Relational Dialectics

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  • Topic: Relational dialectics, Dialectic, Psychoanalysis
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Relational Dialectics Theory
Danielle Parker
Missouri State University
Dr. Isabelle Baumann
April 30th, 2012

Literature Review
Imagine a world without communication. There would be a lack of spoken word, gestures; anything that the world uses to interconnect would be eliminated. All in all, our civilization as a whole would fall apart. Communication is one of the major roles in a functioning society. It can be broken up into several different subcategories, from verbal, non-verbal or emotion-driven. Communication sends signals to those around us and shows how language is such a prevalent part of one’s society. One thing that all forms of communication have in common is that it strikes a response or reaction. Different circumstances promote different forms of communication. In some forms of communication, tensions and contradictions can arise which makes those situations harder to handle. In relational dialectics, it discusses the contradictions in communication and other patterns that form positive and negative interactions within a relationship.

Relational Dialectics is defined as a dynamic knot of contradictions which plays a huge part of the communication patterns in relationships. This theory tends to bend and mold itself to fit the situation that is currently being faced. When people communicate with one another, more than one opinion is voiced within the contact. Through different challenges, the relational dialectics theory identifies the problem, the contradictions it may challenge, and the solutions based on the situation at hand. Understanding and respecting those opinions will help to control the relational dialectics theory and all it entails. In any type of relationship, communication is crucial. If patterns are generally negative, one can assume that the relationship is not very healthy. These tensions that occur can be normal, but can increase to an abnormal state, and in relationships it is imperative that the understanding and emotional state of each individual is accounted for. This literature review will discuss the background and an overview of relational dialectics theory, explanation of the contradictions in the theory and why they play such a dominant role, and then discuss research results found that show the modifications made to handle multiple situations effectively when relational dialectics comes into account. A lot of research has gone into the relational dialectics theory over the years, but first it is important to know the background of the theory and understand how in each situation the theory is modified to find the best solution available to the problem. The relational dialectics theory was first proposed in 1988 by Leslie A. Baxter and W.K Rollins (Baxter, 2004). In Aristotle’s time, philosophers were strictly focused on handling singling arguments (Betz, 2009). With relational dialectics, you are handling both sides of the argument that happen to be unified on their disagreements. This theory uses four main concepts to show how communication breaks down within a relationship – contradiction, totality, process and praxis.

The relational dialectics theory predicts that communication patterns occur to the dialect within an interaction, however the responses to those said interactions vary from person to person. The contradiction aspect of the theory plays a core role itself. Contradictions are found in many ways among the relational dialectics theory. The perspectives of these contradictions may vary but each has special meaning within the theory. The different contradictions include: Openness and Closedness, certainty and uncertainty, autonomy and connectivity, integration and separation, stability and change, and expression and non-expression (Sahlstein, 2009). All of these contradictions show different aspects within a relationship and how these emotions can affect them. For example, with openness and closedness, communication can halt if those in the relationship are...
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