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Breaking the Barriers: How Embracing Dualism Can Unite Rather Than Divide Us
Uniting Through Dualism
Consider this perspective: What if I express my understanding of the Palestinian viewpoint? Alternatively, what if I acknowledge the rationale behind Israel's military actions?
Often, when confronted with a conflict between two parties, there's a quick inclination to label one side as correct and the other as incorrect. However, why don't we challenge ourselves to contemplate the complexity and validity of various perspectives?
The influence of ancient European dualism
The Western mindset is profoundly influenced by the ancient European way of thinking, often described as forma mentis, which translates to the shape of the mind. This approach is deeply rooted in dualistic logic, a legacy of ancient Greek philosophy and Roman Empire dialectics. Historically, our forebears framed discussions in terms of polar opposites: good versus evil, right versus wrong. Their narratives and teachings followed a straightforward, linear path, beginning at one point and ending at another, fostering a simplistic, two-ended perspective.
This binary thinking has been reinforced by various cultural movements. For instance, Christian theology, particularly influential in the Middle Ages, revolves around stark contrasts such as God versus the devil. This dichotomy heavily influenced every facet of personal life, emphasizing the conflict between soul and body. It mandated the suppression of personal desires for spiritual upliftment, a doctrine that constrained millions for centuries. Within this framework, ingrained from an early age, deviation from what was deemed right was not only wrong but intolerable.
At its core, dualism is both a philosophical and religious concept that centers on two fundamental, opposing elements. Derived from the Latin word "dualis," meaning two-fold, the notion of dualism underscores a long-standing tradition of binary thinking.
The Role of Psychological Inference in Streamlining Decision-Making
In some ways, the simplification of life's complexity into binary choices was a form of salvation. The ability to categorize decisions into just two options, with one being the 'right' choice, streamlined decision-making. This approach may have contributed to the rapid evolution of Western societies, as it encouraged a mindset geared towards quick, efficient decision paths. Over centuries of social evolution, this led to the development of psychological inference, enhancing our capacity for swift decision-making.
Inference comes into play when we interpret facts. Facts are objective elements – things we observe or experiences we encounter – and remain unchangeable. Inferences, however, are our personal deductions about how to respond to these facts. They are shaped by our prior knowledge and experiences. While inferences differ from prejudices and biases, they are still subjective by nature, representing our quickest route to forming a coherent opinion.
Take, for example, my experience this afternoon. I watched an interview with a favorite author. Instead of seeking out detailed information about his life or works, I simply connected his name with the enjoyment I've derived from his novels, which made the interview more enjoyable for me.
Challenging dualistic thinking
At times, we encounter decisions far more complex than choosing what to watch. Life presents us with challenging dilemmas, ranging from assessing trust in others to making financial decisions, or even evaluating personal safety in different environments.
During the 2020 pandemic, many faced an overwhelming period of stress. In such times, dualistic thinking became a coping mechanism to avoid mental burnout. The onslaught of information was relentless: a novel virus, limited understanding, and an inundation of statistics about death rates, vaccines, and more.
People chose different paths: some relied exclusively on official science, while others trusted alternative sources. I recall a dinner with friends where I mentioned receiving my vaccine but also acknowledged that skeptics might raise valid concerns. Their immediate question, “So, which side are you on?” highlighted the binary nature of their thinking, as though only two perspectives existed.
This interaction illuminated the inherent limitations of dualistic thinking. It acts as a barrier to personal growth, confining our understanding to two opposing categories. It's akin to limiting oneself to only vanilla or chocolate ice cream for a lifetime, despite the existence of a myriad of flavors. This mindset restricts our experiences and hinders our ability to fully appreciate the diverse range of possibilities life offers.
As stated by Rosalie Chamberlain: ¹
“Duality is a separating force. It separates us from others and from our authentic selves. Duality is not a friend to different perspectives because the attachment to one way versus another way is too powerful. This can be very limiting to you and to the people you lead. In today’s global society and competitive work environment, being open to the world of talent, perspectives, and cultural differences can have a powerful impact on success.”
The possibility of non-dualistic thinking
Imagine transcending dualism – isn't that a liberating thought? An insightful piece in The Growth Equation delves into this, acknowledging that while certain situations may indeed present us with only two stark choices, a multitude of issues could benefit from a non-dualistic approach, much like the philosophies observed in ancient cultures such as Buddhism and Taoism. These cultures embrace an additive rather than a selective mindset, exemplified in concepts like balancing self-discipline with self-compassion.
Think of the sheer relief in knowing we don't have to form an opinion on absolutely everything. Sometimes, we might find ourselves in a neutral stance, akin to Switzerland's famed impartiality. Even more promising is the prospect of win-win scenarios, where choices are about adding value rather than making a selection.
Take my experience living in a secular country with a strong Catholic heritage. Here, public spaces honor our history with symbols like the crucified Christ, yet warmly welcome women in Islamic veils and Sikhs in turbans. This coexistence is a testament to the beauty of inclusivity.
Perhaps we should endeavor to understand others' reasons and feelings before deciding where we stand. Often, there are more perspectives than we initially perceive.
So, when I contemplate where I stand, especially in heart-wrenching conflicts like that between Israel and Palestine, I find myself hoping, wishing, and praying for the safety and peace of civilians on both sides, every single day.
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