There are two assumptions in dialectical behavior therapy that are often considered the most difficult to go by. However, they are often the most important:
People are doing the best they can.
People need to do better, try harder, and be more motivated to change.
The assumption that I find gets the most eye rolls is the first one – people are doing the best they can.
We often find that others have done things to us that have caused a great deal of pain. Perhaps this is a relationship we value and we want to improve it.
The key here is to employ the concept of dialectics and to remember that it’s not just one or the other. It’s both. Working a dialectic means that we are doing what seems impossible – holding two ideas that seem like they aren’t compatible as simultaneously true.
For example – I really enjoy doughnuts. I also value being healthy. One could say that it shouldn’t work out that one could highly value both of these things. But we know that through moderation, it’s possible to eat a certain amount of doughnuts throughout your week without being scolded by your physician and personal trainer. Moderation, though, means we aren’t having doughnuts for every meal and we aren’t completely depriving ourselves of that enjoyment. It’s both.
This example is an easy one. The difficult one is the one we were talking about before. What’s key here is that they are assumptions we are choosing to believe despite not having any proof of them being true.
What’s the benefit of that?
Try putting yourself on the receiving side of all this. Let’s imagine someone is making these assumptions about you. Isn’t it nice to have the benefit of the doubt that you’re doing the best you can at the same time you’re being held accountable for improving?
And so we have dialectics.