Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dialectical Thinking

"Past performance is not a guarantee of future returns." Anyone who's bought a mutual fund has seen these words. But how does this idea apply to our lives and in particular, to the goals we set for ourselves?

I just spent the week doing simultaneous interpretation at a conference on treatment options for violent female offenders in the prison system. Although I have no desire to talk about what I heard (and confidentiality rules prevent me from doing so, in any case), I would like to talk about a concept that was discussed at length during the meeting: dialectical and non-dialectal thinking.

In a nutshell, dialectical thinking is the ability to recognize that reality is complex and that one must consider and integrate contradictory points of view. It requires being comfortable with flexibility, inconsistency and change.

Non-dialectical thinking, on the other hand, employs a rigid point of view, and sees the world in terms of extremes (good vs. bad, black vs. white, etc.). This mindset has trouble accepting new information and--most importantly for the topic of this post--the non-dialectical thinker's view of reality is that CHANGE IS NOT POSSIBLE.

I just found a short article on dialectical thinking on the Internet at The article, by John Rowan, is short and not necessarily that sweet in that it's complicated and certainly not cut and dry--but then again, that's dialectical thinking for you.

I'm sure you can all see where I'm going with this. I have written in the past about my trouble visualizing my weight loss and health goals. Having failed so many times at weight loss and weight loss maintenance, as well as having to deal with a series of recurring health set-backs related to my back, hip and knee, I have drifted into the rut of non-dialectical thinking, i.e. no matter what I do, it won't work.

So hearing my mindset so accurately described this week at the conference was a real wake-up call. In true dialectical fashion, I can't deny the truth of "past results". But at the same time, I must recognize the changes I have made recently and give them the same weight (lol) as I give to things I have experienced in the past.

I suppose what's neatest for me is that I can take a step back when I'm feeling hopeless and say, "Hey, that's a pretty non-dialectical attitude. Do I want to keep seeing things this way?"

1 comment:

  1. hey, thanks for your comment on my blog, and great post... it's very relevant to your comment about the fact that your view of the world is changing. I think that when we've been stuck into a reality for many years, we've built up so many logical connection to accept it, that anything outside of this reality will be perceived as contradiction or as illogical...

    Your post makes me realize that to operate a mental switch, it's sometimes necessary to suspend logic!