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Demystifying Paradox

Posted on 2014.05.06 at 00:00
Current Location: 67114
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Just because some people only see paradoxically when there is an internal emotional struggle, doesn't necessarily mean it may accurately reflect the situation in which the label has been applied. I've been told many times, IF(action)/THEN(meaning) which has resulted in some dazzling over-simplifications. I paint the picture of 1000 disparate emotions - each represented by a different color - being swirled together on a spinning canvas. One cannot look at all the emotions sometimes conflicting and sometimes not, then issue a generalized statement which tidily explains everything in black and white terms. Rarely is life ever as simple as that.

As a literary device, paradox refers to the use of concepts or ideas that are contradictory to one another, yet, when placed together hold significant value on several levels. The uniqueness of paradoxes lies in the fact that a deeper level of meaning and significance is not revealed at first glace, but when it does crystallize, it provides astonishing insight.1

In many situations, I believe the "astonishing insight" cannot be achieved without first initiating a sort of internal brainstorming session - cataloging all the different scenarios in which the perceived outcome would be true - up to and including our own actions. It would be a gross misjustice of causality to assign fault and look for blame while seeking conclusions. These things rarely occur in a vacuum. In fact that's probably the best way to ensure an unfavorable outcome, because the answer will invariably be based upon false pretenses - means it'll be wrong.

My kids ask the hard questions sometimes, out of curiosity. Trying to think of the worst thing possible, my son asked my wife and I several years ago, "Would you still love me if I killed someone?" We explained intent. This was followed by numerous questions trying to determine if a series of bad behavior would ever stop us from loving him, which eventually lead into the subject of unconditional love - which turns out some people fantastically misapply. Once the conversation had moved off his own actions, and onto the actions of others I began struggling with articulating the complexity of loving someone so wholly, and yet not wanting to have anything to do with them because of their behavior; black and white thinkers lack comprehension of the complexity of human emotion, and to them LOVE and HATE can be turned on or off, like a switch, since its how they experience them. But then I ran across this, which helped me explain the many diversities of love and behavior and joy and sadness:

My personal philosophy is that there is a difference between unconditionally loving someone and unconditionally living with them, staying in close proximity to them, or remaining in a relationship with them. We can love someone unconditionally from a distance while having conditions for how they treat us.2

My kids, while young and inexperienced, are more emotionally mature than I was even 20 years ago. I say this because I've tried explaining to some adults that IF(action)/THEN(meaning) can sometimes be an inaccurate oversimplification, especially when considered from a broader emotional perspective - the reply to which is usually (of course), "Nuh-uh." Because when we think in EITHER/OR terms, the only correct answer is ever going to be our own answer, despite whether its actually true, or not. We then disbelieve any seemingly contrary explanation and close our minds in purposeful ignorance. That's no way to go through life.

If you can, I beg of you, challenge my point of view, and show me something new and fantastic. I'll be here waiting.

1 - http://literary-devices.com/frontpage?page=5
2 - http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/04/06/when-unconditional-love-has-conditions/


michelle1963 at 2014-05-08 02:22 (UTC) (Link)
In practical terms, the IF(action)/THEN(meaning) oversimplification creates relationship havoc - whether it be in couples, friendships, co-workers. Why? Because the majority of time it's dead wrong.

I have experienced it most often in the work place (people who exhibit this irrational behavior do not become my friends - I am sure the decision is mutual). Perhaps a coworker is having an off day. Me? I look at the behavior and formulate a dozen possible reasons for the unusual behavior and do not decide upon any one particular explanation until I have facts to validate - usually the person him or herself divulging the reason. Sometimes I never unequivocally know the reason, and the question remains open.

However, those who ascribe to the IF(action)THEN(meaning) universally seem to jump to the conclusion that said coworker's odd behavior is somehow about them, and they ALWAYS assign a negative meaning.

I recollect one time in which a person was having issues at home so was a little withdrawn and distracted, and the IF(action)THEN(meaning) employee decided she was being dissed. I so wanted to explain to the drama queen that everyone in the office had lives, and the whole world did not revolve around her. But I knew she wouldn't get it, so I didn't waste breath.

The sad thing is such people can make a workplace environment toxic.

Edited at 2014-05-08 02:24 am (UTC)
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