It feels like most of the people I’ve met in life can be grouped into two camps. There are different flavors, but it truly is a dichotomy—pessimists vs. optimists, realists vs. idealists, zero-sum vs. positive-sum, conservative vs. progressive, each with different connotations on their relationship with reality, but the essence is the same: those who need to find their place within the world, and those who need to believe in something much bigger.
So many of our actions can be derived from common human motivations, such as the need to be loved, the need to be happy, and the need for freedom, but this single difference in perspective seems to be biggest contributor to human difference I’ve observed so far.
The science behind positive vs. negative thinking says that it’s genetic and environmental and that both modes of thinking are necessary for survival. These world-views stem from our receptiveness to environmental cues, moderated by different parts of our brain, with the left hemispheres more attuned to positive information, and the right hemisphere, more negative. The balance of these modus operandi help to calibrate an individual’s relationship with risk and reality. While we are typically more predisposed to hang out on one side vs. the other or to switch sides often, it’s been proven time and time again that we can reframe our thoughts using methods like CBT or meditation.
Over time, these thoughts and our relationship with them become engrained into more perpetuating traits that separate people in the two camps I described earlier. Wouldn’t it be great if we could not only reframe our thoughts temporarily but flexibly change our position on the sliding scale of idealism vs. realism / zero sum vs. positive sum / conservative vs. liberal? And I don’t mean virtue signaling as a method of manipulation, but what if we could really reframe our relationship with reality to help us coexist and cooperate better in the future. The only way to achieve this is to spend more time with those on the other side of the spectrum and to learn all of the other human traits you have in common but to understand the complex thought processes that led you to different conclusions on the same set of facts.
In our increasingly more polarized world between alternate versions of reality, forced to coexist in parallel, arguably this will be the only solution going forward.