Well, I thought I had this article all written. I dropped some reminder words into the word processor, and then took off to see my therapist and supervisor. As is usual in our now 27 year relationship, she was neatly able to pull the rug out from under me.
In the course of our conversation, I was talking about the dissatisfaction I presently sense, which I attribute to “being on hold.” The whole Costa Rica project looms large, yet it’s a slow, somewhat tedious process that is some time away from completion. In the midst of my description, I mentioned feeling adrift. I said something to the effect that I was once again seeking a state of “single-pointedness” – a focus – a direction.
I was reminded of this week’s installment of “House,” one of our newly favourite shows. The plot involved a Jazz musician who was supposedly dying of ALS. He was trying to explain why he’d signed a DNR Order. His point was that most people lack a passionate focus. He indicated that he had music, and House had medicine. He noted House’s lack of a wedding ring, and chalked that up to House having so much passion for medical investigation that he had no time for relationships.
This fit in with my thinking about my needing to focus in again – single-pointedness.
So, imagine my shock when my therapist made a rude comment, rolled her eyes, and said something like, “You are one of the most focussed people I know. I think you need to spend some time drifting without roots.”
She then introduced me to the word, enantiodromia. This is a Greek word introduced by the philosopher Heraclitus, which means,
“The process by which something becomes its opposite,
and the subsequent interaction of the two: applied esp. to the adoption
by an individual or by a community, etc., of a set of beliefs, etc.,
opposite to those held at an earlier stage.”
This concept was grabbed by Carl Jung, who used it to talk about character, archetype, and Shadow work. In a nut-shell, the concept is similar to yin-yang, in that every thing includes elements of its opposite. Taken in terms of the psyche, the more I push toward doing one thing, the more its opposite will play out in my unconscious – an ultimately break into conscious reality.
“One must be what one is,” said Jung, “one must discover one’s own individuality, that center of personality, which is equidistant between the conscious and the unconscious; we must aim for that ideal point towards which nature appears to be directing us.” (C.G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters, Princeton University Press, 1977, p. 463)
We are thus presented with a paradox and conundrum — what else is new?
For most westerners, there is a pull toward believing in polarity – an of living one’s life from this perspective. (I want this, therefore I must “hate” that.) Many are the people who, for example, want to be wise, and yet find instance after instance of their failure to act wisely. They then go deeply into judgment about their “failure.”
What’s going on here is that the unconscious mind is producing an internal drama that bursts forth into reality. In other words, it’s a pendulum. On the one side is “wisdom” and on the other side is, say, “folly.” What people want is to freeze the pendulum on the side their conscious mind fixates on.
The more desperately they cling,
the more fervently the unconscious
produces the opposite.
Last issue we described this process as the spiral staircase, and noted that we re-visit the same issues, at different levels. Some years ago, to go back to my story, when I got hoofed out of the Church, I worked it through with Gloria’s support. At the end, I said, “I just wish I knew what happened.” Gloria said, “Spend six months not knowing.” Yin. Yang. Giving up knowing was hard for me – I’d spent most of my life collecting degrees, for Pete’s sake.
So, yesterday, as I thought about what I wanted (my conscious intent), I wanted something to focus on – what I dubbed single-pointedness. Gloria says, “Just drift.”
I (conscious me) doesn’t want to drift. So, my unconscious has been putting all sorts of driftings in my path. Hell, we’re homeless, until the place in CR is finished. Nomads. This feels awful, this drifting. I am used to imagining myself as grounded.
So, here is the paradox. Life is not either / or. It is both /and. See Jung, above. The leap, (the leap of faith) for me, (this time around the spiral staircase,) is to ground myself in drifting. In other words, I am suddenly aware that I can hold both, lightly, in my life at the same time.
And I will really “have” this lesson when I can hold both without judgement.
The judgement part is key. Judgement is the process of making one thing “good,” the other “bad.” As in, “wisdom is good, being a whiny, out of control moron is bad.” True wisdom is holding both as a part of me, without judgement, or with “the smile of infinite compassion.”
I don’t get to pick and choose which parts of me I ‘am’. I am all of me, including the dumb parts. I have learned, over the years, to embrace pretty much all of me, including the parts I still shake my head over. And just when I get cocky, I get a new project – and now I begin to play with being adrift. And I play this while being firmly attached to the only anchor I have.
Myself. All of me. Without judgement.
Interesting, this walk.