Between Two Great Opposing Poles

“Take your well-disciplined strengths, stretch them between the two great opposing poles, because inside human beings is where God learns.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke

As a person studying the psyche, Jung spoke often of polarity, the play of opposites. Where we notice one thing, the opposite is also somewhere within us. This is why Jungian psychology invites us to pay special attention to the people who annoy us, repel us, or even the people who intrigue us. Whatever we see in that person, particularly those things that we could never imagine being true for ourselves, is at some level within.

To embrace the teaching of polarity and internal opposition, we must begin to let go of many long-cherished beliefs about ourselves, our capacity, and our feelings about others. We lose the certitude of defining ourselves by surface personality traits. The checklists of “Caring for Your Introvert” and “Caring for Your Extrovert,” while having value for helping us to better accept ourselves, become limitations when we remember that Introversion and Extraversion are two opposing poles themselves, with a vast gulf between.

We do not need to deny the things we know about ourselves, only to begin to face the truth that we do not know everything. The ideas we have about why we are who we are are the truths that helped us get to this point in life, but they can become the next fence posts we need to leap to get to a bigger pasture. Or, if you do not like land metaphors, they become the eggshell we need to break to get bigger and become more free. Truth exists and we cannot apprehend it with our minds alone, or our hearts alone, but with every facet of who we are.

We could realize more of our potential. We can move beyond tendencies to -, to get swept up in emotion, to numb ourselves with drugs or work or food or television or sex. What do you know about yourself? What is the opposite of that? Can you imagine what it would be like if both of those things were true about you? Could you sit in the space between those two polarities and hold them? Could you be loving and stern? Could you be a leader and a follower? When you hold both polarities, does a third thing arise? Not “the truth that is somewhere between,” but the truth that is both and neither?

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