Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cultivated Neutrality

Cultivate - to nurture (synonym: foster); to form and refine, as by education.

Neutral - belonging to neither kind, not one thing or the other; of or relating to a particle, object, or system that has a net electric charge of zero; a position in which a set of gears is disengaged so that power cannot be transmitted

Neutrality - tolerance attributable to a lack of involvement (synonym: disinterest)

I've had the idea of cultivated neutrality simmering in the back of my mind for a while now. Initially, it seems like a positive thing.

A person with cultivated neutrality can go into a new situation, so she can see what's truly there and make an honest evaluation with no preconceived notions or biases. When meeting new people, this cultivated neutrality can be an avenue through which a person is willing to experience the whole of another person's presence and absorb the experience without knee-jerk reactions, so that the experience can be processed at a later time. This is a definite plus.

The flip side of that is how the other person might experience one who maintains this place of cultivated neutrality throughout their interaction. It's rather like reading a book where only a very short introduction is written. The rest of the book is blank, so there's nothing for the reader to experience. The danger here is that, when experiencing the presence of a person who stays neutral or when interacting with a neutral person in a new situation, others might have an instinctual need to withdraw or pull themselves back because the presence of the other person is felt negatively, as though he or she is not truly present. Interacting with a neutral person can feel like dealing with a facade.

The person who has cultivated neutrality runs the risk of being experienced as disengaged.

It is interesting to note that in physics neutrality is when a particle has a net charge of zero. There is no energy. Interesting, too, that it is a position in which a set of gears is disengaged so that power cannot be transmitted. If gears are disengaged, and power cannot be transmitted, there can be no forward movement.

People are not neutral by nature. This neutrality has to be cultivated. If you observe children, they are anything but neutral. Energy is a child's trademark. Curiosity is a child's trademark, as is engaging with their world and the people around them.

Cultivated neutrality can be a safe place. It seems to me that it's a safety device, or a self-defense mechanism, that an individual cultivates as a response to having been hurt. Particularly if a person homesteads in that place of cultivated neutrality. It also seems to me that a person who has cultivated neutrality, and insists on making that her primary mode of experiencing life, has hobbled herself by choosing to maintain non-involvement.

Life is not neutral. Life CANNOT be experienced if a person is non-involved. Life can only be observed from that place.

There are times and places when, I think, we all step into that place of cultivated neutrality. The question is whether we stay there.

Where have you cultivated neutrality in your life? What would it take to reengage in the situations and relationships where neutrality has become the foundation?


Pete Wilson said...

Great post!

Michelle Brown said...

Thanks, Pete!!

Michelle said...

I have people in my life who live like this. They never really CONNECT and they do come across as disengaged. They are content to talk about life from the outside looking in, all the while I am left waiting for when they'll truly jump in. I lose my desire to connect with THEM. Maybe the desire to stay neutral is a desire to not commit one way or the other.

Michelle Brown said...

Good point, Michelle!