Linda: Most of us have been brought up to think in either/or terms. We may not even realize how much it is costing us to continue these old patterns that dominate our thinking. Either/or thinking separates us from our partner. And seeing ourselves as disconnected from our partner can allow for all manner of justifications and rationalizations that allow us to make decisions of self-interest rather than in the interest of the well-being of the relationship. This is not enlightened self-interest. For only those choices that serve us both are the most skillful ones.
Here are some examples:
EITHER she gets her way OR I do. This displays a lack of creative thinking and a lack of trust that you can brainstorm together to find a mutually satisfying solution.
EITHER his job gets his time and attention OR I do. This is scarcity consciousness based on a fear that there’s not enough time and attention to go around.
EITHER you’re at fault OR I am. This does not leave any room for joint responsibility in the breakdown.
EITHER your right OR you’re wrong. This kind of black and white thinking doesn’t leave room for shades of gray, which is what most situations are composed of.
EITHER I am a success OR I’m a failure. We are all such a mixed bag and this kind of thinking doesn’t leave room for learning from our mistakes.
EITHER you’re with me OR you’re against me. Such a stance doesn’t leave room for differing points of view that can peacefully co-exist.
EITHER it's true OR it’s not. This doesn't take into account that our subjective truth can look like a universal truth, but only because we are looking at it from a stance of arrogance where we are convinced that we are right.
EITHER I take mine OR someone else will get it. This attitude comes out of anxiety that competition dominates cooperation.
EITHER he loves me OR he doesn’t. Such thinking doesn't take into account that our partner may have a great deal of love inside that isn’t being expressed the way we need it to be shown to clear up doubts in our mind. It also may not be taking into account that a great deal of love is being shown and that we have trouble taking that love in and being nourished by it.
Find out what’s really true
All of the above examples, and I’m sure that you can think of many from your own life that plague you, are ways that the thoughts in the mind keep us separate from those we love. Rather than being at the mercy of these unexamined thoughts, if we stop to assess them, we have a chance to find out what is really true. We have a chance to move beyond either/or thinking to both/and thinking, from a stance of more separation to more connection.
Once we begin to move beyond either/or thinking, we realize that how we were holding many things before was a manifestation of a less mature thought process and that now we are growing more mature, wiser, and acquiring the capacity to hold the tension of the opposites. If we can see situations from a loftier vantage point, there is more spaciousness in our thinking, and that immediately translates into the enhancement of our relationships. Instead of the former cramped existence, there is openness, curiosity, and cooperation providing room to learn and grow, the very stuff that great relationships are made of.