"At first I thought Jack was just a rebound dater wanting to make a conquest," said Fiona over dinner with
her girlfriends. "But he's called every day since our first date, and he's really sweet. He remembers my
favorite song, he reads my blog—I think we really connected."
"Sounds like a dream come true," said Judith.
"On the other hand," Fiona countered, "he talks about his ex-girlfriend a lot, and
he started hinting about sex five minutes after we met."
"Bad sign," Kathleen said. "Don't let the whole 'favorite song' thing fool you. He's
just a player. He's thinking, 'Oh, yeah, I'm all that.'"
"What if both things are true?" This came from Deborah, who'd been listening
silently in the corner. "Maybe he's a man-slut with a bruised ego trying to get someone in the sack, and he's
a thoughtful person who really likes you."
The pregnant pause that followed could have given birth to triplets. When the
conversation resumed, it was suddenly...deep. If the guy in question could be a combination of
seemingly opposite traits, might not the same be true in other instances? Could Judith's recent job loss also
be a stroke of great luck? Was Kathleen's workaholism both vaunting ambition and a humble desire to serve?
And what about all those politicians and athletes—could they truly have the ideals of angels in their
hearts and the morals of goats in their pants?
Uh...yes. Think of dilemmas like these as dual-emmas. Unlike
standard-issue questions, dualistic dilemmas confuse people by leading to two apparently true but
contradictory conclusions. Maybe you've found this in your own life: Perhaps your marriage is both wonderful
and terrible, your job both wretched and stimulating, your worst habit both destructive and helpful.
Reconciling these apparent brain-benders seems impossible, but if you understand the dynamics of dualism,
you can transform bewildering dilemmas into sources of insight.
Next: What to do when you're faced with a dual-emma