The Philosophy of Half and Half

I’ve got to admit for many years I’ve tended towards black and white thinking. Things were fine or things were awful. It was a case of friend or foe, right or wrong, yin and yang. It was a tendency to seek simplification, to come down on one side or the other, to decide where I stood. On the fence seemed like a cop out and grey areas seemed to pollute the essence of what I was responding to. Add to that the complexity of the world we seem to live in and black and white thinking can be hard to avoid. I’ve come a long way in dropping this way of being, thank goodness, I’ve learned to appreciate other ways of looking at situations, other perspectives, finding the positive in the negative. But sometimes challenges occur and in marches the black and white.

After a difficult couple of weeks in the aftermath of the volunteering situation I mentioned last time, and after stress stalked in, I found myself operating in black and white again. I wanted a proper ending to the relationship with the ‘client’, one that is mutually beneficial, not just for me, but for the person concerned too. I’ve been feeling that if I don’t get that kind of resolution (and it looks like I won’t) then our time together in the befriending situation has all been for nothing. That the ‘good’ we created has now gone ‘bad’. So I think you’ll agree, that’s black and white thinking. Thankfully my husband is a grey area thinker by nature, so he’s been very helpful. And Galen, who commented on my last post, pointed out that stepping away can be the resolution – a very valid point, which I’m trying to appreciate.

Before I get onto the half and half philosophy, I want to share something I’ve described in my memoir in the last few weeks. When I was 18, after a virus, I was left with tinnitus and a minor balance problem which can cause wobbly vision when it misbehaves. Neither could be treated or cured. It was very tough accommodating to both of these, but I did eventually accommodate very well by coming to understand what was going on in my body and mind. With the recent stress, my tinnitus has flared up again. So this coincided with my describing it in the memoir and describing the way of handling it and any other persistent chronic symptom. Since I have no idea when the memoir will be finished, I thought I’d share this approach with you now, in case it is of benefit to anyone, and because I’m having to use the approach currently.

Talking about my tinnitus and imbalance is something I have always been reluctant to do, as talking about something can bring attention to it, and it’s this attention which causes the problem to increase, as you will see below. But also, people can say things like, ‘Oh, that must be awful! How do you stand it?’, and those are killers. Sympathy is not required. I firmly believe that sympathy can be destructive. Most of us have something to bear in life, be it with our life circumstances, health, or relationships. We all seem to get our share, so positive support or simply sharing is most beneficial, not sympathy. In the memoir I had a choice. I knew I was talking about my two bugbears and by doing so I was drawing my own attention to them, like the scenario of trying not to think of the red elephant in the room. And of course I did begin to focus on them. Predictable or what? I then thought of taking this material out. Would that fix things? Would it fix me? But no, I wanted to explain and to share what I’ve learned that is relevant to my story and to the theme. I decided I was being too sensitive about it – yes, that again, and that I was giving the symptoms a form of power over me, a kind of superstitious thinking with a not walking under a ladder mindset. So I decided that maybe, just maybe, I should try sharing something I usually avoid at all costs, maybe it would do some good, for me and others. So I’m sharing and walking under the ladder! And here is what I’ve discovered from lots of research and putting it into practice, what actually works best for dealing with unwanted symptoms or even states of feeling you don’t relish. It’s a combination of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) together with an understanding of our human physiology, and I’m using it now for my tinnitus flare up:

Fundamentally, you need to understand how the brain and the sympathetic nervous system work. The brain is wired to ensure our survival at all costs, so it tunes in to what it perceives to be a threat – your unwanted symptoms – because they bother you. The perceived threat is paid more and more attention to as a danger, due to you fuelling it with aversion, stress and worry, and this resulting hypervigilance activates the sympathetic nervous system to react further, which in turn increases the symptoms. It’s one of those vicious circles, and is maintained by the kind of attention you pay the symptoms. The more you pay attention with an emotional charge of aversion and fear, the worse the symptoms can get, so we have to turn this around. We have to change the way we react, emotionally, psychologically and physically. But how?

Changing your attitude and your relationship with the symptoms can help to stop the cycle. Relaxing into the symptoms, where instead of trying to ignore them you practice accepting them and seeing them as harmless, is the way to do this. In other words, you change your personal response. And if your response becomes less reactive, you’re giving your nervous system a chance to return to its baseline again. Most crucially, by taking this approach you are inviting in a psychological  ‘habituation’ to the symptoms, where the innate response given to the frequently repeating stimuli slowly lessens. You tuned in with your aversion, you tune out with relaxation and acceptance, so the symptoms can fade out of awareness into the background again. After that, you can’t help but happen to notice them, but they don’t actually bother you. This not bothering about them is the end result of your having over familiarised yourself with them. They just don’t matter anymore. Then you can return your focus to whatever you happen to be doing at the time. It’s a case of surfing the wave instead of trying to swim against it…

So there we are, sharing done, and I hope it helps someone. And for some reason, recently deliberating on this, and the cause of the stress, brought me to a book a follower on twitter was enjoying. It’s a rather weighty title : ‘The Importance of Living’, written by a Chinese philosopher, with bags of attitude, called Lin Yutang, and considering it was published in 1937, it’s astonishingly modern in the writing as it addresses universal human themes. Running through it is Lin’s ironic sense of humour, and humour is very important to the Chinese, apparently, so I chose the yin yang symbol of the two cats for Lin’s chapter which drew me in, called The Philosophy of Half-and-Half.

Derived from Lin’s respected sources, he advocates that a well-ordered life comprises of a balance between extremes:

Between action and inaction

Living in half-fame and semi-obscurity

Not so poor that one can’t pay the bills, but not so rich where there is no need to work

Reading, but not too hard

Learning a lot, but not becoming a specialist

And what he seems to be concluding is that the doctrine of half and half (yin and yang, positive and negative) best serves us, compared to more black and white modes of thinking, feeling or living. He says when life is fairly carefree and not altogether carefree (it’s then) that the human spirit is happiest and succeeds best. He says the proper merging of positive and the negative outlooks on life brings a more harmonious living and encourages a more harmonious personality, which in turn can bring a joy and a love of life. And it’s this joy and love of life which is the quintessential thrust of the book.

Here are some Lin Yutang quotes to leave you with, which seem to encapsulate his more laid back philosophy:

If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live.

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.

 Those who are wise won’t be busy, and those who are too busy can’t be wise.

 This I conceive to be the chemical function of humour: to change the character of our thought.

 Life is too short to make an over-serious business out of it.

 Liking the last one especially…

Cheers, all!

(pic from piaxabay)








About lynnefisher

Writer and visual artist living in Scotland, INFJ type Writer's blog: Art: Twitter @writeartblog Writers page Facebook Artists page Facebook
This entry was posted in inspirational quotes, Philosophy, Sensitivity, wellbeing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to The Philosophy of Half and Half

  1. Pingback: Redux – The Used Life

  2. terrepruitt says:

    Oh, I love the kitty yin and yang!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Libby Sommer says:

    thanks Lynne. much food for thought. another approach i use when anxious about some future event is ruining my enjoyment of the present moment, is to concentrate on something nice that i am looking forward to rather than the ‘worry’ situation. a really simple something nice to look forward to like a cup of tea or a meal out. I visualise the hot drink, or the hot soup in a cafe and remember how good it makes me feel. helps me get out of the stress rut.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have lived with tinnitus for many, many years. Never thought to mention anywhere as it has been a ‘normal’ part of my life for so long and thankfully, it has not impeded my hearing. Of course, it has always been annoying to have the noise constantly with me but it has not stopped me getting on with my life. Nevertheless, it is god to read what you have written and to gain from the knowledge you have gained. I am sure anyone developing the condition will be grateful to you. Thank you Lynne.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lynnefisher says:

      Thank you so much for sharing this, Tanya. It means a great deal. The tinnitus can indeed for a normal part of one’s life which is all the more strange to have it bothering me again. But its to do with stress, I believe, and the tension that can come with the menopause, so I’m now looing forward to getting to the finishing line!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. galenpearl says:

    I too am a recovering black/white dualistic thinker! Your post reminds me of a meditation instruction — “not too tight, not too loose.” Also, Buddhism is described as the Middle Way. There is so much support for the balance you are describing here. And I love the cat yin yang symbol. I have a T shirt with two dragons as the yin yang symbol. And a dog bowl with paws used for the “dots” in each side. Lots of possibilities with that concept!

    And thanks for sharing more of your own story. You offered some wise advice to a commenter on my blog who has the same condition. I remember the kindness of your response to him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lynnefisher says:

      Thank, Galen. I did remember the not too tight, not too loose post of yours after I’d posted – just shows these useful life concepts of yours are assimilated! I’ve had an horrendous week with toothache adding on top of the tensions in the post and a menopausal dip (more like a crash) happening too. Just coming through it now and tooth treated for a while so not in pain (all digits crossed!) I’m realising the menopausal effects were a very signigicant part of my midlife crisis build up and kept kicking in afterwards too. I’m looking forward to making it to the other side of the menopause pond! Thank you for sharing, always lovely to hear from you :>)


  6. I am no stranger to black and white thinking. After several years of therapy, I finally learned to embrace the greyness of all of my life’s situations. That’s not always easy, and as you mentioned I, too, sometimes come back to black/white. The book and author sound like a breath of fresh air. I need to look them up. Of course, I do tend to read too much;) The last quote was my favorite.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lynnefisher says:

      Thanks Cheryl. Come to think of it the therapy I had for my midlife stuff sifted through a ‘good’ accumulation of black and white thinking. It can be so destructive and I found I was being too hard on myself through it – I still can be, but I become more conscious of it now and try to search for grey! Yes, I read ‘too much’ also. When I found myself looking this book up, I thought, not another book! But it was being read by a lovely lady, another INFJ, so there was the pull!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Lynne, this is fascinating as always. I’m a great fan of laid-back, accepting philosophies. And I agree that sympathy can be destructive. I find if I tell someone a problem and they react in a very emotional way (OMG, that must be TERRIBLE!), it increases my anxiety and diminishes my perception of my ability to cope.

    I also have tinnitus in one ear. Many years ago a drunk guy approached me in a nightclub and shouted at the top of his voice into my left ear, and it’s never been the same since. Like yours, mine flares up with stress and tiredness. But I also don’t notice it most the time now, as long as I don’t dwell on it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lynnefisher says:

      Hi Catherine – I’m so pleased I wrote this post for the sharing that is going on. I feel exactly the same as you describe over someone reacting with overt sympathy. I wondered if someone reading the post had tinnitus, as it seems to be so much more common now. One in ten apparently. Yes it gets worse with stress and tiredness, and now I’ve got toothache to add to the mix. Will be practicing what I preach then! Cheers, Catherine!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Sumi Singh Writes says:

    Hi Lynne. Currently I have a running injury, shin splints, and I’m so bummed about it. I finally committed to running a marathon and after telling myself I’ll be cautious when it comes to over-training, I now have an injury of doing too much too soon! I had to take a break from running to heal but all I can think about is fixing it quickly to get back on the road and not accepting the injury. Your method makes so much sense. Instead of fixating on it and causing more tension in my body, I can accept it, seeing it as harmless and continue with my daily living without the overreaction. Thank you, I needed this post! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • lynnefisher says:

      Hi Sumi, so pleased you shared this. I can imagine just how you feel because you love running so much and would feel bereft somehow not being able to get out there and do it. I had to look up ‘shin splints’ – painful then! Glad the post helped, andn your fitness won’t just disappear because you rest up for a while. I’m having to follow my own advice for toothache now, have had a horrible stressed weekend and the dentist won’t see me until wednesday – I’ll be changing my dentist in the near future!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Hello Lynne 🙂 Another wonderful post and I’m so glad you wrote it. Now this Lin Yutang fellow sounds like my kind of person! The name is strangely familiar so I am going to follow the link when I finish writing this comment. I agree one hundred percent with the sympathy thing which drives me bonkers on a personal level. Sympathy is absolutely unhelpful – both to the giver and the receiver. I had a client once who genuinely, and stubbornly, believed if she did not pour sympathy out verbally than it meant she did not care, or love and would not be ‘a good person’ or seen as a good person. I think many believe this. I’ll share with you here that I have a heart condition that has been managed consciously for 20 years, but which has recently and unexpectedly flared up again. I work homeopathically with my health so could immediately get palliative help, but I needed to get to the core reason for the sudden onset of crazy palpitations, blackouts and so on. It takes a few days to work out where the problem springs from and in those days I have to work through the fear of dying – again. I don’t actually have a fear of being dead in the big picture. I do have a fear of how I die – as I will most likely be alone when it happens. Will my body be found in good time and most importantly will my pets be okay? Every time my mind goes into that concern, my brain triggers fear, which inevitably triggers another attack. My daughter hit on an ingenious way of eliminating it. I send her a thumbs up emoji every morning and every evening. If she doesn’t get the emoji, she checks in. As soon as that worry left me my intuition became free to find the cause of the latest onset. Lack of magnesium = thyroid off balance = heart stress. Sometimes by looking at what the root of the fear is allows us to find a solution, clearing the way to find further solutions. No sympathy required, just listening, understanding and moving forward. Sharing is such a good thing – we are not alone and moving our mind into gratitude and finding the calm space within always helps. Now I’m off to find Mr Lin ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • lynnefisher says:

      Hi Pauline, I’m so heartened that you have the same belief about sympathy, and I can see how some people think they are beholden to dish it out for their self image, like the client you mention. Thank you so much for sharing your heart condition problem – I really appreciate that! So there is a process you go through every time you get a flare up. This is in line with my flare up processes for tinnitus or the imbalance in that the same process has to be worked through over and over until it abates, also trying to figure out the likely trigger, and trying to manage the fear response which exacerbates the symptoms. And of course you’re dealing with something that would go pretty deep for anyone. Tough stuff but you’ve got a handle on it for sure. What a lovely idea on the emoji check in with your daughter, I totally get it. I shall contemplate the root concept of my aversion and find some calm, and dip into Mr Lin from time to time on my kindle. Thank you again, Pauline :>)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think we also have to acknowledge the unconscious ‘flight or fight’ syndrome. When the body goes out of balance and symptoms mimic physical responses to a real or imagined danger the emotional response tied to that has to be talked down too. When my heart starts having a rocknroll party in my chest my immediate unconscious response is ‘RUN!’ and if I can’t be conscious that that is driving me, I can’t breathe my way back to balance. It’s a real Catch22 situation 🙂 I find a homeopathic remedy called ‘spongia’ quite helpful and also Rescue Remedy if I remember to take it. I wonder if you have to deal with something similar or even the same. with tinnitus?

        Liked by 2 people

      • lynnefisher says:

        Yes, it’s the same, Pauline. Exactly the same. There is a build up of tension, no! no!, I can’t stand this, anxiety wells up, then increased tinnitus volume, then trying to talk oneself down and relax the physical responses. I haven’t been sleeping very well over the weekend with toothache (after a filling which I wasn’t aware I even needed ie no trouble) and I had to try to calm myself last night just to rest. The calm won for a while and the tinnitus actually lessened markedly. It was quite a moment! I’ve also noticed with the perimenopause anxiety whells up more easily. As for the toothache, I’m a bit of a baby, I’m afraid, the earliest appointment I can get at the dentists is Wednesday, and I expect he’ll want to take it out later on while I’ll be frayed around the edges. Since I’ve lost faith in this dentist, i’ll be switching to another later. Never just one thing, is it? Thanks for the reminder about the Rescue Remedy, think I’ve got some somewhere!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, the menopause – at all stages – is a bitch!! I remain amazed that I survived it though I was certainly frayed around the edges and someone quite different by the time it ended. Having got through it though, the most wonderful time of my life began. We women have no idea how much our health, emotional responses and mental well being is tied up with our reproductive system until it all naturally passes away and we are free. Rescue Remedy and wild yam remedies were my best friends through those years 🙂


      • lynnefisher says:

        Hi Pauline, the ‘perimenopause’ has been a bitch so far for me. Not all of the time, but nasty sporadic spells over the last 6 years or so where you can’t believe what’s happening. I remember an Australian lady in my art class over ten years ago now, telling me I was going to hate it – she must have been a prophet! Yes, I agree, we have no idea of the chemistry going on and how pervasive it can be in so many aspects. And it certainly doesn’t harmonise with toothache! Now got a bit further in with this particular problem today though. Many thanks for sharing – it means a great deal! :>)

        Liked by 1 person

  10. inkbiotic says:

    Wise and thoughtful. I’m struggling with the mess in my mind at the moment, so any clues about how to stay balanced and keep perspective are incredibly useful.
    Plus in these days when the Internet makes discussion so black and white, it’s important that we can maintain a personal grip on the subtleties. Remember how complicated most people and situations are, nothing and nobody is all bad or all good.
    I hope your stress eases soon 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • lynnefisher says:

      Thank you, Petra. You’d think the internet would be able to do subtleties with the amount of varied opinions flying around, but sometimes you can get more than you bargained for and it makes the situation worse. Life is certainly more complex these days! I hope your mine mess unravels a bit for you. Cheers for sharing :>)

      Liked by 1 person

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