Your mind is the most powerful tool you will ever possess. However, it can be used to help or harm you — the power is in your hands.
Letting negative thoughts run away with you leaves you in bed with the covers over your head — but you can’t avoid facing your problems forever. How can you control your thoughts? Here’s how to use dialectical thinking for a more positive mindset.
Dialectical thinking refers to seeing the same issue from multiple perspectives to arrive at the best answer or reconciliation of opposing information and ideas. For example, you might say, “I need a car to get to work in the morning.” However, is that statement necessarily true? Do you have other options, such as walking or taking the bus?
You can use dialectical thinking to interrupt negative, self-defeating thought patterns. For example, that guy you had a fabulous first date with doesn’t call when he said he would. Your mind might automatically think, “he wasn’t interested in me after all. Nobody will ever find me attractive or desirable.”
However, you can also examine that point-of-view from a different perspective. Maybe your date got caught up with work responsibilities and didn’t realize he had forgotten until late at night. Perhaps he lost or broke his phone and is awaiting a replacement. Even if it turns out that he wasn’t interested, it doesn’t mean no one will ever be. It could be that fate spared you from Mr. Wrong so that you’d be free when Mr. Right comes along.
Dialectical thinking can work wonders for those suffering from PTSD or CPTSD. Trauma creates neural pathways in your brain that can lead to cognitive distortions like catastrophic thinking. When this occurs, you automatically assume that the worst will happen without considering other possibilities. When you recognize that there is more than one possible outcome, you can wisely choose your next best steps.
How can you use dialectical thinking in everyday life to control your thoughts? Consider the following examples.
You and your partner discussed and divided the household chores, and one of their responsibilities is taking out the trash. You arrive home to find it overflowing. “What an irresponsible jerk,” you think. You might even wonder if he’s being passive-aggressive.
However, pause to think before saying something that will cause World War III to break out between you. Maybe he had to dash off to work unexpectedly and planned to do it when he got home. Perhaps it was pouring when he noticed the rubbish bin and decided to wait for the rain to stop. When you realize there could be an innocent explanation for the oversight, you’re less likely to go ballistic.
You miss a zero on a budget report — right before your annual review. You’re sure your supervisor will remember your mistake and little else. You might fear missing out on a raise or even getting fired.
Dwelling on the worst that could happen won’t prevent it. Instead, devote your energies to highlighting your many accomplishments to downplay your one mistake. Take accountability for the error and promise to correct it.
Depression is like having an evil Negative Nancy living in your head. You might have thoughts like, “I don’t mean anything to anyone. I’m worthless.”
However, those statements aren’t true. Think about what you mean to your kids, your parents and your partner — your workplace BFF. Consider the value you bring each day at work. Even passing a few kind words with a stranger can make a significant impact. The bottom line: you matter.
Please note, if you have thoughts of self-harm, reach out to the National Suicide Lifeline at 833-456-4566. You can also text 741-741.
Dialectics come in handy when you’re worried about something. Let’s say you have a rent increase coming, and you don’t know how or where you can afford to live. You might think, “I’m going to be homeless.”
However, have you investigated all possible solutions? Could you look into getting a roommate? Maybe it’s time to consider tiny home living or an RV as an alternative to ever-rising rents?
Your mind is the most important muscle in your body. Make it work to your advantage by learning how to control your thoughts with dialectics.