Food for thought… do you think we can know what happiness is or really appreciate it without experiencing times of being sad?
I recently listened to a podcast that featured Dr John Di Martini. He is a really interesting man and I suggest you google him if you haven’t already. In this podcast, he spoke about how there are always two sides to every coin. It really got me thinking, and for the life of me I can’t think of anything without an opposite…
You’d be surprised to hear that I am a science teacher, so knowing about Newton’s Laws and how every action has an opposite and equal reaction, is ingrained in me. But how silly am I to only just start thinking about this in contexts outside of science. Of course everything has an opposite. Sad, happy. Up, down. Fire, water. Hot, cold. Anterior cruciate ligament, posterior cruciate ligament. Male, female. Everything has an opposite. Even everything. Nothing is the opposite to everything.
How realising everything has an opposite can set you free
Dr John Di Martini explains that when you understand that everything has an opposite, you become less reactive to things that challenge you. You are able to see ‘negative’ traits or experiences as neutral, because you know that there is equal ‘positive’ trait or situation that balances them out.
So in my experiences, when something makes me angry, I can recognise that feeling without letting it take the drivers seat of my actions or behaviour. You learn that the reason you are feeling like this is so you can have more of the opposite, that is, more joy when it comes around. Because experiencing anger and frustration, joy and happiness then feel stronger and more meaningful. You’re less challenged by negative feelings or situations because you know that in one way or another, it will serve you for the greater good.
We need a little bit of both
Image a student or a child that only experiences positive situations. They are given no responsibility and get whatever they ask for whenever they want it. They are only ever supported. In the long run, this person lacks the ability to be independent. To develop independence, problem solving and entrepreneurial spirit, we need to be challenged. We need things to go ‘wrong’ every now and then. Because challenges make us stronger, and help us discover who we are.
Read more about the importance of challenges here, in my earlier blog post.
How seeing both sides of the coin can help our relationships
When you love someone you love them for all of who they are. You don’t get to pick and choose the parts that you like and cross your fingers that the other parts don’t show themselves. And when we realise that everything has an opposite, when something frustrates or challenges us, we can smile and move forward knowing that there is a flip side to that coin. When I find a relationship challenging, whether it be at school, at home or anywhere else, I know that this is not all there is. Understanding that you are experiencing only one side of the coin can be liberating.
The point is that we are human, and we have two sides to every emotion or behaviour that we express. And this is not a bad thing. It is what it is! And when we remove the negative label from the ‘negative’ traits, we see that what we are left with is an amazing, authentic, true and intelligent coin, no matter what side we look at. When we learn this strength and work on being open, we see one another without judgment and understand the essence and core of who they really are. And that person knows it. They can feel it. The acceptance is empowering.
When we embrace both sides of life, we learn unconditional love. / Dr John Di Martini.
The importance of being human
I used to think that I always needed to be calm in front of my students. I used to practice hiding my anger or frustration with a false sense of being in control. But what I was really modelling here is false sense of control over external stimulus, which is forever changing and unpredictable. Nowadays, I work on modelling taking ownership of what I can control, which is how I react or deal with the emotions I am feeling.
I let myself feel ‘negative’ emotions and I let my students become aware of it. For example, when I’m feeling frustrated or impatient, I might say ‘your giving me lot’s of opportunities to practice my patience right now. My anger and frustration wants to raise my voice and tell you to be quiet. But instead, I’m going to take a deep breath and wait for you to be listening.’ I feel like this let’s the students know how I’m feeling, and models how my feelings don’t have to drive my behaviour. In a way, my feelings and behaviour are separate when I chose them to be.
50% of students interactions with adults are with their teachers. And 80% of what students learn is through modelling. So what are we really teaching those around us when we hide our feelings or try to portray the image of ‘being in control’ all of the time? I’ll tell you… a false sense of reality that we can control everything. Let’s shift that to things that we can actually control. And that is our actions and our behaviour.
I think it is unhelpful to portray a false sense of reality by only showing the one side of the coin. It puts a false expectation and demand on those around me to think that there is only ever moments without challenges. We are all human beings, and to show that I think empowers others. It can enable others to move forward through challenges and see how these experiences are serving us for the greater good.
What do you think?
Think of a situation or past experience where you have seen a reaction from someone and given it a negative label. For example, ‘he’s a know it all’. How might you react differently when this person challenges you in the future?