One of the important principles in DBT is Dialectics. This is the idea that there can be truth in experiences that appear contradictory and that there is a natural tension between these two seemingly opposing things.
So, an experience can be both helpful and unhelpful, or two different points of view can both have elements of “truth”. So for example, self harm can be both helpful in that it brings a person immediate relief and is a way of coping with pain, and it can also be unhelpful in that it brings with it a variety of undesired consequences, including increased scrutiny, a sense of being unable to cope, shame and scars. Another aspect of dialectics is that experiences, situations, thoughts and feelings are interconnected and often only make sense when looked at within the context of the experiences around them.
One of the goals of DBT is to help people identify the dialectical tensions that occur both in their life and their therapy and to find a balance between seemingly contradictory experiences of thoughts, emotions and behaviours. This can lead to a new way of looking at and responding to experiences.
DBT emphasises a number of ‘core dialectics’ including:
That both change and acceptance are important for dealing with emotional problems.
That people’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours usually makes sense even when they may be unhelpful.
That a person is doing the best they can do in that moment and at the same time they may want and need to do something different.