Dichotomies

Let’s go back to when you were just a little kid barely able to walk. Your mother is trying to help you take your first steps and with each step she gets very excited and says, “Good job!” You receive her emotions and synapse those happy emotions with the word “good.” Later that day, you decide to tear up one of your toys and make a total mess on the floor. Your mother sees the mess and with disappointment, she says, “That’s bad!” The negative emotion, and possibly the punishment to follow, will become synapsed with the word “bad.”

Eventually you learn the concept of a dichotomy: if it isn’t one, it’s the other. You can place a dichotomy onto your understanding of “good” and “bad” since you know them to be opposites. You now understand that if something isn’t “good,” it’s “bad.” You have already synapsed negative emotions with “bad,” so you’ll want to avoid anything that is synapsed with “bad.” Based on the dichotomy, to be not “bad” you have to be “good.” From a very early age, we synapse the desire to be “good” and, possibly stronger, to not be “bad.” That desire is then solidified over and over until it becomes automated.

As you grow, you have new experiences and must record new memories. Because you’ve solidified the dichotomy, you now believe that all new information must be synapsed to one side of the dichotomy. Foods, behaviors, activities, words, games, rules, people; anything can be deemed “good” or “bad” and the synapse forms quickly after the information is stored.

When we place the label of “good” or “bad” onto an idea, we are forming a synapse. That synapse is very difficult to ignore and even more difficult to reverse. If you started out thinking vegetables were “bad,” it will take some real effort to change the cluster to see them as “good.” This is why our morals stay the same for so long, we originally synapsed our ideas of morality to “good” or “bad” and often we refuse to reassess our assignment.

One of the most dangerous assignments of “good” and “bad” comes from another dichotomy: success and failure. First of all, it is important to note that this is not a real dichotomy since they can both exist at the same time. Secondly, we synapse success with “good” and failure with “bad” and this could not be more wrong! Yes, it sucks to fail. But the important part is the learning.

The adaptation that set us apart from the other animals was our ability to learn. You should go ahead and synapse learning to “good,” it will help in the long run. Failure allows for learning, success allows for learning; as long as you are willing to learn more, you are doing “good.” The only time you should link a failure to “bad” is when you refuse to learn from it.

It’s important to recognize the generalizations that we have made by synapsing information to a single side of a dichotomy. When answering a question, we have been conditioned to think that being correct is “good” and incorrect is “bad.” This is a false synapse that needs to be corrected as each possibility presents an opportunity to learn. Either you’re correct and you solidify your understanding with affirmation, or you’re incorrect and you will be able to correct your understanding.

Similarly, we have synapsed the idea of saying yes, or agreeing as “good” while refusing or arguing is synapsed to “bad.” If someone asks us to get some coffee, we think it would be bad to refuse so we lie and say, “Another time.” Be truthful with your intentions. People don’t want to always be agreed with, they want the truth so they can progress with their lives.

Dichotomies are useful tools to generalize when you are figuring out the world. However, we all know that there is nothing that is only “good” and nothing that is only “bad.” Television shows and movies are starting to show more villainous heroes and more heroic villains.

There is an area of grey between every dichotomy and it is important to recognize that spectrum. It is fine to use the dichotomy of “good” and “bad” in order to get your bearings, but you’ll need to disregard it to realize your potential. The world is full of gray area, it’s up to you to recognize it.