The Paradox of Human Experience: The Positive & Negative Sides of Our Reality


The Dalai Lama said, “Basically we are all the same human beings with the same potential to be a good human being or a bad human being …. The important thing is to realize the positive side and try to increase that; realize the negative side and try to reduce that. That’s the way.”

Without awareness of our unconscious psychological process, it is easy to misconstrue the guidance of this beautiful Spiritual Leader. It seems clear and straightforward—move towards the positive and away from the negative. However, the guidance can be confusing.  In our dualistic world, positivity and goodness do not travel alone. They are constantly accompanied by negativity and badness. Is our beloved Spiritual Leader leading us astray? Or is our unconscious misunderstanding the culprit?

The key to understanding our unconscious misinterpretation rests in revisiting the instruction to: “realize the positive side and increase that; realize the negative side and reduce that.”

Ying YangPositive and negative are the two sides of the Coins of Thinking, Doing, and Being, when Being is happening in a body with a conceptual mind.

Most of us will read the Dalai Lama’s words and automatically move unconsciously to put our “good, positive self” forward, and our “bad, negative self” aside. This is the result of the unconscious process engaging in strategies to deny the existence of the negative bad side, repress it when it arises, or suppress it so it can’t emerge at all.

Why does it do this? Because the Human process is driven by a biological directive to move toward pleasure and away from pain. And additionally, the Human process has been conditioned to believe this is the way to become more positive and thus, a good person.

Living in a dualistic level of reality means there will always be both positive and negative, and both good and bad.

This being the case, wisdom dictates a re-evaluation of your core biological strategy that moves you toward the positive and away from the negative as a way to find happiness and peace.

Since duality is the Human experience—regardless of how you understand it from the Divine perspective—how do you navigate the presence of positive and negative without setting up what you like against what you dislike (which is equivalent to suffering) since both will always be with you?

How do you live in the world on a daily basis in a lifestyle that has to deal with both sides of the Coin of Thinking (positive and negative), both sides of the Coin of Feeling (pleasure and pain), and both sides of the Coin of Being (Human and Divine)?

The key to reducing the negativity is to paradoxically embrace its presence when it arrives. Embrace it by breathing into its presence in your body/mind—actually allowing it to be there, feeling it in your body as fully as you can, and accepting its presence as “what is” in the moment. Paradoxically, this action increases the positive because you are saying “yes” to what is happening which simultaneously reduces the negative.

The reality of duality to the body/mind cannot be overlooked. It is the fundamental pattern supporting the flow of Human experience. Understanding this and accepting that the body/mind will always be subject to duality (regardless of its illusory nature) gives you the key to unlocking the potential to live in the world as both a Human Being and a Divine Being.

Explore this dance of duality within your own nature, and discover the wisdom and joy of allowing life to be exactly what it is—moment to moment—embracing both the positive and the negative with open arms.

About the Author

Ragini MichaelsRagini Elizabeth Michaels is an Author, Therapist, and Trainer of Communication and Modeling Skills, specializing in Behavioral Change. She has gained international recognition for her work and her reputation as a superb teacher, presenter, and the pioneering originator of Facticity® and Paradox Management.View all posts by Ragini Michaels →


  1. Estra Roell
    Estra Roell04-01-2013

    Beautiful article, Ragini! We do need to embrace what some have called the “Shadow Self” as well as our positive side, as it is all a part of who we are. Ignoring or trying to repress it just makes it bigger. Society has not really supported that idea. As children we are told to “be good” and punished when we step out of line (whatever the adult’s perception of that is at the time). So, we try to suppress the feelings, thoughts and behaviors that we think are negative and end up judging ourselves and others. That judgement keeps us stuck in the very negativity we want to emerge from. I love how you express this in terms of paradox. We reduce the negative by embracing it as part of ourselves and, I would say, sending it love, just as you would a fretful child. Thanks for clarifying the Dalai Lama’s words. This provoked a lot of thought for me!

  2. Jack

    Hi Ragini, and also poster, Estra

    I was just discussing the common belief of duality in our nature with my 19 year old daughter, referencing the old perception of a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. I shared my thoughts with her about how I feel about the idea of duality and how I feel it is self-defeating. Setting up one part of our personality as the angel, and it’s ongoing judgement of any negative actions we have effects our self esteem, and our ability to love ourselves–it effects more, obviously, but these two aspects are where a lot of us struggle, what with negative self talk and self judgement. I told my daughter that I believe we are singular, not dual beings. We are constantly in flux, being positive, negative, and anywhere in-between as we move through our lives. I stressed to her to feel any and all of her emotions, life experiences, etc.. and accept them freely and to be loving and forgiving as she ebbs and flows through her life. With this idea I hope she creates incredible happiness for herself here on Earth.

    • Ragini Michaels
      Ragini Michaels04-05-2017

      Thanks for your comment, Jack. Your daughter is lucky to have such a wise Dad. Best to you as well as your daughter. Ragini

  3. Jack

    Hi Ragini,

    Thank you so much for the kind reply. The info I shared in my post is is due to multiple life events happening all at once -sending me into therapy to help with my healing and understanding of all of it. My own self-talk while processing all of it went something like, “Jack, stop thinking or feeling like this” Or “Jack, stop it and move on”. I wondered who I was setting up in my thinking as the smart, parental Jack? Was it my higher self talking or was I seeing myself as two people weak and strong. As I learned to start loving myself I didn’t like my self-talk condemning the not so great feelings I was having. I decided to start viewing myself as one positive and sometimes negative individual going through lots of changes and accepting all of it. I share all that I can with my daughter hoping she can hopefully have a greater life from loving herself and the freedom that it brings.

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