ZOELAB DAY 105
Date of Original Post: December 14, 2012
Being a person who is filled with contradictions and multiplicity in identity, (as we all are) I have found it painful and unnatural to align myself with any one side of a dichotomy. I have come to believe, as the Taoists do, that in life, all things and thoughts have an opposite that is equally true. Nature is predicated on the balance between opposites: birth/death, light/dark, creation/destruction, and so on. If we ignore one half of a dichotomy or judge it, then we are not balanced, we are not allowing ourselves to the see and experience the whole and natural truth. As it is said: “you can’t have one with out the other.”
During my training to become a psychotherapist/expressive arts therapist with a spiritual perspective, which included years of personal therapy, I learned about “splitting”, which in Freudian terms, is a primitive defense mechanism that the ego creates for its emotional protection from anxiety (or any threatening emotion). Splitting is when the ego, for the sake of protecting the good part of a person, or an experience, splits off her perception of the person into two parts--All Good or All Bad. Instead of seeing the self, another person or an experience as one integrated whole with complexity, contradictions and ambivalence, with both good and bad parts, the splitter sees only two separate parts or just one part. Splitting is “black and white thinking” at the psychological level.
Black and white thinking or splitting occurs also at a cultural level (as is apparent in bipartisan politics.) There is pressure in Western culture to make a choice, to specialize, to take a side, to act. It is not acceptable to be in-between categories, or to exist opposing categories. These pressures stem from the left side of the brain, which is, in itself, a bias in Western culture. Generally speaking, perhaps since the start of agrarian culture, we have been a left-brain dominated society that favors masculinity, action and rationality over femininity, receptivity, emotion. (For a fascinating read that suggests that culture turned from a right brain dominated (or at least equal brained) culture to a left brain dominated culture with the introduction of the alphabet and literacy, read The Goddess Vs. The Alphabet by Leonard Shlain.)
The last few days I’ve been listening to a book called A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink, which proposes a compelling argument that American culture is moving from left brain dominant (information age) towards right brain dominant (conceptual age). He outlines “6 senses” that he believes will be necessary to master in order to thrive in the conceptual age: design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning. I would say these are the qualities I focus on in this blog. Being a right brain type of person I received this news with great pleasure and relief. After a lifetime of feeling unaccepted and alienated for being highly emotional, intuitive, and non-linear, I feel somehow validated, and understood. It’s as if, suddenly, there was a little bit more space for people like me in the world. By the way, I just did an online right/brain test and I scored 55% right brain, 45% left brain. 50% auditory, 50% visual. Perhaps this means I am becoming more balanced between right and left. It would be interesting to compare these results to the results I would have gotten when I was a child.
I truly believe, in society, and as individuals, we need to use BOTH sides of our brain (there it is again: the androgynous mind) for balance and optimum function. This is one of the underlying points of the Daniel Pink’s book. Discovering my tendency to split in graduate school, which caused much meaningless suffering, I decided I needed to change my either/or thinking to both/and thinking. I don’t have to decide if I am a clean or a messy person. I can be both! Both and thinking is integration--allowing space for all parts to exist simultaneously and harmoniously. Both/and becomes everything/and. Accepting multiplicity allows space for mystery and complexity in humanity and society.