When I was a kid I used to watch these great animated shorts on TV called Schoolhouse Rock. My favorite one was “Conjunction Junction” where I learned all about conjunctions - and, but, and or – and their meanings and use. (I can still sing the song to this day).
I’ve been thinking a lot
about conjunctions recently, because when it comes to conflict, particularly internal conflict, we tend to use the word “but” much more than “and” and I’m curious as to why. It seems that many of us get hung up with what we feel are opposite ends of the same thing: “I love her, but she was awful to me.” “I know I’ve got a great job, but I’m not fulfilled.” “He’s been so nice to me, but I don’t trust him.” For whatever reason, we feel that we either have to accept one aspect or another, and I would like to introduce a new idea: you can feel both.
Here’s the deal: in 1880 John Venn introduced his eponymous diagrams which consisted of multiple overlapping closed circles, each representing a set. Stick with me here, because there’s a purpose to this science. His diagrams offered a way to explain different concepts and how they relate to one another. Put simply, he illustrated how differing ideas can work with each other. To me, the Venn diagram represents the word “and” – a word I feel needs to be used far more than its conjunction cousin “but”.
You can have a loving partner AND feel that your needs still aren’t being met. You can have a great job and still feel uninspired. You can be angry at your sister AND still love her.
The word “but” is used to indicate the impossibility of anything other than what is being stated. I have a problem with this. You can feel one thing AND feel another and when we remove the idea that we need to choose, we open ourselves up to understanding, compassion, and possibilities. “And” – by its very meaning – allows us to connect and be flexible.
So what am I getting at here? I’m getting at you and allowing yourself to be free to feel all options. By changing one word, you will be free to accept all feelings without exclusion. We tend to think in black and white terms and I think this trips us up somehow. Life isn’t black and white, it’s every shade of grey and all sorts of colors (the art therapist in me is coming out now.) Seriously, it’s the limiting nature that we impose on ourselves that hurts us. By giving ourselves permission to feel one way AND another allows us to be both gentler on ourselves and begin developing a stronger sense of self.