Full Circle POV

Nurturing a holistic, integral point of view for greater leader and team effectiveness and member well-being.

Archive for the category “polarities”

The Art of Making a Living

So much rides on our ability to create and maintain our personal and professional Persona. To swim with the big fish, in whatever pond we’re in, we have to jump in and start swimming, like the others, like right now. Unfortunately, that focus on swimming can become the end in itself; we can’t stop swimming, too much to lose. Polarities are manifested, sides are picked.

In the process, we lose track of the gold we let fall into the shadows, that we can reclaim, rather than defend against. There are life-enriching, life-expanding potentials, in our individual and organizational Shadows, that become adversarial because of inattention, neglect or abuse. They turn on us. The things that go bump in the night, and day, that, actually, can be helpful. And, are meant to be helpful.

I like the way Laurence G. Boldt, in Zen and the Art of Making a Living, captures how parts of us, sometimes the best of our potentials, become split off and lost, and are seen as contrary  or other as we shape and maintain our individual and collective Personas. [My interjections in red].

It’s time to get a job. Time to forget all that stuff about choices. Don’t think about visions or values. Don’t concern yourself with whys. Just be responsible [sic] and concentrate on how you can get the “best” job. Suppress your awareness of yourself as an observer and creator of social reality and plunge into playing the game as it is already defined, with your eyes closed. We have seen other ways. We are aware of choice, and yet if we are to be “responsible” citizens, we must try to forget. Be a good kid, now, and get yourself heavily involved in the game of winning social approval [power, network, income, job]–anything else and you risk ostracism [loss of same]. That’s enough to keep most of us in line for a long time. We still think about these things–now and then. We may talk about it some weekend, late at night, over a few beers or glasses of wine. As we grow older, we may bore our children with repeated tellings of stories about the good old days of our freedom (of choice). What was questing, searching, evaluating now gets stuffed, shelved, and compartmentalized. But make no mistake; it is not dead. It is only sleeping. (2009, p. 87)

[For full citation go to Bookshelf]

Into the Woods

A Principle of Opposites

Two souls, alas! reside within my breast
and each is eager for a separation:
in throes of coarse desire, one grips
the earth with all its senses;
the other struggles from the dust
to rise to high ancestral spheres.

Goethe, Faust, Part I (Trans. Atkins, p.30)

Jung was very aware of the tendency of human consciousness to perceive in terms of polarities, paired opposites, and how preferences of consciousness (Ego/Persona) have a determining role in the ways in which people perceive the world, interpret what they perceive, and take action. To further understand the dynamics of polarities within the conscious and unconscious it is necessary to introduce a principle of opposites that is key to Jung’s thinking on the psyche.

Shapiro and Alexander (1975) describe it well in these excerpts specifically related to their research on Extraversion and Introversion, but applicable to any polarity:

The principle of opposites states that the two attitudes are polar opposites found in each individual. One pole is located in consciousness, the second in the unconscious. The relation between the two poles, it is postulated, in [sic] a function of the degree of “dominance” of the conscious pole. Dominance means a one-sided employment of the conscious attitude, which prevents the expression of the opposite unconscious attitude in consciousness. With minimal dominance, when the unconscious attitude occasionally expresses itself, it does so in a compensatory or complementary way. It adds to or rounds out the conscious attitude in the latter’s service. With increasing one-sidedness of the conscious attitude, however, the suppressed unconscious pole has a more opposing and destructive relation to its conscious opposite. It then “irrupts” or intrudes in an “archaic,” infantile, and inappropriate manner. This suppression of the other side and its subsequent uncontrollable release is the heart of Jung’s conception of neuroticism. (p. 38), and

…”opposite” in the principle of opposites is in the sense of opposition….There are different states of tension between them resulting in varying “working” relations from complementarity or servitude to open combat…. [The “opposites”] run counter to each other. Each has its own independent mode of operation, and the relationship between the two can be variable. (p. 39)

Jung was grounded in a both/and perspective born of his extensive clinical experience and research. For him, both sides of any polarity exist as dynamic potentials within the psyche. Unfortunately, as the principle of opposites explains, there is a universal, natural, and very problematic tendency to split opposites that leads to the over-emphasis of one in the conscious Ego/Persona and the neglect of the other which falls into the shadow.

See full citations in the Bookshelf

Two Doors

Full Circle POV Lexicon: Polarities

Polarities are interdependent, opposite motivational values that are equally important over time in order for a system to function most effectively. The pair of values in a polarity are inextricably linked; they are archetypal, universal in all people, everywhere.

Breathing is an excellent metaphor. We absolutely need both inhalation and exhalation. Make the decision to only inhale. That works for a bit until our body, life shall we say, overrides our intent and forces us to exhale. Choose to only exhale, wait a bit, and life does it’s thing, forcing us to inhale. Inhalation and exhalation cannot happen at the same time, although the circular breathing of horn players comes close. There is a rhythmic oscillation between the two, too much of one or the other causes a disturbance.

Polarities are not a continuum. How do you adjust the amount of inhalation or exhalation on a continuum? They are opposites that are both required.

The breathing metaphor is simple enough, no argument about which is more preferred or better than the other. But, what about the polarity of stability and change, perhaps two sides of a larger archetype of sustainability? By personality and socialization (persona shaping), we tend to have our individual and organizational/collective center of gravity in one or the other. Think about conflicts you might have had with another person about which of those should prevail. You will both be very good at advocating for the one you prefer and think is essential, and lay out, readily, the logic and benefits of that preference. You will both be equally adept at pointing out all the flaws, the danger even, in the other approach. It seems self-evident to both sides. Least likely is seeing how your preference could actually be the undoing of the endeavor.

Other examples of interdependent motivational values are competition/collaboration, action/reflection, quality/cost, other-focused/self-focused

Consciousness naturally assigns a good/bad value judgment on the polarity and organizes and acts accordingly, more often than not without question. Our actions reinforce our preference and simultaneously repress the other necessary counter value. We see the one as good/desirable/wise, the other as bad/undesirable/foolish or dangerous. The one becomes reinforced as a Persona/Ego guiding value, the other is repressed or forgotten and slips into the Unconscious (Shadow). The natural benefits of the other are lost.

Here’s a grand statement: Life will not allow exclusive preference for one value in a polarity without forcing the other value back in to the mix. System disturbance will always ensue; it’s a given.



There’s no escape!

The psyche of an organization is like that of a human individual. The same structures and dynamics are always at play. No matter how hard we seek to limit the impacts, the Full Circle dynamics are active, polarities at play. We may as well stop pretending it isn’t so and learn to acknowledge and adapt to that reality. Those people, teams and organizations that do will have the advantage in the long term.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: