A very important realization in life is that there’s no absolute good or bad. Everything has a good side and a bad side. Everything has its own advantages and disadvantages. One side may be more dominant (good or bad), but it contains at least a drop of the opposite nevertheless. Even more than that: one side cannot exist without the other. Good cannot exist without bad. Life cannot exist without death. Happiness cannot exist without sadness. These dynamics of life are best represented by the yin and yang symbols, from the very well-known Taoist philosophy.
Understanding the duality of life without any absolutes can help you with at least two things. The first one is keeping your mind open. As Scott Fitzgerald said, the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. Money is good and bad. Each of your personal characteristics is a strength and a weakness at the same time. A clock can go clockwise or counterclockwise at the same time, depending on your perspective. You cannot be both at the same time, but if you change perspective, you can change the interpretation. Changing perspective can lead to either manipulation of truth or better understanding, and you should strive for the latter.
The second thing you can take from this philosophy is understanding the bad sides of three main cognitive distortions. Understanding duality and non-absolutism can help you deal with perfectionism, all-or-nothing thinking and disqualifying the positive. No perfect thing exists in life, never has and never will. If you can only be satisfied with perfect, you’ll never be satisfied. Because of emotional dissatisfaction, you will waste your life. Maybe good enough is already a level that should bring you a feeling of satisfaction.
You can also better understand that there’s always “all in nothing” and “nothing in everything.” Life flows somewhere in the middle, not in having it all or having nothing. Life is colorful, not black and white. And last but not least, the duality of life helps you understand that there’s always something positive in the negative. Sometimes you can see the brightest stars in the darkest night.
Being aware of duality and absolutes can help us a lot in understanding the dynamics of life. But there’s a step further we can take, above duality. It’s the concept that brings life from a mere gray mixture of black and white to a colorful rainbow, full of different experiences and levels of connectedness. I call it multidimensional relationships, be it relationships with people, animals, nature, things and even ideas. The concept best applies to personal relationships, but there are many other situations where understanding the concept of several dimensions can help us enrich our lives.
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Relationships are always multidimensional and the more dimensions present, the richer and the more varied they are. You often experience or build relationships only on a few of the easiest and most obvious dimensions. But why stop at a certain point, if life is offering so much more. Only a greater awareness and a bigger investment into relationships can help you build newer and newer dimensions and thus an even stronger bond with someone over time.
What am I talking about? If you have a one-night stand with someone, the relationship only has only one dimension – physical, and even that in a sort of a limited way. If you have a friend with benefits, there may be two dimensions – physical contact and friendship. If you also share a flat with someone like that, there’s yet another dimension, sharing resources.
It’s obvious that we usually have the most dimensions with our chosen spouse, but even so, many people experience far from all the dimensions that they could in their closest relationships.
Here are only some of the dimensions you can experience in an intimate relationship:
- Tenderness and other soft physical contact
- Erotic touch and sexual intercourse
- Tantric and other spiritual kinds of erotic experience
- Intellectual stimulation and information exchange
- Emotional experience with a different palette and depth of feelings (negative and positive – see the picture below)
- Co-development and personal growth based on common hobbies and goals
- Sharing economic resources
- Teamwork and mutual support in life and in career development
- Running a household or a side business
- Joint spiritual or religious experience
- Experiencing the world together – traveling, mountain climbing etc.
- Having fun together – playing games, cooking etc.
- Raising a plant, an animal or a child etc.
- Socializing in larger groups and helping other people together etc.
With other people, outside your intimate relationships, there may be fewer possible dimensions, but many people still neglect numerous dimensions, consciously and unconsciously, consequently hindering the relationship potential and growth potential of both people involved.
For example, many people focus only on a few dimensions when raising a child. Be it education or play or something else. But there are so many dimensions you can build in a relationship with your kid. A physical dimension, like doing sports, cooking healthy food etc., a strong emotional bond and security, an intellectual connection, passing on all your experience and knowledge, letting the kid have their own opinion and go their own path, and so on. There are so many relationship dimensions you can experience, if you only open your mind and let love be the center of it.
The good thing about multidimensional relationships is that in most cases, you don’t lose anything if you give more. If a relationship is built on the right foundations (respect/boundaries and love/positive energies), the more you give, the more you receive. For example, if you’re happy and you put someone in a good mood, so they’re also happy, there’s a high probability that you’ll simply stay happy afterwards, assuming the relationship is not of an abusive nature.
The key thing is that when you’re spending time with someone, you should try to activate as many dimensions as possible. For example, if you’re playing with your kid, don’t let it be only play. It can also be an opportunity to enrich your emotional bond and the child’s inner sense of security, provide intellectual stimulation, and so on. You should try to activate as many dimensions as viable, possible and sensible in a specific relationship.
If you go mountain climbing with your spouse, there can again be many dimensions you can experience. It’s a physical experience of taking care of your body, it can also be a healthy competition, intellectual bonding, emotional bonding (if there are any thrills on the path), maybe you can even have sex at the top of the mountain. The idea is that you don’t climb a mountain just to kill time with someone, but to engage as many dimensions of a relationship as possible in everything you do.
In order to do that you have to, of course, turn off your phone, let all your worries go, and completely focus on the present and on a specific person or group. In a relationship, you have to be present with your body, heart, mind and soul. Fully present. Otherwise you’re blocking some of the dimensions and thus killing the relationship potential.
While doing that, don’t forget that relationships are a two-way street. The more you invest, the more the other person should invest. The more dimensions you try to activate, the more dimensions the other person should try to activate. There are many people out there who will only try to take advantage of your surplus investment. Thus you also need to know how to set boundaries and you need to have as realistic expectations as possible. Some people don’t have the capacity to go really deep, others just won’t. That’s why you need to find your perfect fit and work hard from there.
Other multidimensional perceptions
Not as important as personal relationships, but still a powerful concept, is having a multidimensional perception of other things in life. The more usage you can see in something, the more valuable that thing becomes to you or, even more than that, you understand it better. Let’s look at a few examples.
For example, money can have many functions alongside the standard four, namely being a medium of exchange, a measurement of value, a standard of deferred payment and a store of value. Based on these standard four functions, you can see it as only something you work for in order to buy goods after earning it. But to understand it better, you can also see money as an idea – a piece of paper with numbers. Money can also be an employee that works for you (investing) – for example to make more money or to realize your ideas. Money can also be a way to contribute to the society (donating). You can also see money as the measurement of your value added to markets. You can see money as energy or an interpreter of your mindset. You can see money as a generator of social clusters, and so on.
You can see your home as only a place where you come after work or whatever. But there are so many dimensions you can add. You can see it as a meditation temple, an art project, a place where you hang out with your loved ones, a place of security, the biggest financial investment of your life, an opportunity to meet new people in a neighborhood, a joint project with your spouse, and so on. Home can have many different dimensions and can thus hold different meanings to you.
As for the third example, you can start your own business only to get rich or make extra money. But you can also start a business to bring your ideas to life, to employ people and develop yourself as a boss; you can start a business to have better control over your time, you can see it as a tax shield/shelter or a vehicle for leveraging other people’s money. There can be many dimensions how you see your business and it can serve you with many different purposes.
The more dimensions you see, the clearer the picture you can have about something, what it means to you and how you can extract value from it. Even more importantly, you usually enjoy it more, it enriches you and makes you into who you really are. That’s why understanding the multidimensional side of life is so important.
There are four options regarding your perception of dimensions:
- You are aware of an important dimension in a relationship (good, continue building on it)
- You are not aware of a dimension that already exists (become aware of it)
- A dimension could exist and you know about it, but it doesn't (build it)
- A dimension could exist, but you are not yet aware of it (observe, read, learn)
Since we started with duality and absolutes, we should also finish on the same note. Nothing is only good and bad, and so there’s also no pure gold in multidimensional relationships. The more dimensions that exist, the more we’re usually invested into a relationship and the more value it has for us; thus it also holds a bigger potential to hurt us once the expiration date comes. As Taoism teaches us: nothing lasts forever. But that shouldn’t stop us from living life with courage and engage with as many dimensions as possible. Nothing lasts forever, but what we’ve experienced stays, and we should be thankful for that.