Towards “Both/And” Thinking

Have you noticed how often choices in politics and policy issues are only presented as “either/or” decisions?  “We can do this OR we can do that.” But rarely is the possibility of doing both offered.

This form of thinking is based in the Masculine Energy aspects of individualism, independence, and competition.  It requires a winner and a loser. Therefore, it is a handy way to pit different groups against each other; to turn things into Us vs Them. It is divide and conquer. (If you aren’t familiar with the concept of Masculine and Feminine energy, please check the second half of the About page).

This meme is a great example of “either/or” thinking:


Because there must be a winner and a loser, it leaves no room for compromise. Our political system has become entrenched in this way of thinking.  There was a time when members of Congress would “cross the aisle” to work together.  The result was a compromise that both sides could live with even, though no one got everything they wanted. Now governing our society has become a game of Winner Take All, as if one political party or the other being crowned “Champion” is the goal. And compromise has become a dirty word.

If we bring in ways of thinking that are based in aspects of Feminine Energy such as collaboration, inter-dependence, focusing on the whole, looking at the collective, and integration, we move into “both/and” thinking. “Both/and” recognizes the world as complex and that things are rarely black and white. It allows for win-win outcomes. It looks at the meme above and asks, “How can we do both?” It is the type of thinking that allows for the type of politics described by the late Senator Paul Wellstone:


“Both/and” thinking requires creativity and thinking outside the box. It requires listening without preconceived notions of what should be. Listening, both to others and our own intuition.  To be successful in a “man’s world,” many women have stepped away from their intuition.  It isn’t scientific, so it’s not valid. But by stifling that inner voice, we often stifle our creativity as well.  Creativity and the ability to co-create are aspects of the Feminine.  They, along with intuition, are part of a woman’s makeup.  But, their use requires practice.  Like any other skill or muscle in the body, if you don’t use it, it becomes weak.

Because ‘both/and” includes addition, rather than subtraction, this way of thinking can also contribute to the vision of what we want the world to be.  Focusing on that vision is at the heart of the term Pro-activist, coined by Lynn Twist of the Pachamama Alliance:

“A pro-activist is someone who’s primary orientation is what you’re FOR, not what you’re against. It doesn’t mean you’re naive and don’t see what’s in the way, what’s blocking the world that we’re committed to. But your gauge, your energy is on what you’re FOR. And you have the courage to dismantle or address what’s in the way. But not attack it. It a positive or more profound way of working that has a spiritual root– it accepts and embraces that which is not working but has the courage to address it and transform it, rather than try to kill it.”

So, rather than working toward a world without many of the -isms or phobias (racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.), you work toward a world in which every human’s mental, physical and spiritual sovereignty is respected and honored. Pro-activism requires creativity and looking at the world through a different lens. It doesn’t ignore the fact that the “-isms” exist.  But the way of dealing with them is different. For example, we have tried to legislate bigotry away.  Yes, laws are needed to keep people safe and give opportunity.  But, they did not inspire a world in which bigotry no longer served the bigot — a world in which everyone, including the bigot, was better off by letting go of that hatred.

I admit, I have don’t know what that world would be.  But, as with all the ideas in this blog, it is something to ponder and explore. Birthing a new form of activism, as well as a new way of governing or “being in politics” that is balanced in aspects of both the Feminine and the Masculine, is going to take time.  That doesn’t mean we sit on the sidelines until we have it just right. I am offering tools to take into our work and to shape our actions today, while we work towards the world we want to live in.

Blessings to all those on this journey with me.



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