Dialectics – open your mind and balance will occur naturally


 Quick summary: There are many different definitions of what “dialectic” means and most are relatively related while others are a bit different (the Hindu and the Buddhist dialectics are more similar than the Socratic dialectic). I intend to talk about Dialects as a subject which helps us to experience the idea that all things are both “good” and “bad” at the same time. The purpose of such a discussion is to propose that people whom you disagree with are not wrong per say… they simply hold a different opinion or perspective. I am not trying to create indifference regarding the actions that you or anybody else would take… by accepting dialectics we can free ourselves from the judgments of our minds; which I believe leads us naturally towards engaging in actions that promote systemic harmony.


Note – It is virtually impossible to write about dialectics without constantly contradicting one’s self. For every point I make the opposite point is infinitely true – if I wrote this way I would never finish this blog.


Dialectic – everything is good and bad, right and wrong (the chicken and the egg)

Dichotomy – everything is good or bad, right or wrong (the chicken or the egg)


One purpose of dialectic thinking is to enable yourself to be open-minded about all that occurs in your perception.

  • By accepting that you will not be able to successfully categorize your environment with dichotomous labels, such as good or bad, you free yourself to engage the world with a child-like curiosity while being less guarded or defensive. In short – you are more open and accessible to this experience we call life.


“I don’t know” – this statement is often thought of as an example of wisdom and there are many expressions based on its’ underlying themes. Why? When someone says, “I don’t know,” he or she is essentially suggesting,

  • “I don’t claim to know any objective truths or any truths that would increase my likelihood of finding life predictable- and I can accept that.”


Opening your minds to other people’s subjective perception opens you up to more people – I am a proponent of relationships and I have seen many relationships falter because people chose their dichotomous belief over the relationship. (This also has to do with the ego, which I will cover in a future blog).

            – lets say you have a friend that is your skiing buddy… one night you get into an argument about health care… you can’t reach a point of agreement and you both go your separate ways. Here is the dichotomy – “I like going skiing with my friend, but he has health care views I disagree with” (what does health care have to do with skiing?). Here is the dialectic – “I like my going skiing with my friend, and he has health care views I disagree with.”

            – Dialectics can allow you do observe without the need for judgments (which can call for decisive actions) – in this way you get to keep more of the friends that you “disagree” with.


Existentialism (pertaining to meaning such as the meaning of life)Our mind needs to categories and judge our existence to reduce something called existential anxiety (anxiety that we hold when we find something to be meaningless – example – “why did the person die in the natural disaster”).

            – We create dichotomies to make life appear to be more predictable – if life was more predictable it would be easier for us to find meaning or to make sense of life. Our minds believe that if we could find meaning then we could significantly reduce our constant underlying fear of death (I will blog about this in the future). Incidentally for some reason my acceptance of the dialectic –“I am infinitely everything and infinitely nothing,” dramatically reduced my own fear of death.


Exercise 1) – Get together with a group of people and try to arrive at a universal truth (something that is always true in every context). Be sensitive in your critiques, but at the same time hold an understanding that the point of the exercise is to prove that from a philosophical perspective there are no universal truths. Note – this is not a jab at religions – I too choose to have faith in some of my beliefs (the difference is that I don’t really care if they are ‘true’ and I know that I could never prove them to be ‘true’).

Exercise 2) – think about a subject that you subjectively label as “bad”… now attempt to alter your perception so that you see that subject as good (pick a fairly benign topic when you start).

            -ex) * The forest fire that burned down my fiends house was bad… it destroyed irreplaceable possession like their photo albums.

                   * The forest fire was good in that the forest needs fires in order to be healthy; my friends chose to live there because of the forest. Without fire the forest seeds are not released.


I have two biases (related to the subject) that I should offer – These biases explain why I do not hold a fear that dialects will lead to an indifference that will cause people to engage in meaningless destruction. –or why I believe dialectics do not lead to sociopathic behavior.


  • I believe that all people are inherently ‘good’ – by ‘good’ I mean that the intention of all individuals (parts) holds the intention of maintaining balance or harmony for the system (whole) – and visa versa (this is the biological dialectic – the parts are the whole and the whole is the parts – the part are greater than the whole and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts). As a therapist I have never met a “bad person” and by opening my mind I can say that I don’t need to ‘fake’ acceptance as my reality has thus far shown that there is something to empathize with in every human I’ve ever met (and organism for that matter). “The worst things done in the world were done with good intention.”


  • I believe in intuition – sure I have read about meta-cognition (pre-thought – cognitions outside of our awareness) and I love the literature on the subject… and I am talking about something a bit different – something metaphysical which universally communicates an understating of ecological like principles (the interconnectedness of all things).


Judgments which serve to objectively categorize – Our minds tend to make decisions based on information that is not based on the present moment (ex. if I destroy this person I will be safer in the future). By holding firmly to a set belief that something is absolutely always good or absolutely always bad, we remove our ability to let our intuition guide our actions within the relative context of the given moment.

Do the Ends justify the Means? – If your intuition or your inner empathy compass (or whichever term you prefer) tells you in the moment what action ‘feels’ right, would it be the right decisions to ignore this feeling in order to follow the procedure manufactured by your mind and its’ desire to create objectivity? Again – “some of the worst actions imaginable were done with good intention.”

  • the concept of “the ends justify the means” is based on the idea that – there is a cause and effect relationship between the ends and the means – in other word the means (actions) will irrefutably lead to the desired ends (result) – If this were true then life would be predicable.

“Life is good and bad… now you choose how your gonna see it” – Will

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

pathologizing, labels, dichotomies, existentialism and acceptance


Quick summary: I am offering a discussion concerning the drive to label and how labeling impacts suffering. There is a heated debate in the field of psychotherapy as to whether psychiatric (DSM) labels help or hurt the client’s recovery. I am commenting on what encourages our emotional reactions and behavior related to the topic.

What questions might arise from such dichotomies concerning to label or not to label?  Should psychotherapy be governed by modernist or post-modernist principles? There is the dialectic “and” that might surface here… this helps me to identify a label that could describe my own ego related to this subject (as my ego has a rather rigid view on the subject of labels). I hold my own dichotomous beliefs in awareness and attempt to grow from them… this subject finds me humbled… I strive to be open-minded as opposed to being dogmatic… and now I arrive at another false dichotomy and fool myself into believing that open-mindedness is simply the opposite of being dogmatic… do I strive for open-mindedness to a degree that I find myself dogmatically in favor of open-mindedness… dogmatically against dogma? Can I strive and still be truly open?

Existentialism would help this debate to arrive at a point of universality… what fear or anxiety drives us to such emotionally reactive views related to labels and the resulting intervention strategy? If we cannot find consistency must we live in chaos? Without stable labels can life avoid meaninglessness? Without having an indisputable knowledge and protocol, can we in this field still consider ourselves adequate or competent? The dialectic answer is a coexisting yes/no… And for the voice of yes let me propose an irony… isn’t it our ability to offer empathy from a place of acceptance which nurtures the therapeutic relationship, which is the most important variable in relation to outcomes? To be truly accepting do we need to accept that we don’t know… or to know that our labels are relative, transient, and infinitely tied to our own subjectivity? How do labels help us to know that we don’t know? Who are the labels for… the client or perhaps our own existential anxiety? Both?

When a human’s desire to label and quantify the environment leads them to act against their own best interest or the best interest of others, do they then have a personality disorder related to a lack of control surrounding judgments and projections? I say this in complete seriousness… if the subject is suffering, do we label hypo-control more than we label hyper-control? If control was put on a bell curve would we see equal amounts of suffering on both ends? Are labels a symptom of being overly concerned with controlling existence? Is life controllable or predictable? If life is neither controllable nor predictable than is our drive to label (ironically) pathological?

 Is labeling a symptom of our existential anxiety? Is labeling a behavior of avoidance? If we have failed for centuries to find a universal truth and yet we persist in our search using primarily the same methods, what label could be used to describe this search for absolute?

I believe that therapists have the good intentioned goal of reducing suffering and I struggle with the realization that labeling might be our way of avoiding or resisting the suffering which arises from our own relationship with meaninglessness… which arises when we attempt to quantify the unexplainable…. when we attempt to know and do not allow ourselves to simply be. Perhaps there is both hope and nurturance within the presence of acceptance… perhaps the felt sensation of healing arrives in this space.

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

Chaos, structure, rigidity, compassion and acceptance


Quick summary: The path to “enlightenment” is indeed a bit confusing and as I was contemplating my own journey I came to an interesting point of discovery. I have not reached enlightenment and therefore do not know exactly what it is … perhaps until you reach the state, the experience of enlightenment in mostly inconceivable; I will offer some interesting notes that pertain to my current journey. I was thinking about how a path of chaos or a path of structure might lead a person to acceptance and compassion (generally thought of as the more important ingredients in an enlightened entity).

I will define acceptance as – freedom from automatic reaction, freedom from automatic categorizing, living in the moment, instantaneous forgiveness, unconditional love and compassion for all, and a drive for harmony and balance with a genuine empathy for that which disrupts the balance.

Most people have heard the ideas about not judging your environment so as to reach a point of universal compassion and acceptance… what choices affect this end goal? I could choose to align with chaos to reach acceptance… in this way I will hold no consistent beliefs or morals and will therefore be better able to accept most anything (any occurrence, philosophy, perspective etc) without the stress and anxiety that arrives when existence proposes something contrary to the constructs I might have otherwise held in order to explain my existence.

The chaos model promotes a general indifference which is not necessarily in line with the concept of compassion, which is generally associated with enlightenment. If nothing is good or bad then I would have no basis for concluding whether or not an action was compassionate.

The opposite (according to some constructs) of chaos is structure. With structure I could neatly arrange my existence to create somewhat of a linear path toward enlightenment. I would use theories such as deductive reasoning, probability, and other cause and affect based beliefs to create a path that was mathematically most likely to arrive at the variables associated with enlightenment. The Jedi (Star Wars movies) generally used this modality – Yoda even made comments about love – something like, “love leads to fear… fear leads to anger… anger leads to hate.” on such a path one might avoid certain types of love as doing so could make attaining acceptance more difficult (it is easier to have acceptance for the murder of a person you are not so connected to… if someone murdered your child or you spouse it would be very difficult to come to a place of acceptance). Structure can carry a degree of rigidity that distracts a person’s attention from what is… this can creates a resistance of the present moment.

Both paths seem to carry a strong theme of avoidance for me… and on my current journey I have found myself confused. Avoiding structure can make acceptance easier while avoiding certain experiences or beliefs can also make acceptance a bit easier. So which is the path?

I have been trying to use dialectics to aid in this philosophical inquisition. When using dialectics the path to enlightenment becomes both chaos and structure (as opposed to structure or chaos) – this means that perhaps the constructs which suggests that opposites can’t simultaneously exist (this is called dichotomous thinking) is what makes the subject so difficult for my growing mind to comprehend.

Perhaps the variables which could clear some of this up are the ideas of destiny, intuition, and living in the present moment without resistance. Trying to find a “path” is ultimately a choice to engage in future thinking… the future is uncertain and does not exist (except in your mind). If I focus my attention on the future and believe that I can create predictability then I will be distracting myself from the present moment (which is all that truly exists).

I would suggest that universal compassion, acceptance, authenticity and empathy are perhaps more difficult to achieve when you decide to live outside of existence … or outside of the present moment.   (This usually means that you are living within the constructs of your brain – you are using your brain to create an existence that is separate, to a degree, from the shared existence.)

In this philosophical inquiry I am reaching a point of understanding based ironically on simplification – chaos and structure are both mostly irrelevant and/or unproductive if they are used as mechanisms to resist the present moment – to resist existence.

All that one needs to reach enlightenment is in the current moment… acceptance is allowing one’s self to experience the flow of the river as opposed to finding ways of making that flow predictable. As you accept the flow of the river you will intuitively know what is required from you in the moment to maintain the balance of the whole – the while is the parts and the parts are the whole. The river is chaos and structure.

When in the present moment you can accept and hold compassion for all as you free yourself to see that you are the all… and so empathy and selflessness is understood.

Some people will flow towards hours of medication in areas removed from the complexities of a diverse array of relationships… some people will flow towards a diverse array of relationships.

 It is not the type of flow which is perhaps most important… instead it is the acceptance and the dropping of resistance towards the flow, which will guide you in the present moment… enlightenment is for everyone… it already exists… our resistance makes it elusive… sometimes our resistance is born of our method of dropping our resistance.


“Chaos is the resistance of structure while structure is the resistance of chaos.”


“I entered chaos to find the structures of my acceptance and the structures of my resistance”


“In structure I found the acceptance of chaos.”


“Follow the breath… water the sole.”


“Existence is chaos and structure”


“If you are striving for enlightenment than you are trying to live in the future (which does not exist)… enlightenment is an occurrence of existence… enlightenment is in the now.”

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.