A concept that I have related to my entire life was recently given a name by a teacher of mine. This is the both/and way of thinking. It is a more open-minded approach to viewing the world. The way we process our experiences, emotions and the situations we find ourselves in can have a broad range of multiple truths.
On the opposite side of this spectrum is the concept of the either/or. This is a more linear or singular way of thinking; meaning that things can go either one way or the other. There is basically one truth.
Life is not so black and white.
We are complex creatures. We all have the ability to feel and believe in ways that are multifaceted. When we allow ourselves to shift from this linear way of thinking, we open ourselves up to a spectrum of possibility.
Let’s use a life-changing event for an example. When someone is going through a divorce, they could be feeling sadness and grief for what is lost and at the same time could be experiencing excitement and joy for what’s to come. The roller coaster of emotions could be fear, anger and panic as well as calmness, happiness and relief. There is not one right way to feel, it is not one or the other; it can be both.
For many of us, it is in our nature to think that things are and should be straightforward. We want the clear, concise answer, the simplified end result. And, much of our society tends to operate in this way. It has also gotten to a place of extremes. You have to choose a side. Do you feel this way or that? This is the either/or way of thinking which can have its benefits but it can narrow the possibility of what is. It puts our view of the world into a much more limited and often times, judgmental scope.
It is not that simple. Life and people in general, are too multifarious to think this way.
Being in relationship with others should never be black and white; and to be clear, a relationship is not defined by just your partner. It can be anyone you are personally connected to. When others are in our lives, at some point, there will be a disagreement or conflict that needs to be worked through and, with that we have choice as to how we move through it.
When conflict is managed in the realm of the either/or, someone is right and someone is wrong. There is one truth. When we approach conflict this way, we run the risk of not being able to resolve the matter at hand. It could lead to harboring resentment against the other involved, divisiveness or the feeling of not being heard or seen. It could even lead to losing that relationship or changing it in a way in which it may never be the same.
On the flip side, when conflict is managed in the realm of the both/and, we are able to consider another point of view. We open ourselves up to the idea that there are multiple truths. There is more than one side to any given situation. We are allowed to have differing opinions but at the same time, are open to the other perspective. Can we understand the other person’s viewpoint and agree to disagree?
If we are not willing to consider the broad range of emotional complexities when we are relating to another person, how can a relationship thrive? When we take all sides into consideration, there is more possibility of reaching a common ground.
The both/and way of thinking allows us to step outside of the box. It can give us a different perspective on not only how we view others and ourselves but how we process a particular event. Often times, there are multiple shades of gray in any given situation. It helps us to realize that everyone is on their own path, has a right to their own experiences as well as how they process their emotions; regardless of what others are going through. We can feel and be a multitude of ways about anything.
Life is not a singular way of being. There is a complexity, a richness to it. When we open ourselves to the potential of this, our perspective of the world and others can grow and evolve.
Jennifer Roe is a master level Red Hat Qigong practitioner, an integrative nutritional health and wellness coach, a facilitator of women’s circles, programs and more. For more information, visit www.thehealingroe.com.