Personal development is what everyone should be into … completing the human life cycle. It happens without effort in our bodies but not in our souls. Just as we move from milk onto solids we need to move from a dualistic to a non-dualistic mindset.
We arrive with a full set of genes that interact with our environemnt to produce our bodies. We now know that there are epigenes that will influence our behaviour from up to four generations previously.
However, much of what determines our characters and behaviour is down to choice. At least that is the story for now, although new evidence is beginning to show how little free will we actually have.
The first kind of thinking that we develop as human beings is dualistic. This polarised way of thinking is important for our survival. It may even spring from the fight or flight response, which has to be an instant black or white decision. A reasoned response, taking all things into consideration, in the face of a charging bull might be the last thought one had. It is orientated around myself and another, in a short time frame.
Children have a very concrete view of the world believing what they see or are told. They also think in very black and white ways. It is as if being near the boundaries actually gives them a sense of security. When they become aware of the abstract and moral dimension they explore in the same way. Life is simple when everything is either good or bad, true or a lie and it helps to be simple when developing your values.
However, the next step in simple logic results in judging people along with their acts. Behaviour and being are lumped together so that people who do good things are good and those who do bad things are bad people. Black and white thinking moves effortlessly into attitudes about all blacks and all whites.
This has a terrible effect when we include ourselves. The thinking that arises out of the instinct to survive can actually end up condemning us when we include ourselves. Unable to hold this awful truth we either kill ourselves off, literally or psychologically, or project onto others in acts or attitudes that do the same.
It is not a mental recipe for progress as it keeps the mind in one corner or another. Peace only comes to the dualistic mind from eliminating the other or resolving the two into one. The evidence of its failure is on the news from all around the world in prejudice, wars and failed resolutions.
The legalistic mind is dualistic which explains why the law is an ass. Its rhetoric can be heard in every courtroom … ‘did you or did you not …?’ as it tries to put everyone in a corner. The spawning number of laws is testimony to the failure of this approach to deal with life.
Non-dual thinking offers an alternative – the paradox.
This way of thinking often occurs naturally as people get tired of the tension between extremes. Many people ‘come to themselves’ and realise that their hearts are not in the positions they have adopted. Experience teaches us that the answers weren’t where we thought they would be … in wealth, status or security. This is the wisdom of life that develops the long view. Elders in communities are those who are honoured for having and applying this wisdom. Sadly there is no effective World Council of Elders as yet.
Elders have a perspective that can see how each can be right and yet both are ultimately wrong. This is the contradiction of truth set in the context of the paradox of life. It is the shift from an either-or polar view to a both-and overview.
The results are subtle but very powerful as life moves from being a problem to be solved to a mystery to be explored.
The Effects on Sexuality
A cursory view of humanity would show that everyone is male or female. The inconvenience of intersex was addressed by putting them into one corner or the other through operations or attitudes. The struggle for recognition for homosexuals shows how uncomfortable a spectrum of sexuality is to a polarised mindset. Typically dualistic thinkers are found in places like the establishment and religion. These were the most offended by Kinsey’s report that showed so few at either end of the sexual spectrum and that most people are effectively bisexual.
“Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats…The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects.” Kinsey
The most damaging effect of the dualistic mindset is that it generates shame. Shame makes us hide from others and from ourselves because it is not just what I do that is wrong but I myself am wrong. However, when being and doing are seperated then good and bad acts simply make us guilty. Guilt can be dealt with by repentance whereas there is no way back from shame. The antidote is a non-dualistic perspective.
Developing a new psychology based on both-and not either-or allows us to include ourselves. We can accept ourselves in the reality of who we are … somewhere on the spectrum like everyone else. Self-acceptance is a powerful initial step in personal growth with dramatic knock-on effects in our attitude to others. Acceptance of our sexuality is often one of the hardest areas in which to make progress for which many will need some sort of help.