Are you limited by mental splits? Or do you see the world as it really is?

This will make you think… How do you see the world?

  • Do you see people as; men and women, rich and poor, children and adults, managers and staff, gay and straight, abled and disabled, black and white, selfish and unselfish, teachers and students?
  • Do you see the world as success and failure, nice and nasty, good and bad, worthy and not worthy, valuable and un-valuable, beautiful and ugly, this religion and race or that religion and race?

Because if you do then great, you have a realistic outlook. But… is that all you see? Do you also see beyond these pairs of opposites? With the descriptions of people do you see primarily the opposites, the classes, the distinctions – or do you primarily see people. With the world do you primarily notice what separates things – or do you just notice process, a wholeness of interaction?

“Ok Alan”, I hear you say, “What on earth are you yabbering on about? What’s your point?!” Where I’m coming from is the very psychology that underpins what I do in Neuro-Semantics; Self-Actualisation psychology. Don’t’ worry I won’t get all technical, I’m saying this for a good reason. A reason that will hopefully make life for you, your family, colleagues and even the world, a lot better.

Just a bit of background first. ‘Self-Actualisation’ means to be the best version of you possible.

"What a man can be, he must be. We call this need Self-Actualisation"
“What a man can be, he must be. We call this need Self-Actualisation”

It means to have an enlightened mind, to move through the world with a sense of purpose, clarity, appreciation, vision and strength. It’s a term that Abraham Maslow coined which kicked off the Humanistic or positive psychology movement. He studied “the bright side of human nature”. Now this is a massive area but today I’m just going to share one key bit that you can start to use to transform your thinking, and your world.

A part of Self-Actualisation is the ability to “transcend dichotomies” (rise above separating things; rise above oppositeness). By this Maslow meant to be able to see past splits and opposites and to see value in everything. It seems like a paradox but let me give some practical examples.

I have a friend who is a great person but constantly speaks about men and women as separate. “Oh that’s a typical man thing” … “Women always do that” … “Well what do you expect from a man/woman”. In dichotomising men and women this person treats men and women differently, and sadly it limits their world. I remember when my daughter was a baby a friend of mine asked me, “Am I the first brown person she’s seen?” I was taken aback! The thought had never occurred to me that my friend had coloured skin or was a different race (of course I knew it as a logical fact), I just saw the person. In a wider context, if teachers see themselves as just teachers, and students as just students, they’ll miss the wonderful opportunity of mutual learning, partnership and growth. How would teachers treat kids (and kids treat teachers) differently if they both saw the other as ‘fellow learners’ or just ‘other people who know different stuff than me’?

Splitting the way we see things as a primary filter is the foundation of a lot of bad stuff in the world; racism, sexism, elitism, and every other “‘ism”!

Maslow said that “To dichotomise is to pathologise and to pathologise is to dichotomise”. Gregory Bateson* said that wisdom is “…multiple perspectives held at the same time”. Does this transcending dichotomies make a person indecisive? No, not at all! Being able to rising above these splits in thinking gives us the ability to see beyond conflicts – both internal and external. Imagine what your life would be like if you had no personal conflicts? Imagine what the world would be like if there were no conflicts between people, groups, nations? Quite a vision, eh? And it all starts at the personal level, with me and with you.

So the next time you have a problem, challenge or stuck opinion; practise ‘rising up in your mind’ and ask these types of questions:

  • What’s good in this badness (or person)?
  • What’s valuable in this worthlessness?
  • What’s the value in the opposite opinion?
  • What am I missing?
  • What’s the ‘both and’ rather than the ‘either or’?

By asking these questions you’ll expand your thinking and empower yourself and others. And from here we can make the world a much better place to live (hmmm, I say that on all my videos, don’t I?)

Do you agree or disagree with this article? I’d love to hear your opinions. Leave a comment below.


* Gregory Bateson (1904-1980); social scientist, anthropologist, linguist, cyberneticist

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