The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Desiring simplicity

When it comes to teaching psychological concepts, there is an ongoing effort to divide them into good and bad. Emotions are being divided into good and bad. The existence of psychological safety is good, it’s absence is called bad. Establishing trust is desired, it’s lack is a problem.

The statements as such may be ok when left standalone. Where they become a challenge to learning is when they are transformed into a false dichotomy. That is when a judgment that can be incremental and exist in many shades is only seen in its absolute terms.

When it comes to happiness, empathy, fear, safety, freedom, security, and similar concepts the logic is rarely compatible with an either/or approach. False dichotomies are a logical fallacy.

Someone seeing his ability to exercise freedom as a contrast to remaining safe will find himself with the question as to how he will be able to gain a greater sense of safety without exercising his freedom which quite naturally leads into risk-taking. The sense of safety is complemented by the agency to act to contribute to one’s own safety.

The quest for happiness is often perceived as the ability to fulfill one’s desires. But looking a bit further into it there is more to be seen. As Hannah Arendt describes it, “Happiness consists in possession, in having and holding our good, and even more in being sure of not losing it.” Which automatically brings fear to the foreground. The sense of security that something cannot be lost being complemented by the fear of losing it.

Nevertheless, false dichotomies continue to be used in a not very subtle effort to support one’s arguments by assuming that they will be stronger if they point to something that is collectively exhaustive or mutually exclusive. The resulting simplicity being perceived as a way to facilitate the teaching.

But what it does is create the idea that happiness is only good, that shame is only bad, that safety doesn’t require any effort or that fear is a threat to self-esteem. It creates the idea that some things must be avoided whereas others need to be achieved.

It’s simple and makes many psychological concepts elusive.

That’s when the desire for simplicity or the one and only answer makes the desired result almost inaccessible.



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