I can’t tell you how many times in the course of my work I have said to a client “and what would the middle ground be?” Many of us seem to live at one or the other end of a continuum. Equally, I think the human brain has a tendency to hold only one truth at a time.
The current pandemic is a good example. The pandemic asks us to hold two truths: there is hope and there is despair. When we find ourselves in a moment of despair (I think that’s what the “pandemic depression” is all about – I made that up, but still) we go down a rabbit hole of despair and feel trapped. Our thoughts and visions of the future are down that rabbit hole with us – so they can’t possibly be positive or hopeful. We lose our connection to a lot of the things that would keep the fact that this is “a moment” of despair – available to us. We feel lethargic and powerless. We find ourselves frustrated and sad. Worst, is when we actually feel hopeless. So the “skill” at this challenging time is how to hold two truths: there is in fact hope while there is despair.
Another place where holding two truths might be an important skill is in our relationships. Can we be upset with someone but know that the relationship is fundamentally sound and solid? Some of us struggle in times of tension to hold on to the bigger picture .. the bigger picture about the safety and security of the relationship. We need to make room within us for two truths.
Some of us can recognize we live relatively comfortable lives. And yet, when adversity hits, as it always does, we seem to throw all that good out and believe our lives are awful (kind of like the pandemic rabbit hole of despair, remember?). So how do we hold on to the middle ground? The place that holds suffering as well as joy?
Or what about when we feel proud of ourselves, feel assertive, feel like we’ve done a good job .. and we make one mistake and all that gets undone. How do we hold on to the truth that we are good people that sometimes make mistakes, rather than turning the story into I can’t do anything right?
Just like the Milk Thistle Flower… a spiky, dangerous, and painful thorn, that is also crowned by a soft, beautiful flower; two contradicting truths often live together.