Personal Growth

Balancing Polarities Within

By Suzanne E. Harrill

Have you ever had a goal, an intention, or wanted to create something important to you and then find it never manifests? If this has caused confusion and doubt, consider there may be a polarity going on within your consciousness. Opposite thoughts, feelings, goals, and values can coexist within us and can cause inner conflict, confusion, and nonaction.

Here, two parts of you do not support each other. One part wants the goal while the other resists or sabotages your success for reasons unknown, that is until you do a little inner exploring. We all have blind spots, places in our awareness that are currently unconscious to us. Instead of being self-critical and frustrated there are ways to understand the resistant parts and gain cooperation, thus making it easier to make positive changes and move in new directions. Let us look deeper at inner polarities and work with one of yours. You may already have something in mind. If not, come from another direction and explore one of the following polarities listed below. If you are still perplexed notice a polarity in another person. Consider it is your issue also as others are our mirrors.

A Few Polarities

1.      Self-acceptance vs. Self-criticalness

2.      Inner Self vs Public Self

3.      Intellectual vs Emotional

4.      Safety vs Risk-taking

5.      Dependent vs Independent

6.      Right Brain vs Left Brain

7.      Introversion vs Extraversion

8.      Giving vs Receiving

9.      Physical Self vs Spiritual Self

In a nutshell, polarities result from inner conflicts hiding within beliefs, emotions, needs, fears, desires, traits, values, or goals that cause gridlock and block results. There is usually a thought and a feeling that hide together in a polarity. Let us look at some examples of this.

I once worked a couple of years with a client in therapy who was on the fast track to grow and heal. Jane wanted help to divorce her husband of 25 years. Being raised in a strict religion that taught divorce was a sin, she was conditioned to believe divorce was wrong, period. This woman no longer believed this truth; however, she stayed in an abusive, unhealthy relationship for several years longer than she wanted. She was unable to act on her new beliefs and needed a lot of inner work to neutralize the fear her younger self carried. In therapy she was able to identify limiting beliefs and create affirmations with the new beliefs. These she spoke out loud to herself repeatedly. At home journal writing eased anxiety that came up often with all the changes she was undergoing. My client learned to notice stress signals in her body, such as a quickened heartbeat, shortness of breath, or tightness in the gut and learned the habit of deep breathing often. Jane also learned to talk to the fearful part of herself as she would talk to a young fearful child. "You are safe. I will protect you and limit time spent with critical family members. You deserve a calmer, happier life. Let us picture the future you want to create."

In addition, there were other ways Jane helped herself override the strength of the early beliefs relating to divorce. She took a divorce seminar where she learned she was not alone and found emotional support from others. Add to this she started her day with a short meditation helping her feel calm and peaceful as she entered her day.

Another example of a polarity is a conflict between beliefs and feelings. When a significant emotional event hurts us, a part of us freezes and feels like it is stuck back in time. We get  caught in a polarity if we believe that the event was in the past, and it is over and done with. This denial can keep us stuck emotionally in the past with immature reactions and decision making when a present event triggers this past hurt. How do we know if we have this inner conflict going on and then stop denying we have a problem? We may repeatedly go back in our minds, many times at night, to a hurtful experience and not be able to resolve the hurt or move past it. This is a form of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). It is normal to not be able to identify exactly what the emotional issues are. Let that be okay. When we are ready insights come to us. Whether you understand the emotionally stuck places fully in yourself or not, all the ideas above that helped Jane heal her fear of divorce works to release emotional pain -- journaling, talking to our wounded inner child with kind, loving words, talking to a trusted friend crying, deep breathing, and meditation. One last thing, I personally have found body work, such as massage, to be helpful in releasing trauma held in the body.

Let us look at polarities that show up in opposing needs. It is common to have competing needs that stop us from healthy self-care. For example, needing to be alone to recharge and at the same time wanting to be a good parent to a demanding, dependent young child. Some polarities respond to problem-solving and help from others, as in this case. Whether or not you can problem-solve or receive support tells you how entrenched you are in the polarity showing you where some inner work is needed.

Another conflict between needs might be, having the need to belong in order to not feel lonely and isolated, and at the same time needing to be alone most of the time enjoying doing your own thing. This gridlock of needs stops one from taking a risk to join a group, make a new friend, or call an old friend or supportive family member. This person may further stop themself from taking a risk to socialize because there is a stronger need to feel safe and comfort and thus maintain the status quo. This inner conflict is usually operating at the unconscious level. To stop one from being angry or critical with self for not taking action, the awareness of the deeper conflict between needs has to be uncovered and worked with.

One more idea that may help when the decision is made to take risks to work with a polarity, is to move towards the center of the two extremes. Allow the opposite parts of you to communicate. It is similar to two people with a conflict. Both benefit from expressing their point of view, to be listened to, to get some of their needs met, and to notice and let go of extremes to find a middle ground.  If we apply this to the above polarity of needing to belong vs needing to be alone, there could be a dialogue. Side one expresses feelings of being lonely and needing people while side two expresses the fear of losing alone time and getting over committed. They can reassure the other that a new habit is needed, to pause regularly to evaluate whether more or less interaction is needed with others. Developing this level of self-awareness moves us away from the gridlock of nonaction to experience a more comfortable future. Neither side dominates so success is assured.

Balancing polarities within benefits from inner work and self-understanding. Shining the light of awareness on resistant aspects of ourselves gets us started unlocking and healing, eventually getting the different parts headed in the same direction. It is helpful to keep in mind that in the healing process we benefit from developing the habit of self-forgiveness and patience with the slower parts of us. It can take a long time for some polarities to balance. At other times awareness shifts us quickly.

Take a moment to ponder the polarity you are working on. From the brief discussion above, notice ideas that caught your attention. May you apply one or two ideas to your situation.





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