Absolutes vs. Tendencies

Take ‘your thoughts create your reality’ for example. For the Absolutist in me, one counterexample will nullify that claim. It’s easy, we’ve all got plenty of examples in our lives. This morning I was certain there’d be no clean plastic cups… lo and behold, there were. And how come Mick Jagger didn’t die before he got old?

The desire to hastily discount a notion without sufficient consideration can itself be the pitfall of jumping to a convenient conclusion1.

The Generalist in me will look for the value in the statement, if any. In this example there is plenty— it is up to me put my best foot forward. My goals are my responsibility. I can let others drive the tone of a discussion, or I can take the reins… I am either responsible or culpable. Expecting the outcomes I want has a more potent ability to forward those outcomes; expecting unfavorable outcomes is just as potent, only in the opposite directions.

Too, The Generalist should realize that such a statement only indicates tendencies, not absolutes. Jogging regularly increases the likelihood of winning a race, it doesn’t guarantee it.

Either position can be taken to the extreme (though an absolutist is more likely to do so, because, well, that is the nature of absolutism). The danger in not appreciating the notion is you are less likely to recognize your contribution to whatever is going on in your life and feel more like a victim, and less likely to take advantage of your own power in situations. The danger in over appreciating the notion? Perhaps your self-esteem might drop as you take personal responsibility for unfavorable situations that really were out of your hands. But then a lowered self esteem in and of itself is a failure to take the notion at its word… if my thoughts create my reality, then I can take charge of my own self esteem.

Same statement, opposite viewpoints, both are true. One viewpoint has more upside and fewer drawbacks.

Citations

  1. Pseudoscience, Pseudo-skepticism and Rejection Bias []
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