Black and White Thinking

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Most people have grown accustomed to a mind-set which allows room for only one right answer or one right perspective.  When we adopt this black and white orientation, our spouse becomes our competitor rather than our partner.

There is a famous Sufi teaching story about three blind men who meet up with an elephant walking down the road, the first man comes upon the elephant’s side and says to his companions that they have come to a wall at the end of the road. The second man bumps into one of the elephant’s legs, wraps his arms around it and asserts  that it is only a tree. A moment later the third blind man comes  into contact with the elephant’s tail and assures his cohorts that nothing but a rope. Each man clings to but a little piece of the truth, ignoring how that piece might fit with the others, needing to believe that they, alone, are correct, and all other opinions are wrong.

Or how many of you have seen that black and white ink drawing of a young pretty woman’s profile that morphs (with a shift in perspective) into an ugly witch with a long nose? The two opposite images are both there at the same time, but depending on one’s perspective, one is seen and not the other.

When working with couples, it always amusing when one partner insists that there is only one image. Only after repeatedly encouraged to see the other face will this spouse finally agree that there are, indeed, more than one perspective in the same image or the same situation. Reality is only perceived . . . and can easily change . . . all depending on how we look at things.

This conscious awareness of the ‘other’ and his or her separate view point not only helps couples respect each other’s different ways of thinking about things, but it also encourages an honoring of each other’s different preferences, different styles and different ways of doing things.

The truth is not limited, not exclusive, but rather inclusive.  It includes more, not less. It is not Either/Or but rather ‘Both/And. And if we insist on having a corner on the truth, we may, indeed, be left out in the cold!

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