“A very important dialectical idea is that all propositions contain within them their own oppositions.
Or as Goldberg put it, ‘I assume that truth is paradoxical, that each article of wisdom contains within it its own contradictions, that truths stand side by side. Contradictory truths do not necessarily cancel each other out or dominate each other, but stand side by side, inviting participation and experimentation.’” —Marsha Linehan
Our minds are filled with complex, diverse ideas and feelings. Sometimes, we know what is the “right” thing to do, or what we “should” do. Sometimes, we know exactly what we think about a subject, we know what our “truth” is. At these times, it may be easier for us to make a decision or to know what we think. At other times, our ideas, feelings, and experiences can be full of contradiction, paradox, dissonance, or tension.
If our own minds can present ideas, truths, and realities that differ and yet stand “side by side,” then imagine how different the ideas, truths, and realities are between your mind and the mind of your teacher, your roommate, the student sitting at the desk next to you, or your team mate! In our community at Deerfield, we are fortunate to have experiences that bring us closer and celebrate our shared values and traditions. Some of these experiences may include singing the Evensong, enjoying a sit-down meal, or getting together at the Greer with friends. But just as Deerfield allows us to celebrate our similarities, it presents us with an incredible opportunity to participate in shared experiences with those who are very different from ourselves.
After reading this blog post, it will not take long for you to interact with another person who has a different idea than you do. The next time a person shares with you a belief or a value that you disagree with so adamantly that you feel angry—what will your first response be? Perhaps you may think that person is “wrong,” or you may internally roll your eyes, or you may want to leave the conversation.
I encourage you, after this initial reaction, to take a moment to think about why or how your value, truth, experience, or knowledge is different from that person’s. Can you make some room in your mind for that person’s idea? Can you allow that idea to sit “side by side” with other ideas that are true in your mind?
To end this post as I began it, I share with you another quote from Dr. Linehan: “The essential elements for growth are already present in the current situation. The acorn is the tree… [This] idea [leads] to the emphases on finding the value in each person’s point of view, rather than defending the value of one’s own position.”
- What ideas, feelings, beliefs, or values do you hold that are in tension or conflict with each other?
- How can you, with equanimity, find value in another person’s point of view, especially if that person’s point of view is different from your own?
Written by Ms. Kelsey Naughton
 Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder. 1993. In this quote, Dr. Linehan refers to Carl Goldberg’s The Utilization and Limitations of Paradoxical Intervention in Group Psychotherapy. 1980. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00207284.1980.11491693
 Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder. 1993.