There are two competing forces exerting pressure on me these days. Maybe you feel them, too.
Centripetal: Inward Toward Unity
Here’s a list of things in my life that tell me it’s possible — desirable! — to bring opposites together, to transcend beyond the duality of opposites.
- Yoga, which means the yoking of opposites. Such as inhale/exhale, inner/outer, masculine/feminine, upper/lower, right/left, front/back, root/rise, effort/ease, contraction/expansion.
- I want to be both strong AND flexible, not one at the expense of the other.
- DBT, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, is a “philosophical dialectical process of hypothesis and antithesis, followed by synthesis.” Through metacognition (mindfulness), I expand my thinking/believing/feeling to cover both poles, both opposites. Being able to do so can make me feel more whole.
- I aim to love all parts of me, including the ugly ones I try to hide even from myself.
- Open-hearted adoption. Over and over again I see that a BothAnd view serves all parties better than an Either/Or view, which splits the baby. The BothAnd concept goes not only for “real” parents, but also for the range of emotions anyone in an adoption has about adoption.
- When I honor my children’s connections to their original family, it adds to my children without taking away from me. Also, I acknowledge that open-hearted adoption is really hard at times — as well as rewarding.
Centrifugal: Spinning Out & Apart
Here’s a list of current subjects that are highly polarized and emotionally charged.
- To mask or not to mask. One’s beliefs about masking can be a political signal, revealing whether you trust public officials or not.
- Netflix’s Cuties. Does the film sexualize pre-adolescent girls? Or does it serve as a critique about how our culture sexualizes pre-adolescent girls? (Or both?)
- Climate change, including wildfires and hurricanes. A political signal based on who (or what) you do and don’t trust.
- Black Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter. A political signal, as well.
- What to do about unplanned pregnancies. A political signal often tied in with religious beliefs.
- GOP vs Dems in state and local races, including the US Senate and House of Representatives. In my state, it’s the crooked ex-governor vs the Trump-lapdog current senator. The ads against each are ridiculous, meant to appeal to those with zero critical thinking skills. These ads must work, though, because these types keep running, here and everywhere. Such ads shut down thinking and further polarize us.
- Biden vs Trump. I’m secretly dismayed when people are super gung-ho about either guy. They both seem so terribly flawed, having decades of their lives on display (please let’s not argue about who is more flawed; no one is going to change anyone else’s mind). If a person LOVES one and HATES the other, there is a whole lot of confirmation bias going on. Not to mention oversimplification.
Do you also feel the push to polarize, to be on one side or the other, and classify others similarly?
Where Will This Lead?
No surprise to anyone, 2020 has a lot of opposing going on. The societal pulling apart, which has been amping up since at least the 2000 election, seems to be accelerating and crescendo-ing. What is its trajectory? Where will the current path of discord take us? What possible outcomes are there, and which one is most likely?
We all come at things with a unique perspective. Things look different depending on a person’s experiences, wiring, and vantage point.
How might we allow for the BothAnd of these polarizing issues? How might we transcend beyond the duality?
Who Benefits from Polarization?
This ongoing trend of increasing polarization isn’t making anyone happy, but it is making purveyors of discord rich and powerful. Cable news networks have got to be making gobs of money with so many tuning in to their brand of echo chamber. Fomenting discord is in the interest of media organizations (as opposed to news organizations) that have the attention of masses of people they can sell advertising to. Polarizing is an excellent strategy to gain and keep that attention — and the revenue flowing.
Meanwhile, critical thinking suffers. Polarizing causes shortcuts in thought processes. Things boil down to Us = good. Them = bad.
There are regimes around the world that would benefit from United States crumbling from within, and are, perhaps, throwing apples of discord into our race. A bot campaign would be so much cheaper and easier than a military war. But it would require that we fall for the trick of polarization.
Maybe I’m Wrong
This post itself may end up being polarizing. Maybe I have this all wrong. Perhaps it IS better to be very clear where you stand and not waver, and to consider those who disagree just plain wrong. I can see the appeal of living more in certainty than in complexity. It’s possible I am missing the boat here.
But the way I’m wired, the growing polarization feels like doom.
Maybe These are Not Competing Forces After All
Turns out physics brings in the missing piece. Andrew A. Ganse, a research physicist at the University of Washington, offers the transcendent unity between competing forces that I’m looking for.
“Centripetal force and centrifugal force are really the exact same force, just in opposite directions because they’re experienced from different frames of reference.” (LiveScience.com)Centripetal and centrifugal — they seem like opposites but really they are “the exact same.” Just with differing frames of reference.
Maybe just like people who disagree.
I’ll be trying to figure this out long after the election — and all that follows the election.
What About You?
What do you think about practices and traditions that ask us to encompass all parts? Should we? Can we? If so, how?
Also this: Sometimes we do need to take a stand. What is the criteria to discern when, and can it be done in a non-polarizing way?
Along These Lines
- Sacrificing Our Outrage
- How to Avoid Letting Internet Outrage Get the Best of You
- Peace on Earth: What Might it Cost You?
Lori Holden, mom of a teen son and a teen daughter, writes from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life. Lori was honored as an Angel in Adoption® in 2018 by the Congressional Coalition of Adoption Institute.