Releasing the Good/Bad Binary
We have an attachment to binary thinking and absolutes, which limits us from addressing the real issues.
Yes, not all cops. Yes, not all white people. Yes, not all men. Should I go on?
Do you see how we get caught every time?
There is a concept in behavioral science that discusses guilt and shame. Brene Brown has spoken and written extensively about it in a digestible way.
A certain type of guilt is healthy. It tells us we did something that caused harm and experiencing the guilt hopefully creates a shift in behavior.
Shame is not healthy. Shame has us internalize the wrongdoing, so we perceive our self as the issue, rather than the behavior. It creates disharmony in the mind and body (mental and physical illness) and does not promote a shift.
Labeling people as bad or good takes focus off the behavior. It keeps us in shame vs. guilt. And shame demands defensiveness.
That’s why we get so fired up with our “not all” stuff. Shame is a huge trigger. We will defend ourselves and those we love to avoid experiencing shame. It’s a natural survival strategy.
Instead, we could separate the behavior from the person. It’s more effective and moves us closer towards actual change.
But, really, even calling a behavior bad or good is overly simplified. I believe binary thinking absolves us of responsibility. It’s probably why we are drawn to it. It’s easy to label a person or behavior in an absolute way. It’s much harder to accept that people and behaviors live on a spectrum.
It’s uncomfortable to accept our relative complicity in scenarios where harm is done.
I invite you to drop the “good and bad” and look for descriptives of yourself, others, and situations that are not inherently value based.
Of course, certain descriptive words (racist, sexist, etc) have taken on an inherent value. So, even if we don’t assign them a value, it’s implied. That’s why it would serve us well to deconstruct this binary thinking on a broader level, recognizing that we all operate on a spectrum.
Leave a Comment