We Are Not One Thing

Ask yourself who you are right now? How would you describe yourself? How would someone else describe you? What characteristics would you attribute to yourself? Now look back and compare them all. Are they all consistent with each other, one building to another, building to another, meshing together in an orderly clockwork that makes up your psyche? Probably not if it’s an even remotely accurate description.

None of us are just one thing. We are multitudes of contradictions. One piece or another usually takes precedence over the rest at any given time, but the facets are always there. Who am I today? The me that has always had a desire to be untethered or the me that longs for lasting commitment and connection? Am I the one with a desire for spontaneity and adventure or the one who enjoys routine, predictability, and order? The answer, if you haven’t guessed it already, is that they are all me. They are contradictory, yet they exist within the same person. Sometimes bubbling to the surface at the same time in direct conflict with each other.

There’s little to be done about this strange situation except to accept it as the way things are. There is no reason to expect our desires to be entirely coherent and compatible. We are not programmed machines designed to avoid contradiction. We’re animal biology and instinct with crazy, messy, conflicted consciousness stacked on top. It makes for a weird experience, but it’s the only one any of us will likely ever know.

I like to watch the squirrels and birds in my backyard as they hop, scamper, and fly between the trees. They don’t seem to have a specific, robotic purpose in mind when they move, yet they don’t seem to be conflicted by indecision either. They just act in the moment. I imagine being an animal would be like one eternal now without internal conflict. Not free from struggle or external conflict. But free from the kind of vacillation that is so common to our experience.

So how do we deal with this situation of contradiction? I’d say first by admitting and accepting it as a fact. So much of our misery and dissatisfaction can be attributed to denying facts. Seeing things as they actually are rather than as you would like them to be is nearly always a first step towards anything. Then stop trying to force that situation to change. There’s no reason we shouldn’t have contradictory characteristics. It’s not a law of nature that we must be entirely consistent in our beliefs and feelings. We just need to be aware of how those inconsistencies manifest themselves and the effects they cause so that we are not further surprised or upset. Most things tend to be a union of opposites. One cannot exist without the other. Humans seem to be no different. There can’t be happiness if there is no sadness. There can’t be excitement if there is not calm. These all exist within us. Embrace the contradictions.

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