Enantiodromia

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Enantiodromia

Enantiodromia is a term coined by the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus to describe the phenomenon of “the emergence of the unconscious opposite in the course of time” (Jung, 1971, p. 440). According to this principle, everything that exists eventually turns into its opposite, as a way of restoring balance and harmony in nature and in the psyche. For example, cold becomes hot, wet becomes dry, war becomes peace, and so on. In this article, we will explore the concept of enantiodromia as understood by Jung, and try to understand how it applies to modern psychology.

Jung’s understanding of enantiodromia

Jung (1971) adopted the concept of enantiodromia to explain the dynamics of the unconscious and the process of individuation. He argued that when a conscious attitude becomes too one-sided or extreme, it provokes a compensatory reaction from the unconscious, which manifests as dreams, fantasies, symptoms, or even external events that challenge the dominant attitude. This can lead to a crisis or a transformation, depending on how the individual deals with the emerging opposite. Jung (1971) also suggested that enantiodromia can be a positive and intentional process, whereby one seeks out and integrates an opposing quality from within, resulting in a more balanced and whole personality. For instance, a person who is too rational may consciously cultivate their intuition, or a person who is too extraverted may deliberately develop their introversion. Some examples of enantiodromia in literature, art, and history are: the conversion of Saul into Paul in the Bible; the shift from realism to surrealism in painting; the rise and fall of empires and ideologies; and the personal transformations of figures like Gandhi, Mandela, or Jung himself.

The use of enantiodromia in psychotherapy

Enantiodromia can be used in psychotherapeutic practice to help individuation, which is the process of becoming a whole and integrated person, by recognizing and integrating the unconscious opposites that are present in one’s personality (Jung, 1949).

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For example, a person who is overly rational and conscious may experience a sudden emergence of irrational and unconscious impulses, which may manifest as psychological symptoms such as anxiety, depression, or psychosis. These symptoms can be traced to their source by exploring the repressed aspects of the person’s psyche that are seeking expression and integration. By acknowledging and accepting these aspects, the person can achieve a more balanced and harmonious state of being, where the opposites are not in conflict but in dialogue and cooperation (Jung, 1949).

Another example is a person who is overly moralistic and rigid in their values, who may experience a moral crisis or a loss of faith when confronted with situations that challenge their world-view. This may lead to feelings of guilt, doubt, or despair. The source of these feelings can be traced to the unconscious opposite of their moral attitude, which is a more flexible and tolerant perspective that can accommodate the complexity and diversity of life. By embracing this perspective, the person can develop a more mature and nuanced morality, where the opposites are not mutually exclusive but complementary and enriching (Jungian Center for the Spiritual Sciences, n.d.).

Enantiodromia can provide a way to trace psychological symptoms to their source by revealing the hidden dynamics of the psyche and its tendency to produce opposites. By understanding and integrating these opposites, one can achieve individuation and wholeness.

Enantiodromia can be seen as a natural principle of equilibrium that restores balance in the psyche by generating a counter-position to the conscious attitude. Enantiodromia can also be understood as a process of individuation, whereby one seeks out and embraces an opposing quality from within, internalizing it in a way that results in individual wholeness (Wikipedia, 2023).

Enantiodromia can be used in psychotherapeutic practice to help individuation by helping the client to recognize and integrate their shadow aspects, their repressed or neglected potentials, and their complementary functions. For example, a client who is overly rational and detached may benefit from exploring their feelings and intuition, while a client who is overly emotional and impulsive may benefit from developing their thinking and judgment. By doing so, the client can achieve a more balanced and harmonious personality that can cope with the complexities and contradictions of life.

Enantiodromia can also provide a way to trace psychological symptoms to their source, by understanding them as expressions of the unconscious opposite that seeks recognition and integration. For example, a client who suffers from anxiety may be unconsciously repressing their anger, while a client who suffers from depression may be unconsciously repressing their joy. By bringing these opposites into conscious awareness and finding constructive ways to express them, the client can alleviate their symptoms and restore their psychic equilibrium (Exploring Your Mind, 2023).

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How does this concept fit with other therapeutic models?

Enantiodromia is “the emergence of the unconscious opposite in the course of time” (Jung, 1949, p. 440), which occurs when a conscious attitude becomes too extreme or one-sided, and triggers a compensatory reaction from the unconscious. For example, an overly rational person may experience irrational impulses or fantasies, or an overly moral person may develop immoral tendencies or behaviours.

Internal Family Systems (IFS) is a model of psychotherapy that views the self as composed of multiple subpersonalities or parts, each with its own characteristics, emotions, beliefs and goals. These parts can be in conflict or harmony with each other, depending on their roles and relationships within the internal system. IFS aims to help clients access their true self, which is the core of their being and the source of wisdom, compassion and healing (Schwartz, 1995).

One possible way to explain Jung’s concept of enantiodromia in terms understood by IFS is to relate it to the dynamics between the parts and the self. According to IFS, some parts may become extreme or dominant in their attempts to protect the self from pain or trauma, while other parts may become exiled or suppressed in the unconscious. This can create an imbalance in the internal system and lead to psychological distress or dysfunction. Enantiodromia can be seen as a process by which the exiled parts emerge into consciousness and challenge the dominant parts, to restore balance and harmony in the system. For example, a person who has a dominant part that is very critical and perfectionist may experience enantiodromia when an exiled part that is playful and spontaneous comes to the surface and expresses itself.

Another possible way to explain Jung’s concept of enantiodromia in terms understood by IFS is to relate it to the polarity between the self and the parts. According to IFS, the self is not a part, but rather a state of being that transcends and integrates all parts. The self is characterized by qualities such as curiosity, clarity, calmness, confidence, courage, creativity, connectedness and compassion (Schwartz, 2001). The parts, on the other hand, are often driven by fear, anger, shame, guilt, sadness or other emotions that can cloud or distort the perception of reality. Enantiodromia can be seen as a process by which the self emerges from the parts and asserts its presence and influence in the system. For example, a person who has been identified with a part that is fearful and anxious may experience enantiodromia when they access their self and feel calm and confident. This could also be seen as that aspect of the parts process where a part which has a burden of trauma which causes it to inspire anxiety, when relieved of that burden, would switch to the opposite polarity to being fearful, which may be to play a role that inspires confidence and optimism.

Another possible comparison is between Jung’s concept of enantiodromia and Freud‘s concept of repression. Both concepts involve the relationship between the conscious and the unconscious aspects of the psyche, but they differ in their assumptions and implications. Freud (1915) defined repression as “the process by which an act which is admissible to consciousness…is made unconscious” (p. 147), which implies that some thoughts or impulses are unacceptable or threatening to the conscious ego and must be kept out of awareness. repression is seen as a defence mechanism that protects the ego from anxiety or conflict, but also as a source of neurosis or pathology that prevents the resolution of underlying issues. Freud’s concept of repression implies a negative view of the unconscious as a repository of primitive and irrational forces that must be controlled or sublimated by the conscious ego.

Jung (1949), on the other hand, defined enantiodromia as “the emergence of the unconscious opposite in the course of time” (p. 440), which implies that some thoughts or impulses are complementary or compensatory to the conscious attitude and must be integrated into awareness. Enantiodromia is seen as a natural law that governs all cycles of life and restores balance and harmony in the psyche, but also as a source of transformation or individuation that promotes the development of personality. Jung’s concept of enantiodromia implies a positive view of the unconscious as a source of creativity and wisdom that must be respected and dialogued with by the conscious ego.

To give an example of how these two concepts differ in practice, consider a person who has a sexual attraction to someone who is not their spouse. According to Freud’s concept of repression, this person may deny or suppress their attraction and avoid any contact with the object of their desire, to maintain their moral integrity and avoid guilt or anxiety. However, this may also lead to frustration, resentment, or dissatisfaction in their marital relationship, or to the emergence of neurotic symptoms such as obsessions, compulsions, or phobias. According to Jung’s concept of enantiodromia, this person may acknowledge or express their attraction and explore its meaning and significance, to balance their sexual and emotional needs and enrich their personal growth. However, this may also lead to conflict, confusion, or disruption in their marital relationship, or to the emergence of archetypal images or symbols that challenge their identity or world-view.

Criticisms of enantiodromia

One of the criticisms and weaknesses of Jung’s concept of enantiodromia is that it is too deterministic and fatalistic, implying that any extreme position or attitude will inevitably lead to its opposite, regardless of human agency or choice. Some critics argue that this concept ignores the role of free will, moral responsibility, and individual differences in human psychology (Stevens, 2003). Another criticism is that enantiodromia is based on a dualistic view of reality that assumes the existence of fixed and irreconcilable opposites, such as good and evil, light and dark, conscious and unconscious. Some critics challenge this view and propose a more holistic, dynamic, and dialectical approach to understanding the interplay of opposites in nature and in the psyche (Hillman, 1975; Samuels, 1985). A third criticism is that enantiodromia is too vague and ambiguous as a psychological concept, lacking clear definitions, criteria, and empirical evidence. Some critics question how enantiodromia can be measured, tested, or verified in practice, and what are the factors that trigger or prevent it from occurring. Some critics also point out the inconsistencies and contradictions in Jung’s own application of enantiodromia to various phenomena, such as religion, politics, culture, and history (Noll, 1994; Shamdasani, 2003).

Examples of enantiodromia in Jung’s writings include his interpretation of the rise of Nazism in Germany as a reaction to the excessive rationalism and materialism of Western civilization (Jung, 1936/1970); his analysis of the alchemical process of nigredo (blackening) as a necessary stage of transformation that precedes albedo (whitening) and rubedo (reddening) (Jung, 1944/1968); his description of the emergence of the shadow, the anima/animus, and the Self as compensatory manifestations of the unconscious opposite to the conscious ego (Jung, 1951/1959); and his prediction of the appearance of the Antichrist as a counterbalance to the Christian image of Christ (Jung, 1957/1966).

References

Exploring Your Mind. (2023). Enantiodromia: The emergence of your unconscious opposite. https://exploringyourmind.com/enantiodromia-the-emergence-of-your-unconscious-opposite/

Freud, S. (1915). The unconscious. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud (Vol. 14, pp. 159-215). London: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1915)

Hillman, J. (1975). Re-visioning psychology. Harper & Row.

Noll, R. (1994). The Jung cult: Origins of a charismatic movement. Princeton University Press.

Jung, C. G. (1971). psychological types (H. G. Baynes & R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1921)

Jung, C.G. (1949). The psychology of the child archetype. In H. Read et al. (Eds.), The collected works of C.G. Jung (Vol. 9i, pp. 151-181). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. (Original work published 1949)

Jung, C.G. (1949). The psychology of the child archetype. In The archetypes and the collective unconscious (pp. 151-181). Princeton University Press.

Jung, C. G. (1970). Wotan. In H. Read et al. (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (Vol. 10, pp. 179-193). Routledge & Kegan Paul. (Original work published 1936)

Jung, C. G. (1968). Psychology and alchemy. In H. Read et al. (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (Vol. 12). Routledge & Kegan Paul. (Original work published 1944)

Jung, C. G. (1959). Aion: Researches into the phenomenology of the self. In H. Read et al. (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (Vol. 9ii). Routledge & Kegan Paul. (Original work published 1951)

Jung, C. G. (1966). Answer to Job. In H. Read et al. (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (Vol. 11). Routledge & Kegan Paul. (Original work published 1957)

Jungian Center for the Spiritual Sciences. (n.d.). Jung on the enantiodromia: Part 1-Definitions and examples. Retrieved from https://jungiancenter.org/jung-on-the-enantiodromia-part-1-definitions-and-examples/

Samuels, A. (1985). Jung and the post-Jungians. Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Schwartz, R.C. (1995). Internal family systems therapy. New York: Guilford Press.

Schwartz, R.C. (2001). Introduction to the internal family systems model. Oak Park, IL: Trailheads Publications.

Shamdasani, S. (2003). Jung and the making of modern psychology: The dream of a science. Cambridge University Press.

Stevens, A. (2003). On Jung: Second edition, revised and updated with a new preface by Anthony Stevens. Penguin Books.

 

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