I am often the victim of analysis paralysis. Some situations seem too complex to be decisive. Other times, I get lost in the concern for others: how they feel about a situation, or what they might want to make of it.
One way to deal with complexity is to simplify the problem through dualities. I can divide the situation as a case of one thing against another. This way I am choosing, not about “being healthier” but do I want to want to be able to chase my kids around the yard and play soccer with them or do I want to have just enough energy to lift a cup of coffee while I watch them have fun?
We often employ this method without thinking, however. It is all around us. We make questions of race into black vs. white. We reframe questions of police brutality to say that we are either loving or hating police officers. We instinctively know that dividing our world into two groups of us and them is an effective strategy for making decisions.
Using dualities eliminates the complexity. It makes it easier to see the truth in complicated situations, to reveal our internal motivations, and discover what matters most to us. It is an effective strategy to make our lives better.
Making the world into either/or decisions also makes bad decisions easier, too. One is far more easily persuaded when there is only a single choice. That makes this a dangerous tool for making decisions. It is far easier to go to war, build on protected land, and destroy animal habitats.
It also makes the fallout from that choice, the repercussions, easier to tolerate. These become part of the necessity of acting decisively. What’s a little global warming if we can drive our cars; how else will we get to work? Or that infamous “mushroom cloud” argument in the case for the invasion of Iraq.
When working with dualities, just remember that the world isn’t actually as simple as you’ve just made it.
More thoughts on dualities and simplified ideas can be found in the following articles:
- Oversimplifying the problem is killing us
- Don’t have time for taking sides
- The Two Politics
- Our Dream and Our Reality
- From Ferguson to the Washington Football Team