Life’s Many Balances

Posted: August 13, 2017 in Psychology
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Any scroll through an internet news site will convince you there are many unbalanced people in the world. Some people become unbalanced through drugs or mental illness. Others became obsessed with the wrong things. How can we avoid falling into this tragic comedy of the damned? Become aware of the importance of balance.

There are many ways to balance your world. The concepts below come from psychology and philosophy. It doesn’t matter if you agree with their subjects. Learn instead to see how everything has an opposite and creating a balance will keep you out of trouble.

Each balance below starts with the philosophy behind it. This is followed by the psychology of balancing in our everyday experience. Most end with some practical application.

Good and Evil

Eastern philosophy emphasizes the Tao (Yin Yang) of good and evil. The good is creative and productive action. The evil is uncreative and destructive action.

The “secret” to a happy life is focusing on the positive and acting on it. All action leads to some negative reaction. We discover our weaknesses. Equipment breaks down. Others are not interested or oppose our actions. For an unhappy life, focus on the negative. Positive things still happen for the negative person. Work still comes with a paycheck. Positive people try to help. Lunch is still a good time.

A well balanced person prefers the positive and accepts the negative. When everything is going great, they prepare for problems that will come up later. When everything is falling apart, they remember that it will be good again. They focus on what’s working while doing damage control on the problem areas.

Masculine and Feminine

The Tao also refers to the balance between masculine and feminine. Men and women have both, usually more of their own gender. The classic view put all of the negative on the feminine and all of the positive on the masculine. Feminism would reverse that picture. Reality is somewhere in the middle. Each have both positive and negative qualities.

Every woman does some things that are considered masculine. Every man does some things that are considered feminine. It’s part of being a well rounded person.

Essence and Existence (Happiness and Freedom)

Western philosophy is strong on the balance between essence and existence. We are essentialist when we remain the same and can be easily defined by others. We are existentialist when we change at will. We are all existentialist as we change from one career to another, for example.

We need existentialism to give us room to grow and a way to work our way through breakdowns. We need essentialism to give us a sense of security and lasting meaning.

Here’s a lighter version. At the most basic level, we need to find a balance between stability and freedom. We have stability when we are happy with our relationships, our work, and our possessions. This happiness comes at a cost – our freedom. If we don’t want anything to change, we voluntarily give up the freedom to change. If we’re happy, that shouldn’t matter. Should it?

Now consider essence and existence in their practical application. Happiness is found in conformity. Freedom is found in non-conformity. If you don’t take either position to extremes, you will fit into society. Take your conformity to extremes and you put your worldviews above the law. Take your non-conformity to extremes and you offend everyone. Both extremes are good plans for getting into the prison system. Balance is the solution.

Work versus Leisure

Go back in history more than 100 years and most people wouldn’t understand this distinction. They got up in the morning, worked all day with no breaks except meals, and went to bed. They repeated this every day until they died. Work and life were the same thing. Leisure didn’t exist.

Today, we have more leisure than work. Mostly. Pick the wrong career or the wrong company and that may not be the case. We can wipe out leisure by our own choice too. Grabbing all available overtime. Taking a part time job. Volunteering. It’s not hard to live a life of all work and no play. Careful choices can make the difference. Work you enjoy doing can seem like leisure. That’s why some workaholics live stress free lives.

On the other hand, all leisure is a good way to make ourselves artificially mentally handicapped. Plenty of people do that and democracy makes it easy. Get a good job, do the same thing for 40 years, retire and wonder why nothing makes sense. You can lose your ability to learn.

Some people stick with the same job for decades and don’t lose their ability to learn. They learn new hobbies. They take online courses or go to night school. They work on developing relationships. And many careers are of a type where continuous learning is part of the job.

A good balance between work and leisure is a good life.

Individuality and Society

Your individuality is a freedom to be you. Your social self is conformance to standards set by your work world, social group, and government.

Take conformity to extremes by submitting your will to society and you can feel you are disappearing as a person. Safeguard your individuality too well and you will become detached from society and other people. Both are minor forms of mental disorder.

We balance our individuality and sociability by developing varied interests that make us unique individuals and then joining social groups that share those interests. Some of us insist on strengthening our individuality with a few non-social interests, like reading or watching movies.

Balance between Mind, Body and Emotions

We are triune beings. Our mind, body, and emotions all need to be exercised if we don’t want to become weak and have problems later in life. Failing to learn new things for a long time will make it harder to take up new studies. Failing to exercise for a long time will make it harder to get in shape. Failing to control our emotions will eventually lead to emotional problems.

There are businesses and institutions dedicated to helping strengthen all three areas. There are also lots of blogs on each, so I won’t go further on this most interesting topic.

I’ve talked about some of the most serious types of balancing here, but it pops up in practical matters all the time. Consider article writing. If I write an article on a topic covering all the central ideas with no digressions, it will be like many other articles on the topic. If I don’t research an article at all, it will be unique but poorly informed. The ideal article is somewhere in the middle. There are balances to be considered everywhere.

When I find that I’m working on an idea that doesn’t seem quite right, even a work assignment, I’ll ask myself if there is an opposite. There usually is and by considering the two sides I can find a middle way that’s on track.

Any time you feel like things are going the wrong way, ask yourself if there is some opposite way. The opposite may also be a wrong, but by finding a balance between the two you can often find a clear vision of your path.

Article by Ivan Izo.

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