When Style Becomes Law: How Our Rigid Beliefs and Solutions Can Create Unnecessary Conflicts

“I personally do not believe in ‘style‘. Because of ‘styles‘, people are separated. They are not united together because styles became law.” -Bruce Lee

In psychology, the dodo bird bird verdict is a concept which therapists and researchers use to point to the general efficacy of psychotherapy across the board, meaning that among the “bonafide treatments,” each version of therapy is just as effective as the others. So, as long as the clinician is competent and empathic and the client is open to treatment, the clinician’s school of practice is insignificant. Yet, there are still plenty of therapists who would solely swear by their own preferred treatment model. But, how do we make sense of that?

Fundamentally, they fall into the trap of “style,” as noted above in the Bruce Lee quote. And style tends to become king. Some of the best writers, to the disapproval of many of their readers, are wonderful at articulating problems, but hesitate to propose clear solutions. The usual inference is that, like the rest of us, they simply don’t know them. But what if we’re wrong? What if the solution (or potential solutions) was intended to be made obvious by presenting the problem in striking detail? And what if the author held several possible solutions in mind, knowing that her readers would arrive at them too?

However, people want answers, and, as significantly, they yearn for safety. So, authors, great authors, often get castigated for stirring the pot without offering help, even though the help is often within sight. In his wisdom, Bruce Lee knew what few of us do, that style is a matter of preference rather than universal truth, and my assumption is that some authors refrain from expressing solutions partially because they prefer to avoid dogmatic disputes and appearing as gurus. Moreover, they have a general respect for their readers; their work implies that we have the capacity to work it out for ourselves and don’t need more guides.

History presents us with examples of dogma’s varied manifestations, and dogma has a way of corrupting the best of intentions for the so-called “greater good.” On the Netflix show Trotsky, which is about the life of the communist revolutionary Leon Trotsky, there’s a pivotal scene in which Leon’s father returns to him as a ghost and asks, “Did you ever ask the people what they wanted, if they wanted to die for this?” And Trotsky essentially responds by informing him that he has a better grasp of what’s best for them. Although his ideals began in empathy, they ended in sadism, becoming more important than the individuals whom he was purportedly fighting for.

And the culprit was ego rooted in certainty. Unfortunately for Trotsky, as brilliant as he was, he had a poor grasp of human nature; he didn’t know that most people, even if sometimes for their own good, disdain conflicts, especially those entailing the risk of death. While Trotsky’s vision for a utopia appeared reasonable, he made the mistake of equating his own desire for it with those of the others. And rather than accepting that most people are conflict averse, which he would have known if he had read anything about how mass slavery was possible, he utilized the instillation of fear in order to dominate. Trotsky refused to acknowledge his error in reasoning.

Had he maintained some level of humility, Leon may have accepted some form of diplomacy as an alternative option for change. Additionally, research indicates that mixed economies comprised of the freedom to choose one’s career and a strong financial safety need contribute most to overall societal well-being, as opposed to more socialistic and capitalistic ones. So, I believe that as a writer or even a therapist, we have to be careful in making assessments regarding solutions; we simply don’t possess all of the relevant data to form concrete conclusions. Most of the time, even if we try to, there are alternatives that may be just as good as their counterparts, despite our certainty of their justifications. In reality, authors can outline the potential solutions themselves or leave them to their audiences. But, all of them, and all of us, have to be careful not to foster convictions; to some extent, each of us is tasked to maintain an open mind.


  1. Well said. Also with regards to styles, I think given that therapy outcomes are largely dependant on the alliance and rapport building, what method one picks is secondary. I know that if I don’t trust my therapist, it makes no difference whether they offer me CBT or DBT or any other abbreviated term.

    Liked by 1 person

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