What is Dialectical Thinking?

Take a quick moment to assess your current thinking patterns. When an issue arises or you feel stressed/irritated/anxious, where do your thoughts go? Do you find yourself using the terms “always” or “never”? In recovery, especially during challenging times, it’s easy to think that we will “never make it through” or that we will “always” struggle with a particular issue. Most often, we don’t realize that this type of thinking is actually detrimental to both our mental health and recovery at large – by thinking in “black and white” terms, we cut out all of the complex, interweaving factors that represent reality. Dialectical thinking is defined as,  “The ability to view issues from multiple perspectives and to arrive at the most economical and reasonable reconciliation of seemingly contradictory information and postures.”

Wow – what does this mean, and how can two contradicting aspects be simplified into one reconciliation? Let’s take a look at some examples of dialectical thinking:


  • “I am struggling and I am going to be just fine.”
  • “I relapsed and I am continuing to work hard in my recovery.”
  • “Today is a dreadful day and I have the power to turn it around.”
  • “I make a lot of mistakes and that’s perfectly fine, because I’m human.”


Do you see one single word that is in each of these sentences? And. Not “but” or “yet” – the word “and” helps us to accept one opposing phrase and another at the same time, not despite one another. You may be thinking – how relevant is this to my recovery? Extremely relevant, in fact; a 2015 study published in the journal Learning and Individual Differences found that dialectical thinking actually mitigates any detrimental effects that occur from a situation, which makes a challenging situation much easier to deal with and move forward from.

The next time you find yourself applying a sense of permanency to a situation, correct yourself by thinking of a positive that also goes along with what you’re going through. Life is more of a grey area, and there are so many shades of grey to go along with it. You’ll see over time that with practice, you’ll be able to find multiple perspectives for life’s situations, and they won’t affect you as negatively as perhaps they did before.

Stop the cycle of merry-go-round treatment and find the solution you’re looking for in trauma treatment. Through effective residential treatment, Khiron House helps you find the path you need toward health and wellness in recovery. For information, call us today. UK: 020 3811 2575 (24 hours). USA: (866) 801 6184 (24 hours).