Ambivalence and the Opposites

Yes and No.

On the one hand, this. On the other hand, that.

I’ve been thinking about ambivalence lately–about its pervasiveness and persistence, despite our genuine hatred of its reality in our lives. Something at the core of us appears to long for simplicity, not complexity. How restful it would be to release from the struggle of our emotional realities and our conflicts. Holding the tension of opposing thoughts, feelings, and images takes psychological effort, and in Jung’s psychology, contributes to a person’s coming into being as an individuated self.

I am reminded of something my teacher of ancient Greek said during my graduate studies. He pointed out how in the literature we were translating, the Greeks loved to structure their language with oppositions. “On the one hand,” they would begin and elaborate one point. “On the other hand,” they would continue later and present an opposing line of thinking. There was a kind of delight and playfulness in this way of elaborating thoughts. One didn’t necessarily expect to come to an absolute yes or no. No final solution. No ultimate redemption.

If I am right that ambivalence is a permanent condition for which there is no cure, then it becomes important to consider changing our relationship to holding the tension of opposites. What if we hold a more playful, curious, and emotionally present stance towards our conflicts?–the yes and no, the love and hate, the faith and doubt that keep happening, sometimes despite our best efforts to overcome our humanness.

My sense is that such a stance helps things to get unstuck, and when things get unstuck, I think that unnecessary suffering decreases. There is more room for us to come into being with our full complexity, and though not entirely comfortable, this process can be deeply satisfying.

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