Uniting Extremes: A State of Balance - Part 1

Posted on 2016-03-24 By Joanna

Each of us is an unique individual - with unique needs, wants, wishes. Mainstream psychology has been focusing on developing a standardised guidance on how to be a person and how to live our lives. Although I am not against a science such as psychology, is it always beneficial to follow an 'algorithm' which is nothing more than a mean of all measured behaviours and which defines each individual who is outside of that norm as disordered or cursed?

On a very basic level, yes, we are all the same - we have the same needs that must to be satisfied in order to survive. We are all approaching death. We might laugh at similar situations. We might get sad about exactly the same reason. However - this is just a basic level of humanity.

'Higher' levels are different for each of us - we go through different experiences, we might reason about the world in different and unique ways, we might interpret what we perceive in different ways.

Can this level be really standardised for each of us? Therefore, we have two extremes: we are all unique individuals, and yet, we are part of the whole and share the same characteristics with others. Many schools of philosophy point to the nature of things as being expressed in dualities. One pole cannot exist without the other, and going too far into either of the extremes will cause imbalance - a state of incompleteness, lacking something, perceiving only half of the truth.

Falling into this state could be compared to falling into a trap, especially when it comes to 'being'. A person might either become such a big part of their social group that they forget their individuality. Or in contrast, the other person might be so immersed in their individualism, that they cannot perceive any relation to the rest of the people. Again, either of these sides reflects a half of the truth and incompleteness.

Some people say - we are all one. Which isn't entirely true because if we were meant to be one, we wouldn't have separated bodies and minds.

Others don't really care to state anything at all, as they are immersed into their narcissistic individuality and ignorance towards other people.

From the one side, these differences and extremes might cause even bigger split between people, and perhaps even prepare a ground for a conflict. From the other side, being aware of the extremes can help us to accurately map the balance point - the middle path.

The Middle Path

In Buddhism, the Middle Path is defined as an approach to life that encompasses all extremes, without falling into either of them. Some might say - that is close to passivity, however, passivity involves going with a flow without an awareness and without making decisions (although even becoming passive could be considered as a decision).

This school of thought emphasises that the very nature of things is expressed in dualities, and it is within our willpower to choose which side to perceive. Because of this ability to perceive both the positive and the negative at the same time, we can choose moderation - rather than greed, and navigate swiftly towards the best decision in order to minimise pain and maximise satisfaction.

When we are greedy and fall into any of the extremes - whether it is a positive one or a negative one - we can be certain that the other side will show up sooner or later, either by our own realisation or by someone else's generosity to point the other extreme to us. Generosity, yes, because to have someone to point us what we are not aware of is one of the greatest gifts we can receive.

Could we therefore attempt to assume that in essence, psychology aims at defining 'the middle path' by creating the mean, the average, the norm? Does the definition of a 'healthy' person describe the behaviours that don't fall into extremes? To what extent can we believe that e.g. the sample of individuals who are being measured reflect the true nature of humanity?

What if the very mean of 'normal' behaviours is unhealthy because the average individual is unhealthy? Who is there to decide what perception of the reality is the accurate one and who to consider as being healthy?

Go to part 2