Opposing Demands Sewing opposing threads into the fabric of life BY: Troy Murphy
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We live in a complex world with complex issues. The confusion and lack of solid answers shakes confidence. We soothe our troubled minds by limiting focus and ignoring larger realities. Our susceptibility to readily accept the simple, ignoring intertwining meanings, and ignorantly sludging through life half-awake to reality endangers our futures. We believe nonsense as long as it tickles our soul. We fail to examine the particulars, holding several beliefs that contradict.
We simultaneously want autonomy and acceptance. But these needs examined individually conflict, to fulfill one neglects the other. We may cite logic to support an action that severs commitments with others but supports autonomy. Or we may claim compassion considerations, while rudely neglecting the self. Our lives cannot be compartmentalized; we must examine how we live as a whole.
The beauty of living, with all its colors, requires many threads. When we acknowledge the complexity, we discover the immensity of experience. The shy, the gregarious, the compassionate, the stoic, and the intellect all bring different gifts to the party—each with strengths and weaknesses. A three-step guide to happiness falls woefully short of the vast and differing needs of sufferers. Some should be kinder, while others should focus more on the self. Some less emotional, while others more. Finding balance challenges all. There will be trials and errors. While balancing autonomy with connection, we will—at times—make choices that are destructive to relationships; Other times, we may do self-harm by neglecting ourselves while servicing a partner. There’s no exactness—no perfect instructions for balancing opposing needs. We gain benefits and lose benefits on each side of most choices.
We must have a vague sense of reality to proficiently navigate opposing demands, perceiving self-neglect and social distancing. With distorted views, we easily wander, confused by the relentless requests for time, effort and money. We may feel uncomfortable with a request but not able to explain why we feel as we do. Watching the successful, the healthy-minded lovers of life, we can establish the rudiments of structure. Ideally, we learn this in childhood.
"When we acknowledge the complexity, we discover the immensity of experience."
I encounter these demands with writing for flourishing life. I find great joy and escape in research on well-being. But my research serves my well-being only under controlled circumstances—too much time and other aspects of living begin to deteriorate. A healthy mind and body doesn’t spontaneously happen—health takes effort, time and money. If I try to squeeze health promoting activities only when I have free time, other aspects of my life intrude, betraying something I proclaim to value. The same applies to intimate relationships. Close relationships have developmental needs—when the needs are neglected, the relationship suffers. If we value the relationship, we must structure time. This requires managing and even declining other demands on our resources. I must balance my passion with other necessities of living, giving time to children, grandchildren, exercise, and my beautiful wife.
By structuring resources for different essential aspects of life, we establish opposing needs; not overindulging one want through sacrificing a competitive need. When requests intrude on structured time, we have a foundation to decline, knowing we need the balance. Our drive for acceptance may challenge commitments to autonomy—or vice versa. Some (blinded by the self) will disrespect our autonomous values. Doing the right thing isn’t simple. We live among many great people, understanding underlying differences. We also live among those limited to selfish views, excluding others. We must struggle through the distractions, gathering supportive friends, and finding a healthy balance. We give; but we receive. We follow passion; but also structure time for fulfilling mundane necessities. We run; we walk; we rest. Each in their own time and own place.