What does "dialectic" mean?

Dialectics” is a concept rooted in philosophy and science. I won’t go into a philosophical lecture on the meaning and history of the term but will attempt to explain a dialectical perspective. Three primary principles frame a dialectical perspective on the nature of reality and human behavior. 1.     Principle of Interrelatedness and Wholeness

This is a systems perspective on reality (i.e. Identity is relational). Under the guidelines of this principle the value of analyzing a part of a system is of limited value unless it is clearly relates the part to the whole. This basically means everything is connected to everything else and to understand a part you need to understand the whole.

2.     Principle of Polarity

Reality is not static but is comprised of internal opposing forces out of which synthesis is achieved and a new set of opposing forces emerge. Stated differently opposites can be integrated to form a closer approximation to the truth, which is always evolving.

“Contradictory truths do not necessarily cancel each other out or dominate each other, but stand side by side, inviting participation and experimentation” (Goldberg, 1980, p. 295).

3.     Principle of Continuous Change

Change is constant and inevitable. Therefore everything is changing and nothing is static. Change or process, rather than structure or content, is the essential nature of  life (Linehan, 1993). The dialectical point of view acknowledges the role of conflict and opposition in the process of growth and change.

Dialectic therapy  values the tension of holding opposites in our minds simultaneously and works on the assumption that this tension is a vehicle for change and transformation. It creates the conditions for Synthesis, Integration and Balance.


Goldberg, C. (1980). The utilization and limitations of paradoxical intervention in group psychotherapy. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 30, 287-297.

Linehan, M. M. (1993).  Cognitive Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. New York: Guilford Press