Balancing

Posted: January 11, 2011 in Psychology
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Balancing

This is an example of the most advanced type of article I will be posting on my psychology site; change articles. These posts examine the tools we need to make real change in our lives.

I’ve kept you waiting because this summary of balancing keeps trying to turn itself into a book. As a result, I’ve broken down the different approaches and started an additional seven articles which will appear later. What follows is one way of summarizing balancing.

When you don’t realize there is a balance in everything, you can become trapped in a point of view and fail to grow. An awareness of balance keeps you moving toward maturity.

The Philosophy of Balancing

Western philosophy emphasizes our striving toward becoming something more than our nature and nurture. It is a pursuit of the good with failures viewed as part of the journey. The ideal is to never fail at all. Failure in this context is a failure to pursue the good. Therefore, balance is part of the concept since we all need to take a break now and then to avoid burning out.

There is an even stronger balance revealed in the history of western philosophy. It is the balance between essence and existence. Your essence is clearly defined when you become set in your life choices. Throughout most of human history, humanity didn’t have much freedom to change. You would have had a life nearly identical to your same gender parent. Early philosophers sought the essence of humanity in this stability.

After the renaissance and industrial revolution, there was a growing freedom to change jobs, location, and social class. Making this change is taking a plunge into existence. Once the change is made and a person becomes settled, it’s a return to essence. Essence isn’t so interesting because even animals have essence. We are the only being that is able to exist, to change ourselves. It is this ability to change our existence that has allowed us to move on to higher forms of civilization throughout history.

Eastern philosophy also has something to say about balance. Taoism is all about balance and recognizes that when one side is taken to extremes it becomes it’s opposite.

There is a tradition in China where a person follows Confucian philosophy during their working career, sticking with conformity and the pursuit of money. After retirement, they become Taoist and nonconformist.

The Science of Balancing

Science searches for the nature of reality while the arts search for the meaning of life. While this site is more about our lives than the world we live in, self and world is also an important balance. You are always a self in a world. If you do not engage your world you may as well be living in a cave. On the other hand, the world without you has no meaning.

Theoretical physics is the highest level of the sciences and Stephen Hawking has introduced an interesting balance in his writings. I’m not quoting him directly here. He can have the credit for what’s on target and I’ll take the blame for what is not.

All particles in the universe have anti-particles. Normally, electrical charges keep these opposites apart so they do not cancel each other out. In black holes, the compression is so great that particles and anti-particles come together and are annihilated. The universe is expanding from the Big Bang. At some time in the far future, this expansion will reverse and become a compression. If so, the center of the universe would then become a giant black hole that would eventually annihilate the entire universe. That would leave no matter. If matter must become energy to be annihilated, the energy from the entire universe would then be concentrated at the universal black hole. It’s release would be another big bang. So then what? There is no space or time before the Big Bang. Does the universe repeat itself again exactly the same? What causes the Big Crunch to become the Big Bang? Why would the universe switch from expanding to contractiing? Hawkings’ latest book talks about multiple universes, so there’s no shortage of ideas in this field. You can see why it’s called theoretical physics.

Because everything that is has an opposite that can annihilate it, the totality of reality is nothing. Existential philosophers have asked about that nothing, sometimes raising very old questions. Why is there something rather than nothing? What about nothing? We are always interested in something. Nobody wants to talk about the nothing. Nothing must exist for there to be something. If there weren’t empty space between us and other objects, we would not be able to see or hear anything.

I’ve come back around to philosophy again, but summarizing does require a good foundation. Philosophy is nothing if not the foundation of all the arts and sciences.

To understand the totality of reality, you can either understand everything or understand nothing. If you try to understand everything, you will fail. The sum of all human knowledge will not give you an understanding of everything. If you try to understand nothing, you will reach enlightenment but won’t have anything logical to say about it. Some Western religions have something to say about this through writings by their mystics, but mostly they ignore the whole idea. To really understand enlightenment, it will be necessary to explore Eastern religions.

The Psychology of Balancing

The most direct interest psychology takes in balancing is correcting imbalance. If you have a clinical psychological disorder, you should be getting professional one-on-one help. On the other hand, if you only detect a minor disturbance in the force, self-help books and websites may be all you need. The Motivational and Personal Development articles on this site try to help with this kind of imbalance.

A deeper balancing is addressed by developmental psychology. Specifically, the analyses of the stages of life. This is similar to the philosophy of essence and existence.

Children live in a stable world. Choices are made for them by their parents and other caregivers. Even if those choices make their life a hell on earth, their world appears stable because there is nothing they can do to change it.

Adolescents live in an unstable world. At some time before age 26, or not at all in some cases, physical, intellectual and emotional maturity develop. They rarely develop in unity and the growing freedom seems more like chaos to the person who was a child not long ago. This thrashing around in existence on a search for the adult self appears immature to observers. Anyone who deals with group social events can tell you that groups of 10 year olds seem more mature than groups of 15 year olds. Why is that?

Adults have made their choices for a career, spouse, social life and leisure interests. They have returned to stability and are more mature than children because they have made their own choices. Adolescents are viewed as immature because they are in a stage of life that is all about change. Change is required for growth. Without the chaos of adolescence, a person would remain a child and live a life imposed by others.

Mid-Life Change is a repeat of the adolescent stage. When this change is not planned, it is a Mid-Life Crisis and a person can seem as immature as a teenager while they’re sorting out the chaos and creating a new life for themselves. Planned life change is much smoother and leads to a higher level of maturity as a person increases their knowledge and skills.

Maturity is a stage of life that is achieved by almost no one. Every time an adult makes a life change, they achieve greater maturity. Once the change is set, they have returned to the adult stage. To achieve full maturity requires the ability to adapt to any change. Adaptability is perfected through many planned life changes. Every time a person goes through a life change, they are plunged into the existential unknown and confront anxiety. This causes unhappiness. Once stability is restored, they have defined their new essence and can live a happy life again. Few choose to pursue maturity because of the anxiety and unhappiness that are part of growth. And why should they? Isn’t it better to be a happy adult than suffer through continuing growth?

You can see that there is also a balance in mid-life change. If it is avoided, it will come as a mid-life crisis and potentially destroy your career, marriage, relationships and other interests. At the other extreme, if you are changing at every opportunity, others can’t keep up with you and you pay the price of loneliness. A good balance in life change requires an awareness of life change opportunities that advance your life goals.

Balancing Your Career

Your career is something you would like to have continually progressing toward higher levels. This is like Western Philosophy’s striving toward the good. The balance that comes into play is tied into the life change balance.

A career begins with a job at the bottom. As your knowledge and skills improve, you advance to more difficult positions. To speed up career advancement, you may change companies. After enough time working as a subordinate employee, you move on to a dominate position and work as a lead or manager. When you’ve become adept at management, you leave employee work behind and become an entrepreneur by growing your own company.

Careers are similar to life change because they are part of it. Just as few take life change to the level of maturity, few take their career to the level of entrepreneurship.

Balancing Daily Life

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. All play and no work make Jill a welfare bum. Work must be balanced with a healthy leisure and social life.

Life change can come into play again here. While the need for career change is hard to miss, many people fail to see that they need to plan for change to their life outside of work. Letting life fall into a boring routine is the path toward life crisis instead of life change. A life crisis can destroy careers, marriages, and other relationships. It’s better to plan change than have it forced upon you.

I hope this has been an engaging introduction to the topic of balancing. There are many sub-topics in this area and so there will be many more articles.



Article text copyright 2011 David Arthur Smith. All Rights Reserved.

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