The world appears to us as we choose to see it. Most of us see the world in binary terms, framing our experience in pairs of opposites. These pairs of opposites define and limit our perception by shrinking the world into a kind of template; that template in turn limits our choices and actions. Recognizing and dismantling this template is the key to seeing things as they truly are, which frees us to live fully.
Our templates are made of qualities—words for which we form our own definitions, often unconsciously. Essentially, qualities are labels that define and limit. On a preverbal level, qualities begin as vibrations within us. Those vibrations form words, which then dictate how we label ourselves and all we encounter—how we interact with the world. Our minds sort our experience of those vibrations into dichotomies, seeing everything in terms of two opposing choices.
But the process doesn’t stop there. In reality, the mind works in what I call fourchotomies. Our dichotomies are more complex than they at first seem; each quality exists in relation with three other components, not just one alternative. In every dichotomy, the negative quality has a positive component, and the positive quality has a negative component. Depending on whether we start from a quality we consider positive or negative, a fourchotomy will take one of these two forms:
|Negative Quality||Positive Opposing Quality|
|Positive Form of Negative Quality||Negative Form of Positive Quality|
|Positive Quality||Negative Opposing Quality|
|Negative Form of Positive Quality||Positive Form of Negative Quality|
For example, the quality of impulsivity is usually seen as negative. If we look for its positive opposite, we may well choose the quality of being careful. But impulsivity has a positive element: spontaneity. And carefulness has a negative element: uptightness. So our fourchotomy might look like this:
|Impulsive||is the opposite of||Careful|
|is the negative of||is the positive of|
|Spontaneous||is the opposite of||Uptight|
If our starting quality is one we consider positive—say, assertiveness—the fourchotomy maps out differently:
|Assertive||is the opposite of||Passive|
|is the positive of||is the negative of|
|Aggressive||is the opposite of||Gracious|
The real problems arise when we fail to discern between the positive and negative components of one side of a dichotomy. We then conflate the positive and the negative—for instance, calling ourselves spontaneous when we are really impulsive, or careful when we are really uptight. We might also call ourselves uptight when we are really just being careful. We will conflate vibrations, words, and meanings to maintain our worldview. And once we conflate the terms of a fourchotomy, we lose our discernment. In order to see clearly, we need to acknowledge all four components and arrive at a point where we are attached to none of them.
Even our notions of “positive” and “negative” can be conflated in a fourchotomy The qualities that are positive to us are those with which we are identified; even a trait we think of as “negative” can be positive in this way. If we think of ourselves as selfish, manipulative, pathetic, and cruel, then we believe those qualities are actually who we are. We cling to these qualities precisely because we have come to believe they are essential to our being, and that giving them up would mean ceasing to exist.
If we want to tear down this prison of words, we must recognize, understand, and accept the entire grid. Only when we achieve this will we free ourselves from seeing the world through the blinders of our wrong identifications.
Accordingly, we have to accept within ourselves every quality in a fourchotomy. Transcending them requires owning them completely. “Owning” means not merely accepting the qualities in principle, but recognizing how they color every aspect of our lives. It is not enough to own three out of four qualities; the remaining term we haven’t accepted is enough to, if triggered, reopen all of them.
There is no quality we can ever regard as not applying to us. If we recognize it in our world, then it is within us; if we don’t recognize it, it is still within us, because we are human. The point is to be fully human. When we are fully human, Love informs all our words and actions; then we are we free to manifest all qualities appropriately.
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