July 24, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
July 24, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Holding Two Truths Simultaneously

One of the most life-changing topics for both me and my clients is that two conflicting emotions can coexist simultaneously. This novel yet simple concept has changed my own life and that of many of my clients.

As children we are taught you are either happy, or sad, mad or calm, or brave or afraid. Emotions are introduced to us as binary: it is either one or the other. You are either having a good day or a bad day. But what if you can be having a good day and a bad day at the same time? What if you can feel both happy and sad together? This phenomenon is from dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), a practice founded by Marsha Linehan in the 1970s. DBT became the first psychotherapy to incorporate mindfulness in its practice. One of its core concepts is dialectical thinking or seeing things from varying perspectives.

Many of us struggle with seeing things in black-and-white terms: either we are happy or sad, feel loved or neglected, or are angry or content. Dialectical thinking challenges our innate beliefs through balancing two truths even when they are opposing. It allows us the freedom to feel our emotions as they are, without any logic behind them.

Sometimes we feel happy for someone else but sad for ourselves. This was especially true in my own life during a challenging time of pregnancy losses. I remember one of my best friends telling me she was pregnant and her due date was the same as mine; however, my pregnancy ended in loss. I was happy for her but devastated for myself. It was difficult to grapple with both conflicting emotions at the same time, and dialectical thinking allowed me permission, freedom and grace to feel both feelings together. It took away the guilt of feeling sad for myself and gave me the space to process emotions in my own way and time.

A friend of mine shared a particular win for her after years of therapy. She had a contentious relationship with her mother, one filled with lack of emotions and communication. She had never verbalized her own needs in their relationship and never had an argument with her mother; instead, she would hold the feelings inside, bottling them up for years at a time. This negative coping mechanism would lead to her screaming at her mother once every few years and being unable to control her rage. After hard work and understanding dialectical thinking, she was able to tell her mother, “Mom, I love you very much, but I am really angry at you right now.” This simple sentence was life-changing for her and it allowed her the opportunity to finally communicate her needs to her mother.

Learning to sit in the “gray” area can be intimidating at first, but can also allow us to become more flexible, empathetic and understanding. Some helpful tools to master this concept are to avoid words such as “always” or “never.” Becoming aware of the rigidity of our binary thinking also is the first step in implementing this practice. Dialectical thinking allows room for the unknown and deepens our emotional bandwidth. It allows us the freedom to feel without any logic, reason or rationalizing. Holding two truths simultaneously is a powerful tool we can all utilize throughout our lives, in exciting times and in challenging ones.


Gabrielle Moskovitz is a therapist at Collaborative Minds Psychotherapy specializing in maternal mental health. She is passionate about advocating for women’s mental health access with issues such as infertility, pregnancy loss, postpartum anxiety and depression, and struggles with motherhood. Gabrielle is currently pursuing a Perinatal Mental Health Certification (PMHC) through PSI. Follow along @thecheftherapist on Instagram for tips, resources and personal stories. To schedule an appointment with Gabrielle, visit www.collaborativeminds.net/gabrielle.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles