieces.
- You have lots to do but want to take time to rest.
Dialectics don't just come from within. Opposites happen so often between two people. And, oh my, do they happen between us and our kids. For example:
- We are in a rush to leave, they are keen to stay.
- They are having big feelings, we are trying to rationally coach them down.
- Your kids can be independent and still need your help.
Navigating dialectics is an especially important skill with teenagers. Since I'm not in that stage yet, here's some great advice from Sunrise Recovery and Treatment Centre.
For people with intense moods, navigating gray zones can be hard. We tend to be all or nothing about something. When you have rapid mood swings, knowing concretely where you stand becomes difficult. You can be swayed easier by an emotional argument, and suddenly you don't know what you believe.
Figuring out the root of the dialectic can help. A few examples of the mentalities behind opposites, when they are stripped down to the facts, are:
- Reason Mind vs Emotion Mind
- Doing Mind vs Nothing-To-Do Mind
- Desire to Change vs Reality Acceptance
- Self-Denial vs Self-Indulgence
Once we understand the dialectics we are dealing with, it loses its power somewhat. We can start practicing "and" statements:
- My body is wonderful as it is AND I want to change it.
- I can do some housework AND let myself rest.
- I can help my kid with their shoes AND encourage independence.
- My child can be mad AND I can still hold my boundary.
The first step in figuring out dialectics is just to tolerate them and be mindful of them. Validate both sides, and understand that both can be true. This applies when the opposite comes from within and when you are reconciling your need vs someone else's need. Solving dialectics is a more advanced skill, which I plan to talk about in a later post. We have to talk about non-judgmentally checking the facts first! So stay tuned!
Solving dialectics is a more advanced skill, which I plan to talk about in a later post. We have to talk, non-judgmentally checking the facts first! So stay tuned!
A key point about dialectics in our dumpster fire political culture: do not validate what is not valid. Your relative's racism does not deserve validation. Gaslighting is not valid. Abuse is not valid. Fact is still fact, and opinion based on grossly erroneous information is not valid. (Once more for the Trump usupporters out there: FACT IS STILL FACT). Dialectics are a way to make peace with gray zones that naturally occur in our world. They are not meant to turn black and white things gray.