Subjectivity, Objectivity and Difference

To live successfully, we need to strike a balance between subjectivity and objectivity, to fully embrace our very personal point of view, whilst at the same time keeping an eye on what is generally thought to be true. Without subjectivity our life becomes dull and purely conventional. Without objectivity we can lose our grip on reality and not be able to function in the world. Finding this balance can feel elusive at times. We might have our own personal bias towards subjectivity or objectivity. Our society tends to have a bias towards objectivity, with its facts, logic and reason.

Finding a balance between our subjectivity and objectivity isn’t something that can be achieved once and then forgotten about. Balance here doesn’t mean gaining an ‘equal’, but static relationship between the two. True balance is dynamic: our subjectivity comes to the fore, then we bring in our objectivity to stabilise it; our objectivity leads for a while, then we bring in our subjectivity to open it out. When I am discovering new things about myself in my inner worlds, through meditation for example, I then need to pay attention to more everyday matters. I need to ground my experiences and let them integrate with the rest of my life. If I spend a lot of time dealing with the ordinary things that are necessary for functioning in the world, I benefit from then giving some attention to my personal likes and preferences. This could be watching a film or reading a book that feeds my subjective view of things.

In therapy, both the therapist and the person seeking therapy have their subjective viewpoints. It’s important for the person who’s seeking therapy to find a therapist whom they feel comfortable with. The therapeutic relationship is based upon two people being able to relate to one another in an effective way. There needs to be some overlap or accord between their two viewpoints.

As a therapist, I sometimes use my viewpoint to challenge the person I’m working with, especially if I think that their current viewpoint is detrimental to their well-being. However, there are also times when I need to put my viewpoint to one side, without completely losing sight of it, as the way forward, the place that feels alive and where movement can occur, is with the other person’s viewpoint.

It can be helpful to receive an ‘outside’ view of what is happening for us. Other people can sometimes see things about our situation that we can’t see for our self, at least for the moment. It can also be important to receive affirmation of our viewpoint from someone else, especially if we’re not used to receiving it.

In my own development, I have come to thinking that the more I value my own subjective view, the more able I am to respect another’s, even if I don’t agree with it or like it. One thing that’s fascinating and rewarding about human relationships is the combination of the similarities and differences between us. There is an interplay between individuality and community.

If we are feeling insecure about our own difference, we can feel isolated. We can also fear other people’s differences. This insecurity can sometimes be expressed as racism, sexism or classism, for example. It can also be expressed as a fear of our own difference seen in others. As a gay man, if I am feeling insecure about my sexuality, an internalised homophobia can sometimes be triggered within me. Along with fear can come shame. We can project a sense of self-loathing onto people who share our difference or trait, or onto people who have different traits from us. Such projection can sometimes be complex.

If I feel accepting, and even grateful for my difference, other people’s differences become fascinating and can be a blessing. We have impact on one another. Our own viewpoint can alter and enlarge in response to someone else’s. I am enriched by another’s difference and the world is enriched by mine.

Leigh Osborne, Copyright June 2019

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