The Trick to Escaping Duality

The Guide teaches that truth is a spectrum. It spans from one end, let’s call it black, through all the myriad grey areas, and includes the other end which in this case is white. But truth doesn’t stop there. The whole truth manages to embrace these opposites, and then travels onward from there to include even more.

The Guide also likens truth to the view out of two sides of a train. The landscape out one side might be completely different from the other side, and yet it’s all connected. In truth, everything is all one continuous panorama.

What’s not included along any band of truth are the oh-so-many distortions that arise. For as the Guide also tells us, any truth can be distorted. These untruths contain fragments of truth that have split off and gotten confused. Such half-truths are then often used for nefarious purposes.

In the immature aspects of our being, we hold onto many ideas we believe to be true.

In the immature aspects of our being—the parts of us that split off when, as a child, we experienced pain we weren’t equipped to handle—we hold onto many ideas we believe to be true. And if we whittle the world down to a narrow enough view, these beliefs actually may be true. It’s only by opening up the viewfinder that we see a larger perspective, which makes a smaller seemingly true thought actually untrue in the grand scheme of things.

For example, when I was little, I had experiences that were very painful. I wrote about them a bit in Walker, my memoir. To my young eyes, it seemed that people in my family intentionally wanted to hurt me. I then generalized this into a wrong conclusion that people across-the-board intend to hurt me. As I got older, this mistaken belief sank down into my unconscious, so I was no longer aware of it.

But being unaware of it didn’t stop it from informing the way I showed up in the world. So in grade school, I provoked the bully in another girl. In middle school, yet another bully with a biting tongue came along. By then, I was cringing and hiding from life, not just from family situations that were painful to endure.

Beliefs like this aren’t just harmless ideas, they are powerful attractors, drawing people and experiences to us that match them. As such, my life seemed to validate that this was true, that people intended to hurt me. In truth, life and the people in it were just doing their thing, which often was, in fact, hateful and hurtful. So in truth, I was indeed on the receiving end of some cruelty.

And yet it’s not true that this is how the world works. It is, however, how spiritual laws work: like attracts like. This is not personal. And yet for a long time, it seemed true to me that the world was out to get me.

It’s tricky stuff, this truth business. If the universe were a magician, this would be its signature act, its most impressive sleight of hand.

It’s tricky stuff, this truth business. If the universe were a magician, this would be its signature act, its most impressive sleight of hand. And if we allow ourselves to stay caught in this hall of mirrors, we’ll remained trapped in duality. And yet all duality, as the Guide teaches us, is an illusion.

In short, when we continue to believe that a narrow sliver of reality is the whole truth, we’re not in reality. We’re in illusion.

This is what sets us up to spend our lives running. We erroneously believe that we can escape the trap of duality by avoiding an undesired experience. That, we think, will land us safely on the other end of the spectrum where happiness must reside. If this is our approach to life, we’re sunk. For happiness is not anywhere on the spectrum.

No, happiness is a byproduct of a life well lived. It’s the feeling that we’re here for a purpose and we’re accomplishing our task. Even when the going gets rough, there’s a happy satisfied feeling that comes from doing our work. Happiness, then, is how it feels to live in reality. And to be in reality, we must be willing to stand with all aspects of it, both the good and the bad. When we can do that, we shift out of the dualistic plane and arrive in unity. Unity, then, is the greater reality.

Unlike truth, which is a spectrum that never ends, duality is a limited subset of reality. Duality, then, also has two ends that are opposites, but in addition there is an untruth that creates a distortion of reality. These untruths, or distortions, are what create all the disharmonies in our lives. Said another way, if we are experiencing disharmony in our lives, we are somehow not in truth, and this is what creates dualities for us.

The most common duality we all must grapple with—and also the most difficult—is pleasure versus pain.

So our work for finding unity involves unwinding our distortions—aka, finding our untruths—and learning to embrace both ends of any duality. The most common duality we all must grapple with—and also the most difficult— is pleasure versus pain.

Based on early childhood experiences, we’ve all created wrong conclusions about life that have us running away from pain. For children live in duality. This means that to a child, everything is either good or bad. Extrapolate this to the end point, and everything boils down to life or death. Take away a toy and you’d think the world was going to end.

So when we were children, we equated pain with death, and we are now geared up to run from it. We create defenses designed to keep us safe, believing they are what’s keeping us alive. In truth, feeling pain as a child was not going to kill us. Nonetheless, we didn’t have the inner resources, and perhaps not the outer support, to deal with it. So we shut it down.

Little did we know, when we did that we shut down the whole system. Our ability to experience the pleasures of life has been deadened by our one-size-fits-all strategy of avoiding our feelings as a way to avoid feeling pain.

The way to escape the straightjackets we’ve put ourselves in is to step our way back through the unfelt pain that’s gotten trapped in our beings and in our bodies. Yes, this means there will be tears. But it also means we’ll have the chance to feel real pleasure, not the fake substitute we settle for with our many numbing devices such as food, alcohol, drugs, spending, gambling, gaming, sleeping and the like.

Facing our old pains, along with our fear of pain, is the way to uncover the greater truth of who we are. It’s the way to live in a greater reality than our limited child logic allows. It’s also the way to find maturity and escape living life on the run.

—Jill Loree

For more, read chapter two in Bones: The Importance of Feeling All Our Feelings, Including Fear