In the nineteen eighties, Marsha Linehan, Ph.D. created dialectical behavioral therapy. In this context, the term dialectical means considering two opposing concepts simultaneously. At the same time that we strive to change our reality for the better, we also accept the present reality for what it is. According to this theory, our minds have the ability to live in two worlds concurrently.
This amazing idea is relevant to us all, not merely those struggling with a personality disorder. We are all in search of the deeper meaning of life. Oftentimes though, the deeper meaning is at odds with the simple meaning. Struggling to reframe our perspectives, a little voice screams: but that’s not how you really feel about this! D.B.T teaches us that we can live in the present, and at the same time see well beyond the simple meaning of reality.
King Solomon’s D.B.T
Some three thousand years before the advent of modern psychology, King Solomon touched on this problem in the book of Ecclesiastes. He declares the materialistic perspective on life to be hevel, pure futility. But hidden in the word hevel, is the idea of breath — a pure spirituality that is the true meaning of reality.
Closer to home, the human being can be defined as a purely physical phenomenon. Or, we can look to the spirit and soul as the defining essence. Solomon hints at this as well. The term hevel, in addition to futility and breath, was also the Hebrew name of Adam and Eve’s son Abel. He was a person who sought honor, which is pure futility. Alone in a field, the honor seeking life loses all value, and so Hevel dies (Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna).
The true value of the human being far transcends the search for glory. Each of us is a whole universe onto themselves, with incredible spiritual greatness at our core.
There is a whole world of life wisdom in the twelve cryptic chapters of Ecclesiastes. Join me as I work to unpack some of its meaning. I will be recording a twenty-minute episode weekly, and can be found on most podcast apps. See below for a link.