Things are allowed to be good and bad at the same time

Link post

I’ve found it use­ful to some­times re­mind my­self that things are al­lowed to be good and bad at the same time.

Sup­pose that there was a par­tic­u­lar job that I wanted but didn’t get. After­wards, I find my­self think­ing:

“Dam­nit, some of the stuff in that job would have been so cool.”
“But the com­mute would have kil­led me, it wouldn’t have been a good fit for me any­way.”
“But some of that stuff would have been so cool!”
“Still, the com­mute would have kil­led me.”
“Yeah but…”

It’s as if my mind is try­ing to de­cide whether I should be up­set at not get­ting the job, or happy at hav­ing dodged a bul­let.

And if I pay close at­ten­tion to what’s hap­pen­ing in my head, I might no­tice some­thing.

It’s as if my mind is act­ing in such a way that only one of these op­tions might be true:

Either some of the stuff in the job would been re­ally cool, or the com­mute would have kil­led me. When one con­sid­er­a­tion is brought up, it’s as if it “can­cels” the other.

Now if I were try­ing to de­cide whether I want the job or not, then this might make some sense: ei­ther the work is cool enough to over­whelm the bad­ness of the com­mute, or the com­mute is bad enough to over­whelm the cool­ness.

But I already know that I didn’t get the job, so I don’t need to make a bi­nary de­ci­sion. And even if I did need to make a bi­nary de­ci­sion, re­al­is­ti­cally it’s not that one of the con­sid­er­a­tions makes the other com­pletely ir­rele­vant. My mind is try­ing to per­suade me that the job is ei­ther all good or all bad, and nei­ther of those as­sump­tions is likely to be a healthy ba­sis for a de­ci­sion.

So there’s a thing where I… let my mind ac­cept that both the good and the bad can be true at the same time, and that that’s all there is to say about it.

Yes, that stuff would have been re­ally cool. And yes, the com­mute would have kil­led me. And there doesn’t need to be an “over­all good­ness” of the job that would be any­thing else than just the com­bi­na­tion of those two facts.

This can feel a bit like there’s an elec­trify­ing zap in my mind, the two facts merg­ing to­gether into an over­all judg­ment, and then there’s noth­ing more to con­sider. It doesn’t ex­actly feel good, the way it would have if I’d con­cluded that I never should have wanted the job any­way. But it also doesn’t feel bad, the way it would if I’d con­cluded that I ac­tu­ally re­ally would have wanted it.

It just is what it is: a job that would’ve had some re­ally cool as­pects, where the com­mute would have kil­led me.

And then there’s so ob­vi­ously noth­ing else to say about it, and I can move on.

Other uses of the prin­ci­ple:

My friend Mar­ras de­scribes find­ing re­lief from chronic pain through a similar dual ac­cep­tance: “Yes, my shoulder is in pain. Other parts are not. I can en­joy the other parts while I suffer from the small but up­set­ting bad as­pect. I don’t need to ar­gue for or against ei­ther.”

An­ders Sand­berg notes that this is also a good way for think­ing about the state of the world in gen­eral: “a lot of things are go­ing re­ally well and a lot of other things are go­ing badly.”