The And Experience

decorative ampersand

We use the word “And” quite frequently in our day to day lives. It serves as a tool in language to connect thoughts and phrases, a bridge from one idea to another. But how can this word “And” stretch beyond the concept of language? How does it offer freedom and understanding to our current situations, relationships with others, and overall well-being? How can one word empower us to take steps forward and practice self-acceptance?

Allow yourself for a moment, to sit with, and address where you are now. Allow yourself space to non-judgmentally notice the passing of different thoughts and emotions. For example, you may think “this is a scary time” while next thinking “but I feel safe in my home”. Or “I love this person, but I disagree with what they are saying”. Or maybe you’re feeling exhausted from recent changes but grateful for this unique time to spend with family. Recognizing that these may seem like contradictions, but that each plays an important role in understanding your current experience, yourself, and are simultaneously both truths that are held in your heart. This is where “And” can serve as a useful tool to navigate thoughts and feelings.

A quote by Sophia Bush says “you are allowed to be both a masterpiece and a work in progress, simultaneously”. I think this serves as a beautiful reminder that we are people made up of multiple truths, ideas, talents, and feelings, that all simultaneously coexist within us. Recognizing and accepting that we are people with various realities both positive and difficult, that may seem to contradict each other, yet are allowed to be carried together. If we hold space in our hearts as we experience and engage in the tension, we can see that accepting and carrying two truths is not a sign of weakness, rather, a sign of strength demonstrating self-acceptance and the understanding of duality. Instead of polarization, choosing one over the other, “And” can serve as a form of liberation. Liberation from the box we try to put ourselves in, the energy we exert by trying to choose a side or the frustration we may feel when one truth doesn’t represent the whole truth. By acknowledging, non-judgmentally, the tension between the two truths, we can find the courage to move forward, make decisions, engage in healing, and appreciate the hidden beauty in duality. 

Think of it in another capacity, when experiencing a loss, we simultaneously can recognize the past, the grief and pain associated with the loss, and look to the future for hope as we work toward healing. Or when speaking with a loved one, we may say “I love you but…” as if love is conditional on what you believe. What if instead of using “but”, we said “I love you and…” as it is out of our place of love that we make decisions, speak the truth, and are vulnerable with the people closest to us. Instead of forcing yourself to make a decision or choose a side, slow down to recognize what is coming up, non-judgmentally, observe the tension of experiences, extend “And” to yourself, and move forward carrying two truths.

The And experience can serve as a freeing tool to empower you to name your emotions and beliefs from a place of grounding, grace, and self-acceptance rather than a place of quickly and fearfully picking a side. Know that it is okay to carry two truths in your heart as you embrace the future, as you are allowed to celebrate and simultaneously hold different ideas, emotions, and beliefs with you because we are people made up of contradictions and multiplicities.

Written by: Chardyce Kott, MSW