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The Dichotomy of Preference

By Jeanie Marshall

This is a wonderful world of duality. Sometimes it doesn't feel so wonderful when confusion or negativity seems to prevail. However, the physical world as we know it could not exist and grow, nor could our consciousness expand, without duality. It is essential that each one of us makes an individual choice for the light.

The focus of our attention selects the side of the duality that comes into our life. Curiosity about problems brings problems into our life. Expertise in illness brings illness into our life.

We also choose the duality itself; that is, we choose the scale or dichotomy or opposites that define the duality. Always, on one end of a scale of duality is one thing/idea and at the other end is either the opposite or the lack of that thing/idea. The naming of the duality can be empowering or disempowering.

In most cultures, we're taught at a very young age to distinguish between "right and wrong" and "good and bad." I've found that these particular dichotomies are rarely paths to happiness. In fact, I often see them as paths to much unhappiness because such filters often lead to judging others or ourselves when falling into the "wrong" or "bad" side of the scale.

In addition being "good" or "right" can sometimes make one person feel superior over others.

Another dichotomy that is particularly popular these days is "positive and negative." This is a little more helpful in some situations, but leads to some of the same dynamics as described with "right and wrong" and "good and bad."

Any of these scales would be greatly enhanced by adding "for me" or the equivalent at the end, so that we say or think, "this is good for me" or "this is wrong for my life" or "this feels positive to me." In fact, that addition makes all these dichotomies closer to the approach to the dichotomy of preference that I describe next.

"The dichotomy of preference" is a way of looking at a subject to decide whether or not you prefer it, like it, want it, want more of it, etc. Is it something you prefer in your life or not? To use this dichotomy in the most empowering way:

  • You notice what you prefer, and expand that preference by giving more and more attention to it; and
  • You notice what you do not prefer, and minimize that non-preference by giving less and less attention to it. Or you simply walk away.

I have an acquaintance, whom I'll call Betsy. I know her in a social setting, and only by her story-telling to a group. I think by nearly everyone's standards she's considered a "positive person." She's upbeat, smart, friendly. She's also beautiful, successful, and interesting.

She wants very much to be married. She's been looking for a partner for more than nine years. Many people will have their opinions about why she has not found a partner, and they may or may not be correct.

Here's my view of her situation: Betsy gives far more attention to what she doesn't prefer, doesn't like, and doesn't want than to what she prefers or likes or wants. In her story telling to the group about about a specific man, she often says, "I like (this particular attribute), but I don't like (that particular attribute)."

She's even warm and friendly when she's talking about what she doesn't like, often joking to provide entertainment value. Actually, some of her stories are so funny and engaging that even I laugh, although I recognize that this is keeping from her what she most wants in her life. I rarely laugh when people are disempowering themselves, so this tells you that she is truly engaging.

Because of Betsy's nature, it's difficult to think of her as being "negative" or "wrong" or "bad," but it's easy to see that she's giving her attention to the opposite of what she prefers (or wants or likes). As she gives the focus of her attention to what she doesn't want, she gets more of what she doesn't want.

Whatever we give our attention to expands. That is a fact.

Another example of how Betsy makes it more difficult for a partner to come to her is the fact that she counts the days and months and years that she's been experiencing what she doesn't want. Every holiday is a marker to tell her that yet another special day (birthday, New Year's, Thanksgiving, etc.) is approaching or happening or ending, and still she is not in a relationship.

And she keeps counting.

Since I work constantly with the dichotomy of preference with most of my clients, I decided to describe someone I know socially so that my clients reading this would not be wondering "is Jeanie talking about me?" I'm not singling out any client, but I guess when it comes right down to it, I'm talking about everyone, including myself!

In social settings, I try to abstain from being in the teaching role. Sometimes that's easy; sometimes that's challenging. Let's pretend that Betsy decided to work with me, and she wanted to work on this subject of finding a partner.

Here's how I'd start on the subject of a partner: I'd ask Betsy to tell me her heart's desires on the subject. I'd be very clear in stating that I want her to talk about what she wants in a partner, that is, her preferences.

I'd also warn her that if she strays from the assignment, I'll interrupt her. I warn clients that I'll interrupt them because I was taught at a young age that it's rude to interrupt anyone and I still generally view such a practice as rude. However, this is a powerful strategy to help the client to interrupt a disempowering pattern. So, I do it without an apology, but with an explanation.

So, if Betsy were to say, "I want a man who is intelligent, financially stable, with a good sense of humor, but not ___" — here I interrupt. I'd be able to feel the energy as soon as she turns her attention to a characteristic she doesn't want. I'd remind her of the assignment: "Tell me what you want in a relationship or a partner." If absolutely necessary, I'd add, "rather than what you don't want."

Someone as bright as Betsy would probably be both jolted by this and also transformed. Jolted, because her stories are entertaining so she is rarely interrupted; transformed, because she's smart and would understand the idea conceptually. It still does take practice. It helps if someone else is watching as a loving presence.

If Betsy decides to give less and less attention to the dynamics she doesn't prefer or want or like, and more and more attention to what she does prefer or like or want, she will soon find herself in a wonderful partnership.

When the choice of what you don't want is on one fork in the road and the choice of what you do what is on another fork in the road, you are more likely to be aware of your choice. However, not all choices are this obvious. Some choices are very subtle. Just giving your attention to something chooses it, and that choice might be conscious or unconscious.

Your life will be more satisfying when you consciously choose your preferences. In other words, say yes to what you want and let what you want expand — making it bigger and bigger. (And just leave the other stuff alone.)

Copyright © 2006 Marshall House.
Jeanie Marshall, Personal Development Consultant, writes extensively on subjects related to personal development and empowerment. Discover her guided meditations at The Voice of Jeanie Marshall.
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