We Are Both Right?! - An Overview of Holding the Tension of the Opposites

In a previous post, we discussed ways to walk away from relationships gracefully. However, sometimes completely cutting off ties with our opposition is not an option. We are all unique individuals with specific personalities, ideas, complexes and tendencies: Introversion vs Extroversion; Liberal vs Conservative; Warm vs Cold. Relationships require flexibility and compromise. How do we manage our emotions when we are forced to consider ideas different from our own? Carl Jung and Analytical Psychology provide insight on this conundrum through a concept known as Holding the tension of the opposites.” Let's discuss....

Holding the Tension of the Opposites in Relationships

We hold the tension of the opposites when we feel none of our choices provide feelings of complete satisfaction:

·        A couple needs to decide on how to celebrate a holiday. One person wants to stay home and have an intimate dinner, while the other person wants to go to a party.  
·         A couple is ready to start a family but has concerned about financial responsibilities.
·         You want to be a member of a group but are unwilling to agree with the rules of engagement.

Per the article, Holding the Tension of the Opposites by Linda and Charlie Bloom, strong emotional intelligence is the ability to coexist in the midst of opposing ways of being. One reason relationships fail is the inability of partners to compromise. It is natural to self-promote our preferred opinions because the ego’s job is self-perseverance. At the same time, self-righteousness clouds our ability to see value in diverse points-of-view. 

The only way to be in relationships is to understand conflicts are inevitable. Life is about choices, but they are not always clearly defined. Rarely are choices all good or all bad; They are usually a mixture of both. Inside of a benefit can be a detriment, or vice versa. We make the best decisions based on the information we know at the time.

What am I supposed to learn?

Per Carl Jung, opposites create tension in the psyche. When we deny the opposites, we push them away from our consciousness into the unconscious. These repressed emotions become destructive in our psyche and strengthen our shadow.

One way we are forced to face our repressed feelings is in our personal relationships. According to some psychologists, the personality traits that you notice and do not like in another person are a reflection of your own repressed characteristics. So, ask yourself  the reasons why you do not like a person. It could be because they remind you of a characteristic you are trying to forget.   

Feelings are Energy

According to the first law of thermodynamics, energy can neither be created nor destroyed. Energy can only be changed from one form to another. I believe our feelings work the same way as energy. When we avoid the tension of the opposites and repress them, they move from the conscious to the unconscious. There the tension lies dormant beneath the surface until a ‘trigger’ brings it back into our consciousness. The cycle repeats until we truly ‘feel’ and learn what we need to learn. Then the negative charge from the feelings can be transformed into something useful. Whatever bothers us is a lesson in disguise.

We are both right!

By learning how to hold the tension of the opposites, we open space in our communities for diversity. This goes beyond the idea to 'agree to disagree'. Instead, we recognize and value the complexity of another individual to see the world differently from our own processes. We might even learn something new.


Image retrieved from: https://images.app.goo.gl/LhDmFxdhe4sqyFcT6

A Closer Look at Carl Jung's Individuation Process: A Map for Psychic Wholeness by Scott Jeffrey retrieved from