The Webster definition of “subjective” is personal, emotional, instinctive and intuitive. Its antonym is “objective” which means actual, real, empirical, evidence based, verifiable.
Mary Baker Eddy calls matter, sin, disease and death “subjective states of mortal mind.” This carnal, human mind is differentiated from the divine Mind, which we are indeed truly subject to. But she also calls matter and material laws “objective states of mortal mind.”
No wonder I’ve been in a long muddle about these words. The instinctive and intuitive part of me, is empathetic and loving, connected to spiritual inspiration, and mindful of others. Therefore, I identified being subjective as a good thing. Especially since the impersonal alternative seemed cold and clinical and less desirable to me.
My parents, who are in their 63rd year of marriage, had a remarkable romance becoming “one flesh” in a very subjective way with one another. What one felt, the other did too. They were definitely not alone, and what they had seemed very attractive. In many ways this was my ideal to emulate for a long time. You had to look pretty hard to see where this was limiting, ingrown, and thwarting independence.
It wasn’t until my work in the practice that I started to see more clearly that when we give ourselves over to others all sorts of problems arise. Far from romantic or positive, being subject to other humans (instead of only God) sets us on a roller-coaster which easily gets out of control, until our freedom of thought is jeopardized. We tacitly stop taking responsibility for our thinking because we can blame it on others.
This is true not only in the more innocuous, but still paralyzing, “what will other people think” paradigms, but also in the more insidious cycles of hurt and blame and victimization. It reminds me of the adage: “When the blind leads the blind, they both fall in the ditch.” We are all doing the best we can, but none of us are infallibly reliable (like God is) so the cycle of dependence only escalates further from the center of health and wholeness.
I have learned that objectivity is our friend. When you can consider something dispassionately, you know what to do, or what choices to make. It’s only when other voices start chiming in that we quaver. All that hurt and blame might be objective facts about the past, but we always have a choice – our point of power – in how respond to that. Do we bring those things with us into our present and beyond to influence our future?
It is because we are tied up with others subjectively that we bring this stuff forward, and it is unnecessary and usually disadvantageous for us to stay bound in this way. Looking at things objectively, instead, we can look at the facts, question their validity or relevance to our progress, impassively identify with what is good, and let the rest go.
When you do this, you’ll find yourself literally healthier and living more harmoniously. You will be aligning more and more closely with God, who is infinite good. You will be more secure and unruffled as storms erupt.
You will at last be taking responsibility for your life. Responsibility means the ability to respond. Without objectivity, we thoughtlessly react instead of thoughtfully respond. Mired in subjectivity we often try to change others instead of ourselves, assigning their failings responsible for us falling into the ditch, instead of our own blindness. When we achieve objectivity, we realize the only person we can do something about is our own selves. At this point, progress can really take off.
And I’m here to report that this budding lifestyle of impersonal objectivity is not so sterile or unappealing after all. Its benefits far out strip the plagues of the other approach. When working objectively on yourself you can actually get somewhere, which is thrilling after the frustration of trying to fix others so you can get what you need. This is a serious blessing. There is no end of employment when embracing the real, and this is an ongoing, genuine delight. And you finally will see others who also see, and avoid the ditch together, sometimes hand in hand.
So whatever your situation, try looking at it objectively. Step back in thought and get some mental distance on all you inadvertently have bought into. Remove any personal sense from it, to clearly discern (instead of blindly accept) what is actually true. Then you can choose differently, empirically, instead of fused with opinion, limitation and defensive judgement.
The last step is to romance God, being subject only to Him/Her. Wow. I’m now flirting with that. Talk of never being lonely!