One might think that going to the extreme requires us to do uncomfortable things. But thinking in extremes is also a great way to live in your comfort zone. In fact, those who think in extremes are trying to avoid pain and discomfort and it is easy to miss this ego trick.
If you label a person (let’s call her ‘X’) as only ‘good’ then what you are saying is that she cannot do anything bad. On the other side of the extreme, if you label X as only ‘bad’ you are convinced that she will never do anything good. Look at the trick here: In both the cases, YOU don’t have to do anything. When you decide that X is good, you can comfortably avoid the pain of knowing that X is not always good. When you decide that X is bad, you don’t have to make an effort to notice the good things in her and then, deal with the pain that comes from knowing that even a bad person is capable of doing good. Imagine a scenario: Let’s say that X hurts you. Now, you want to stand up against her but you come to know that X helps many underprivileged children in her spare time. It would be extremely difficult for you to stand up against her because now you know the good side of her! If only you didn’t have this information, you would have easily labeled her as a villain and fought a self righteous battle against her! When you encounter both good and bad, your freeze because you feel guilty for hurting a person who is doing good things. To avoid ambiguity, we take comfort in extremes.
This is the reason why it is very common in our culture to pick one extreme like ‘positive’ thinking or “Media is shit” and condemn the other side. Remember this: whenever somebody has an extreme opinion, he/she is just trying to avoid pain. There are short tempered people who say that from tomorrow, they will not get angry. And there are people who say that they are angry and there’s nothing wrong in always hurting others. There are people who say that “Money is evil” and “Greed is good.” Hating money shows that you are uncomfortable about it. Obsessing about money shows that you don’t want to make an effort to appreciate other things in life. There are also extremes like “Family is everything” and “Career is everything.” If family is everything then you don’t have to make an effort to like your boring job or improve your skills. If career is everything then you don’t have to make an effort to build relationships. When there is outrage against criminals, you don’t really have to do anything, you just have to shout. Notice how the outrage against someone else hides your own flaws? At the same time, if you just say that what’s the point of standing up against injustice when you are also flawed then aren’t you again avoiding the difficult job of speaking up?This kind of thinking is popular because it massages the ego which doesn’t want you to move out of your comfort zone.
Most people avoid exploring their shadow selves because there is a lot of comfort in not knowing your dark side!