Living with Duality – The Power of “And”
Black and white, all or nothing, rigid thinking – let’s be honest, it’s not just our kids who think this way. I have a child who’s very intelligent, incredibly persistent, and when something upsets him, moving on can be incredibly challenging for him. It’s as if he gets stuck and cannot get over the hurdle in front of him.
Today I want to share one simple tool, a hallmark of maturity that helps us, both adults and children alike, break free from this way of thinking.
Watch: Living with Duality by The Parenting Junkie
Grab your Finish Strong Guide and together we’ll process what you’ve been through this year, no matter what 2020 has brought to you or taken from you. Let’s forgive the mistakes made, heal lingering wounds, reflect on the lessons learned, and finish the year strong!
Let’s Talk About Immaturity
Rigid thinking is immature thinking. This way of thinking is very typical among young children.
In other words, children see things in black and white terms, all or nothing, or in a polarized way.
They see their truth, and they find it very difficult to understand that someone else might have a truth too.
Broccoli is Gross
Say a child eats a stick of broccoli and they think it doesn’t taste good.
Their assumption will be that they think nobody likes broccoli, that broccoli tastes bad for other people.
And they will find it strange when someone eats a piece of broccoli in front of them and enjoys it if they themselves don’t like it.
Side note: Broccoli’s delicious. Why do they not like broccoli? I don’t get it.
Or is Broccoli Just Gross… to Me?
As children grow up, their mirror neurons begin to kick in, their empathy kicks in, they start to be able to take on a different person’s perspective.
They start to be able to understand that whilst I don’t like broccoli, maybe you do like broccoli because you hold a different truth about broccoli, and you have your own subjective experience about this.
Holding Space for More Than One Truth: A Hallmark of Maturity
Eventually, children start to hold space for other truths as well, which is a hallmark of maturity.
I believe that the hallmark of a more awakened, conscious, enlightened, aware, mature mindset, is the ability to hold two (perhaps even conflicting) truths at the same time.
A Tool for Parenting the Rigid Thinker
There is one really powerful word that can be very, very helpful when you have a rigid, all or nothing, black and white thinker.
Replace the word “BUT” with the word “AND”
What if we said to our children, “To you, broccoli is disgusting, and to me, broccoli is delicious.”
What if we introduce the idea of holding two truths at once?
When You Love Parenting as Much as They Love Broccoli
Liking broccoli is a simplistic example, but there might be some really complicated things that are going on for you in your life right now.
Maybe you’re with your kids 24/7, and you feel this conflict because on the one hand, you love your children and you want to be with them, and of course, you enjoy their company…
Aaaaand you’re also craving alone time.
And they’re driving you crazy.
And you want to tear your hair out.
And you need space.
And you actually hate it.
Maybe you love it and hate it all at once in different measures and different ways.
There can be two truths that are true at once. It’s not black or white. It’s not all or nothing. It’s both, in fact.
Living with Duality is Challenging
It’s very confusing for us. It can cause turmoil when we feel both things. Many of us can flitter between so many different feelings.
- I might feel grateful that my kids are going to school and for the break and that they get to socialize, and worried about the health and social implications of that.
- I might feel that I am so grateful that I have a job, that I can put food on the table, that I have a shelter over my head, and feel like I hate my job, and I wish I didn’t have to go to work.
We Can Feel Lots of Different Complicated Things at Once
People can hold within them lots of different, complicated feelings at once.
Like, I can love someone, and appreciate lots of different qualities about them, and see huge, incredible things within them, and hold their goodness to light…
and have a lot of criticism and difficulty and judgment around certain things that they do or say.
Try to Avoid Reductionistic Thinking
People are very complex individuals. Our reality is a very complex reality. And it is immature to hold a reductionistic view that really simplifies that into just an all or nothing way of thinking. A view that puts just one label on a situation and only allows us to feel one way about it. Puts one label on a person and only allows us to feel one way about them. The truth is so much more layered and nuanced and complex than that.
How To Help Children Develop A Sense of Duality
We want to allow our children to notice that whilst they feel one thing, they might also feel another thing.
They might not love the taste of broccoli, but they might still feel like, “This is a healthy food that’s giving me great nutrients,” or, “I don’t love the taste, but I do like the texture.”
Even just within that sentence of “I don’t like broccoli,” we can respond with…
“Well, maybe you don’t like broccoli raw, but maybe you really love it when it’s roasted. There is not just one truth that ‘I don’t like broccoli.’ Maybe sometimes you like it, sometimes you don’t. Maybe you like it in some formats and not in others. Or maybe you like it and don’t like it at the same time. That could even be true as well!”
Has 2020 Felt Like Yucky Broccoli?
So the reason I’m bringing this up now is because I’ve been seeing these memes pop up indicating that 2020 was a write-off.
A disaster of a year.
Terrible things are going to continue to happen “because it’s 2020.”
As we try to process what happened in 2020, let’s aim to introduce more and’s, and less or’s & but’s.
Let’s Aim to See Multiple Truths at Once
2020 was challenging and there were silver linings.
2020 was exhausting and there were blessings.
Yes, there was certainly grief, desperation, depletion, difficulty, loss – all of those things are true.
And there were also many other things.
There were revolutions, changes, enlightenments, uplifting, a coming together. There were beautiful things as well.
Share the Power of “And”
If this mindset shift is helpful for you, and you think it might be helpful for someone else who’s facing a challenge right now, please invite them to the Finish Strong challenge. It’s free, it comes with a beautiful journal guide, and it’s very therapeutic and healing.
Despite the challenges that 2020 has brought us, let’s focus on how we can seize the day and show up anyway, show up regardless, show up despite, perhaps show up because of what has been going on, and finish the year strong.