Have you ever felt that your mind is an utter mess? Like it has two conflicting sides within it, constantly fighting each other for the right of control? No side ever wins — the balance keeps shifting back and forth in a recurrent cycle of usurpation. A battle with no end in sight.
When thoughts like these surface, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going crazy. Chances are, your mind is hovering in a state of imbalance, and it simply needs some recalibration.
To that end, there’s a psychological phenomenon that we can harness to recalibrate our mind and keep it in a healthy balance.
It’s called enantiodromia. We’ll explore it in this short writing.
First, let’s meet Carl Jung and his shadow.
The Jungian Shadow
If you’re even the least bit familiar with psychology, at one point you must have encountered the works of Carl Jung, including the “shadow.”
Simply put, the shadow is the subconscious part of our personality — the opposite of the conscious “ego.” Sometimes, it’s referred to as “the unknown side.” The shadow is commonly considered as an instinctive and irrational existence. It’s the enigma of the human mind.
In one of his writing, Jung expressed this observation:
“Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”
Despite this grim description, a shadow is not always a malicious existence. It’s simply the side that’s repressed, hidden, or rarely shown in someone’s personality.
For instance, if your conscious ego is rude, then your shadow might be surprisingly courteous. If one is calm, the other might be panicky. Or maybe one is brazen and the other, shy. Or any other combination. You get the idea.
This idea of contrasting opposites is essential in understanding enantiodromia.
In Psychological Types, Jung defined enantiodromia as:
“The emergence of the unconscious opposite in the course of time.”
This intriguing phenomenon occurs when the conscious is dominated by a one-sided tendency. During this period, an equal counterposition is built up in the unconscious, which, in time, will break through and take over.
Simply put, the balance will tip, and the scale will shift to the other side.
As Jung wrote:
“Old Heraclitus, who was indeed a very great sage, discovered the most marvelous of all psychological laws: the regulative function of opposites. He called it enantiodromia, a running contrariwise, by which he meant that sooner or later everything runs into its opposite.”
In the context of human psychology, these two opposing sides are the conscious ego and the unconscious shadow. Both the ego and the shadow are part of you, and when one side overpowers the other, the mind will recalibrate itself through a natural process of enantiodromia.
Every descent is followed by an ascent, vice versa. Like all other workings of nature, enantiodromia is irrefutable — it just happens as it should happen, regardless of awareness or intention.
Instead of resisting this inevitable occurrence, we should learn to harness it.
The Art of Mental Equilibrium
Enantiodromia has one purpose: To restore balance. It seeks to bring the disordered mind back into a state of equilibrium.
While enantiodromia is bound to happen by itself, we can learn to control its magnitude. How? It starts by being aware of our minds’ affinity.
Before the mind shifts too far to one side, we can try to regulate it with our own volition.
For example, when we’re being unnaturally calm for too long, our shadow might be accumulating emotions like dismay or worry. We should acknowledge these opposing emotions.
After all, when we’re keeping our emotions in check, these emotions don’t disappear. They still exist in our subconscious like a ticking time bomb, ready to explode at a moment’s notice.
Instead of leaving these emotions to build up, it might be helpful to vent them little by little. This way, the emotions will come out gradually, and not explode later when we least expect it — which is what will happen when we leave this matter entirely in the hands of enantiodromia.
The same goes for other psychological conditions:
- When your ego is being brave, your shadow might be amassing fear.
- When your ego is being forgiving, your shadow might be amassing anger.
- When your ego is being submissive, your shadow might be amassing rebelliousness.
By being aware of your mind, you can bring together the conscious and the unconscious. You can then keep these two forces in balance, therefore maintaining a state of harmony.
If you don’t, the balance will still control itself, but it will do so without any regard for your comfort or convenience.
So, might as well do it yourself, right? Think of it as a preventive measure, like taking diplomatic action before the war breaks out.
Enantiodromia is a law of nature. It is neither good nor bad — it just is. However, as we’ve discussed here, we’ve seen that it’s possible to harness this phenomenon to serve our best interests. We can try to, at least.
A mind in balance is a mind at peace. Good luck.