After my recent post, “Animal Medicine: Acquiring Power and Success,” I received two comments that I found very interesting. William Horden cited the differing energies of the stallion and mare to illustrate the need for integrating our masculine and feminine sides. Ram0singhal distinguished the difference between our attitudes about what is positive and negative, or good and evil, and life’s actual underlying Oneness. What these two comments have in common is their emphasis on the importance of transcending dualistic thinking.
Dualistic thinking? What does that have to do with me and my life? you might be wondering. Well, everything, actually. The way we think influences the way we live and relate to others. If there’s anything about yourself, your relationships, your life, or the world you’re not happy with, you can change it with greater awareness of the way you think about it. Really. Believe it or not, our thought processes are at the root of our problems, and the worst culprit is dualistic thinking. Essentially, dualistic thinking is perceiving the world in terms of “black and white” opposites in which there is only one correct answer.
There’s nothing right or wrong about classifying things in terms of opposites; in fact, this is the ego’s natural mode of perception. For example, our senses constantly highlight the differences between day and night, sun and moon, north pole and south pole, east and west, male and female, light and dark, self and other, fire and water, hot and cold, hard and soft. Likewise, there are vast differences between our inner and outer worlds, our thoughts and emotions, our life styles and the life styles of others, and so on. Distinguishing differences is the way we come to understand our world.
The problem with dualistic thinking is our tendency to make moral judgments about opposites. When we see one side as “right” and the other as “wrong” and get all charged up about defending our side and rejecting the other, we stop communicating and start fighting. But think about it. Is either side in any of the above examples objectively better than the other? No. We might prefer one over the other, but essentially both are naturally occurring, morally neutral aspects of life.
For example, my husband processes life’s input by logically evaluating physically observable phenomena. I am more attuned to my intuition, feelings and values. The difference between his objectivity and my subjectivity used to create real problems for us, and there were times when we were both certain the other was not only wrong but bad in some indefinable way. But as we got clearer about how we were thinking and what we were feeling and started communicating our truths honestly instead of quibbling about who was right and who was wrong, we discovered that, at bottom, our conflicts were based on our lack of understanding about the natural processes of our own souls and our inability to accept the validity of each other’s.
Changing the way we think has made all the difference in our relationship. With each step we take toward transcending opposites that threaten to separate us, we grow more understanding, forgiving, and compassionate, and more intimate with ourselves, each other, and the benevolent, underlying Oneness of reality.
How does dualistic thinking create problems in your life? How are you doing at overcoming it?