Balancing the extremes (depolarizating perspectives)

When I am certain I am right, and someone else is wrong on a given issue or view…

I can know that this is an opportunity to learn about the bigger picture.

Democrats and Republicans often look at their views as mutually exclusive, which means it has to be one or the other.

Pro-life (conservative) or pro-choice (liberal). Check one box or the other. Choose your side.

Logically defend your position, and do anything you can to discredit anyone who thinks within other categories.

No one can win that argument, because people can use logic to back up anything. I could use sound logic to create a case for any belief out there.

If I want you to worship the spoon I used to binge eat some amazingly delicious vegan ice cream last night, I could construct an elaborate web of logical ideas, all focused on the plan of proving that spoon to be a deity.

And that would be silly.

But I could do it. I could even believe it.

Persuading you to believe it is another story.

Just like it’s another story getting people to see any other perspective that they don’t already see by default.

To some people, your political and religious beliefs are as silly as a spoon being a deity.

And it’s a frustrating playing field to be on, with all sides thinking that everyone who disagrees with them is wrong.

It’s futile, and there’s no end to the blood that will be shed on that path.

I am a passionate person who has pushed far into the extremes throughout my life.

When I have identified as a Christian, I did so with all of my heart. I used the gift of logic to defend the bible. I was so up close to it that I could not see past it.

At different intervals, I’ve used logic to debunk the bible.

In my subjective world at the time, both viewpoints made sense. And either way, I could build strong logical cases that would compel others to consider my ideas.

And neither viewpoint, in and of itself, did much to benefit my life.

It’s appealing to use logic to make sense of the madness and mayhem of life, but it can be a trap.

It’s a trap because when it makes sense, it seems true. And if it seems true, then we stop considering alternatives.

Or we stop looking for the ways that other perspectives can enhance our own to build a sense of the bigger picture.

I like to think of all possible human perspectives as broken shards of a porcelain vase, which was once a whole, unified object.

Then it fell and shattered, and its pieces scattered everywhere, all across the astral plane.

As consciousness developed, the shards were collected by different groups of people all across history; but they didn’t realize that each shard once belonged to a larger object.

So each group defends their fragment as truth, not realizing it fits together with other group’s fragments to make a whole.

Let’s stop arguing about who is right and who is wrong.

Let’s commit ourselves to seeing how our ideas fit together.

How can what you believe make me more whole?

How can the truths that I’ve discovered add depth and fulfillment to your life?

Recovery

One area of my life I’ve been back and forth through the extremes with is recovery, and my perception of addiction and mental illness.

In 2006 when I was 25, I entered recovery and was taught that addiction is an incurable disease that will be with me for the rest of my life.

I found the thought sobering and helpful, though also discouraging.

Helpful, because it explained my out-of-control behavior. Discouraging, because it’s a disease.

It gave context to my struggle. Filled in gaps in my knowledge. But over time, I became dissatisfied, and looked for other answers.

Turning points

The Alcoholism and Addiction Cure by Chris Prentiss was a book that changed my life. I found the ideas refreshing, radical, and transformative.

Around 2008, I found out about SMART Recovery groups, which worked out a bit better at the time, than the 12-step model (Alcoholics Anonymous).

The overall ideal for me became that my empowerment was in my hands, and it was up to me to learn the tools to perpetuate a brighter future.

The 12-step journey begins by admitting powerlessness over the disease of addiction.

Despite running into the same dead ends time and time again and feeling completely powerless and out of control, I have rarely been able to humble myself enough to say, “I am powerless” and to defer my will to a higher power.

SMART Recovery uses a cognitive behavioral model of treatment, based on rational thinking and developing practical skills to manage emotions and behaviors.

But see, a dichotomy builds here. An us vs. them mentality. SMART vs. Alcoholics Anonymous. One or the other. As if their ideas are mutually exclusive.

Like finding pieces of the porcelain vase and failing to see that they actually fit together.

I have been ardent in my dismissal of addiction as an incurable disease, mostly while struggling with my vices in the shadows.

You might be surprised how vicious the fighting gets, between those who believe addiction is a disease and those who disagree.

Or maybe you would not be surprised at all. I mean, we live in a society where people sometimes riot in the streets over the winning or losing of sports events.

Our inflexible commitment to our loyalties is staggering.

The need to be right and to prove others wrong is a prime indicator that another course of thinking may be optimal.

Because it’s not about what’s right and what’s wrong.

It’s about each person’s perspective. Each person’s understanding of life and how that understanding helps them cope and function in this world.

The argument of “am I powerless over addiction?” vs. “am I empowered to transcend addiction?” is brittle due to its limited scope.

What happens when we combine the ideas and see the bigger picture?

The question could become, “By humbling myself to the notion that I am powerless in my addiction, could I tap into a power greater than me to transcend it?”

It seems like a paradox sometimes, but it’s true. There’s power in humility. In getting out of your own way. In giving up control, and letting the forces of the universe carry you.

Over these past couple years, I have gone back down into my mind’s rabbit holes on dextromethorphan. Found all sorts of treasures there. And tried to tell the world, “Look what I found!”

It’s a foolish game, but a fun one. A meaningful one. A game I needed to play.

And as long as I live, I will stand up for people’s rights to explore their minds and bodies in ways that resonate with them.

I won’t back down until the stigma of using drugs for mind expansion is a distant memory.

I won’t shut up about all the ways society is misinformed about drugs, or until our laws and cultural perceptions are fair and accommodating.

But I am also going to listen more, to what other people are saying. Strive to understand more. To be more compassionate, sensitive, and understanding to other ways of thinking.

I’ve pushed far into my extremes, and my points are valid.

But so are yours. So are everyone’s.

So let’s listen to each other’s stories.

Let’s find pieces of ourselves in those stories.

And instead of judging others for their actions, or their differences, look for our similarities and reflections of each other.

Anyone with an opposite point of view could be your greatest teacher and your most blessed student.

They see something you don’t. You see something they don’t.

Combine your perspectives. See everything there is to see.

Even in my passion for drugs and their potential to incite remarkable personal and cultural transformations, I’m at a point in which I need to slow down and be cautious.

To analyze my own intentions, and to proceed wisely.

I don’t want to face any more legal consequences. Or to push through needless pain and conflict with friends and family.

I want to find the middle path.

To weave together the validity of everyone who seemingly opposes me with my own threads of knowledge, practice, and conviction.

I have no intention of fully abstaining from drug use.

I do have the intention of fully abstaining from using drugs as a coping mechanism.

That’s a vital distinction. And a slippery slope, I know.

But for now, I see it as a slope worth traversing.

I also do not want to use drugs anymore, when I know that doing so will have a negative impact on people who care about me.

My family and I have strived to build bridges of understanding between our seemingly-disparate perspectives.  I am proud of my parents, for example, for working so hard to accept and love me despite not always understanding my actions.

Understanding is a two-way passage. By understanding and consciously relating more to others, space is created for them to be receptive to you in kind.

Basically: If you want others to be more receptive to you, then be less stubborn yourself. Look for and actively acknowledge the merit in other people’s perspectives. See what happens. It might just be magical.

My parents have worked hard to accept me and grow with me, but it’s a process. The process happens in cycles and each cycle seems to bring us closer to balance and harmony. Each time, we learn a little more. Perform a little better, ever so slightly, in our interpersonal tests.

Although we’ve made progress in understanding each other, my actions can still be seen as disconcerting to my parents when it comes to drug use. Therefore, I often choose to forego my desire to use drugs in consideration of their feelings.

Which is good for me in building discipline, and healthy for my relationships.

At some intervals, perhaps total abstinence will be required.

Other times, maybe I’ll party like it’s 2005.

I’ll make mistakes. I’ll admit them.

I’ll triumph, and I’ll own it.

And just keep doing what I’ve always done: To keep doing the best I can with what I’ve got.

To get up every day and be the caretaker of my mind, body, and spirit. To improve, develop, expand, and inspire and empower others do the same. To create, innovate, and transform onward to new individual, social, and cultural horizons.

To actualize a future that works for everyone, everywhere. No one is left out, none are taken for granted.

We’re all valid. We can all be winners.

When we knock others down to achieve victory, our success is not sustainable.

When we all lift each other up, our momentum is perpetual.

Which means, it’s never your duty to prove another person wrong. Relinquish that need entirely.

Instead, look for the validity and utility in other people’s perceptions.

Combine your pieces of the porcelain vase with theirs.

When the vase is wholly put together again, we can display it on the mantle.

Inside of it will rest the ashes of this delusional and fragmented world that we once knew.


Also published on Medium.