Thoughts on the ‘Principle of Suttleties’

There is something which I call the ‘Principle of Suttleties’.  Basically what it says is that, many times, the most suttle of differences can become so marked that its like black and white.  This is something I confront time and time again.  A small nuance, a small change in character, a small difference in point of view can make a world of difference.  They almost appear like totally different things, but yet there is only a slight difference.  Its always amazed me how a small change in ‘shade’ can make such a difference.

Conflicts between opinions and beliefs are often rooted in suttle differences.  Wars and disputes have been fought for suttle variations that, years later, seem almost insignificant.  Many people have died from just taking a different point of view.

Usually, conflicts created by suttleties are created because we need to take a stand on something for some reason.  When we take a stand on something we take a ‘position’.  This firms us on a specific perspective or ‘piece of ground’.  But let us just say that someone who is just next to me, on a separate piece of ground, takes their position too.  And so there we are:  two people with different perspectives on separate pieces of ground but, yet, we’re right next to one another.  The only difference . . . a few feet.  But this few feet can cause such a difference that a dispute or conflict can take place.  It seems that when a person must take a stand or ‘position’ there is a tendency to become ‘locked’ into that conditionIn so doing we become as if ‘landlocked’ and isolated as a result.  This makes anything else, however different or similar, totally different.  This suggests that ‘positional isolation’ makes everything else appear different and causes the ‘principle of suttleties’.  In other words, when we need to take a position on something – anything – it tends to isolate us from everything else. 

Inner conflict, especially, is often rooted in suttleties.  One part of the mind thinks this, and the other thinks the same, but in a different attitude, hence the conflict.  As I said above, when a person takes a ‘position’ on something they tend to isolate themselves.  Taking a ‘position’ often is a reaction to conflict, fear, or a threat.  In other words, its a defense.  And so, when we feel a need to defend ourself from something the more we take a ‘position’. Because of this, we isolate ourselves.  When we isolate ourselves, suttleties become more pronounced and anything not from our ‘position’ is now different.  In a way, this makes sense, as when we are defensive we become very self-centered, as defense is to defend the self.  Taking a ‘position’, then, is really nothing but focusing ones concern on oneself.

Knowing this, we can use it to our benefit.  To avoid the problems created by the ‘principle of suttleties’ we can:

  • Try to not be defensive.  When we do need to take a ‘position’ we try to not be defensive about it.  By trying not to be defensive and taking ‘positions’ then suttle differences are not major differences. 
  • Accept different points of view.  See the right in other ways of looking at things.
  • Learn to be calm. 
  • Try to not be self concerned and to think we’re right.
  • Try to not be definite about things.

Regardless of what we do the ‘principle of suttleties’ are there in our life in some way.  Usually, they don’t create problems though.  But it often creates little inconsistencies in things that can be an annoyance and lead to conflict.

One thing that it shows is that what we often need is not a BIG difference, but a small difference.  Too often we think that we need to have a big change for something to be important and so we look for that, expecting the big change.  In so doing, we completely miss the small change that’s needed.  Often, just a small change in perspective can make a world of difference.

There are many suttle things in life that can make this world of difference.  These include:

  • A change in attitude.
  • A change in a persons state of mind.
  • A change in point of view or perspective or how one looks at things.
  • A change in context. 
  • A change in mood.
  • A persons growth. 
  • Time. 
  • An event or situation.
  • Learning things.

All these can make enough of a suttle difference that it changes everything.  A persons whole life can be changed just by making a suttle change somewhere.  Often, when it happens, the difference goes by unnoticed by many people. 

In my experience, I’ve found that my opinions, perspectives, etc. change continually as a result of the changes in suttleties.  What it means is that opinions, beliefs, attitudes, etc. are never constant but in a continual state of change.  It may not seem like it.  This is usually because we are only focused on the ‘now’.  If we could be ourselves ‘now’ and our self a year ago we’d see two different people.  In reality, our self is changing from second to second.  This is partly due to the ‘principle of suttleties’.  We’ve had a suttle difference, which we hardly notice, that changes who we are over time.

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