The fourth basic assumption is cycles and rhythms. The assumptions are in that order: perception is projection, cause and effect, creation and, finally, cycles and rhythms. You need to get a working understanding of creation first because your cycles and rhythms flow between the opposites of creation. There is an undeniable experience of the energetic flow that moves back and forth between the opposites. Jung referred to it as a self-regulating system that is constantly seeking harmony.
It’s pretty common to hear people say, “My life is out of balance.” Technically, it’s not. Life is never out of balance. But though life is never out of balance, you may feel out of balance because you’ve polarized yourself on one side. And if you really pay attention, I assure you that you can probably find where you are balancing that imbalance in another area. It might be a projection externally. For example, you may feel totally inadequate as a person, which propels you to work crazy hours at the office to “prove” yourself. You might feel guilty about lusting after someone else’s wife so you are harshly critical of other people’s infidelities. It might show up as a physical illness because you’re unwilling to deal with certain negative emotions or limiting decisions. Nonetheless, as you understand the creation aspect of your dichotomy, there’s a flow of energy that goes back and forth between your two opposites that you need to experience. If you try to avoid experiencing either of the opposites, it will still pop up somewhere in your life. Jung, Papa Bray, and anyone who has studied anything to do with the esoteric would say that this energy flow has three energies flowing around every dichotomy: starting, changing, and stopping.
So whatever it is that you’ve created as opposites, you will experience. If it’s good and bad, you are doomed to experience good and bad. You will experience bad but that doesn’t mean you will become bad. It means, by thinking that you’re only good with no bad inside you, you may see more bad in the world.
Examples of this are all around us. What about those religious leaders or politicians who denounce certain lifestyles (i.e. promiscuity or homosexuality) who are then exposed as secretively living those lifestyles? They talk about the sanctity of marriage or the “sin” of being gay, and later we find out they’re not just gay, but they’re putting themselves in physical interactions that are dangerous. They’re not just having one affair but many. And though they promise to change (usually after they’ve been caught), often they continue to bounce between whatever good/bad dichotomy they’ve constructed.
One of my students is a strong, intelligent, attractive woman. She couldn’t understand why she kept getting involved with men who were manipulative and controlling. She also had an ongoing struggle with her finances. After doing a little digging, she realized that she had a strong dichotomy that centered around money. On one end of the spectrum, she identified herself as very independent and capable, the kind of person who really should be able to support herself. On the other end, she felt like money was scarce, that it was really hard to earn, and that she was incapable and needed someone to support her financially. The men she chose reflected that dichotomy about her relationship to money. They had the wealth she wanted (but felt she couldn’t earn) but did not respect the strength she has. So she bounced back and forth between being in relationships where she was not respected but she was taken care of, and not being in a relationship, independent but broke.
Have you ever done that? You keep cycling back and forth between two poles. When I was 80 pounds heavier than I am right now, I used to cycle up and down and up and down. I cycled in rhythm back and forth between fat and not fat. I don’t know why. I don’t remember what my dichotomy was. But I had a huge dichotomy between being healthy and not healthy. Every time I’d get to a point where I was healthy, I’d announce, “Man, I’ll never be that big again.” What happened shortly thereafter? I’d get big again. Living large on apple pie a la mode.
Jung said we are doomed to move back between these opposites. Jung focused on dealing with the Shadow and the anima and the animus (which we’ll discuss in the second book of this series) to resolve dichotomy issues because those are the big ones. When you resolve the big ones, other, less critical opposites are easier to resolve. It’s a trickle-down effect, especially if you deal with the Shadow.
When we see public figures act out and behave so differently from who they claim to be or what they claim to believe in, Jung would say is that they are playing out their Shadow. They’re almost driven to play out the Shadow because they suppressed a part of themselves (one side of their dichotomy) that they didn’t want other people to see. There’s a level of denial that exists when you slide into the Shadow. But you’re doomed to move back and forth between these opposites. It’s not possible to do away with these opposites completely and you can’t continue to hide from one side or the other. But you can be in control, at cause, for what you set up as your opposites. At the very least, you can control your experience of opposites even if you’re dealing with opposites you can’t control, like day and night.
We’re not trying to get to one static state or a rigid place of balance, but a fluid balance, a harmony along the spectrum. It’s like a seesaw, where you bounced up and down on either side as a kid. Think about it as if everything in existence is one of those teeter-totters. Up and down, day and night, light and dark, man and woman. I’m a good boy. I’m a bad boy. You have control over moving back and forth between many of these, and you have control over how you react to all of these, your experience of them.
You can create a sort of fluid union of some opposites along the spectrum, like between your masculine and your feminine side. With other dichotomies, like perfect son versus evil son, you can recreate it to be a different set of opposites, like pretty good son and not-so-good son. But even if you change your dichotomy, you’ll still have that seesaw effect, and you’ll still move back and forth between the two. The point is not about escaping that energetic movement. It’s not about getting rid of the seesaw or some kind of static balance. The universe is always seeking balance. As soon as the seesaw hits a balance point, what happens? It pauses a moment in balance, and then the side that was up goes down and vice versa. This constant back and forth is just going to occur as part of life.
But you have total control over how you create those two, how you experience them. That’s why Daddy Bray (Papa Bray’s father) said the enlightened kahuna is able to hold conflicting views in mind without it causing conflict internally. They realize that these dichotomies cause internal struggle and conflict for others. Whenever I’m asked, “Don’t you believe that people suffer?” my response is very simple: I believe that people suffer who believe they’re going to suffer. I say this from my heart; I know that people do suffer. I have seen it, and felt it myself. What I am saying here, is that if you believe you NEED to suffer, do you increase or decrease your chances of suffering? (Hint: you increase your chances of suffering.)
Say that your experience of your past is, “Man, my childhood sucked. I wish I had someone else’s childhood.” My father had a fabulous quote (from a book by Claudia Black) that I didn’t truly grasp until recently: “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” You can literally let go of your stuff, and you can look at your past in a totally different light. Life is only about suffering if we decide to make it about suffering. By the way, suffering has nothing to do with spirituality. But yet, if you make spirituality and suffering somehow link up in a dichotomy, you’re going to flow back and forth between them. Bottom line: if there are people who don’t suffer, and you’re suffering, then it must be true that suffering, at some level, is controlled by your own perceptions.
By the way, a kneejerk I-want-to-avoid-really-becoming-empowered response to that is, “No, everyone suffers. If they say they don’t, they’re just in denial.” That’s just another way of avoiding having to be at cause. I’ve heard students say, “Well, maybe so-and-so just hasn’t suffered really, yet. They will.” Because suffering is in the dichotomy those students have created for themselves, they insist that it’s there for everyone. The band Offspring has a lyric in their song, Self Esteem: “The more you suffer. The more it shows you really care. Right? Yeah.” With that belief, what do you think they see in people?
One of my students brought his new in-laws to one of our workshops. This couple had been struggling financially for several years and had strong beliefs about why this was happening. “The economy is bad. There are no good paying jobs for older professionals. It’s too late to start our own business at our age.” The list went on and on.
During the workshop, we showed a video clip of a bunch of people throwing basketballs back and forth. Students are asked to count the number of times the ball is passed. During the clip, a guy in a gorilla suit walks right in the middle of the basketball players and waves at the camera. What’s funny is that the vast majority of students are so focused on counting the balls that they completely miss this 6 foot gorilla. Check it out:
For my student’s father-in-law, that exercise was a huge break-through. It dawned on him that he was missing business opportunities right in front of him because he was so focused on “the bad news.” “A former employer had been hinting he could use some consulting on a project, but I hadn’t really been paying attention. All I had to do was give him a call.” That following year, the couple was able to stabilize their finances simply by noticing possibilities that had been there all along.
Your Personal Teeter Totter
If your dichotomy is set up as happy or sad, you have two choices: You can realize you have the ability to change that dichotomy, or you can just realize that, kind of like the tide going out, sometimes you’ll need to be sad. Enjoy it then! Cry your eyes out. Have fun with it. Some people just love a good cry in the pillow. Personally, I don’t. But people don’t need to approach life the way I do to get the most out of it. Here’s the deal, though. If you want to be cycling back and forth between happy and sadness, stop fighting it. Like the sun going down, if it’s time to be sad, then just be sad. Wallow in your misery fully. Then, when it’s time to let your sadness go, let it go.
This is a nonjudgmental approach to set up your dichotomies however you want. As with anything in your being – symbols versus signs, higher consciousness, the Shadow, the ego the persona – the point isn’t to eradicate dichotomies. It’s not some sort of Rambo approach to spirituality. There are always going to be dichotomies. Live with them. Enjoy them. But don’t get used by them. Use them. Work with them.
I love the analogy of the surfer. I grew up on Oahu and on the north shore in the winter we can get waves that are 20, 40, even 50 feet high. When they’re in the 20 to 30 range, that’s called big surf. In some places, that’s called a tidal wave. I have literally watched tourists flee in fear of their lives when they see these waves. At a certain point, the waves are so big that the lifeguards shut the whole beach down. But before that stage, good surfers can still ride them.
In some areas of life, you’re just not going to be able to stop the waves from coming in. When it’s time for big waves, you get big waves. I have no illusions. Spiritual paths like Huna aren’t supposed to be used to try and eradicate those big waves. There’s no chance to stop them. Instead, Huna teaches you to become the surfer who knows your beach, your waves, high tide, low tide, big waves, small waves. The objective is to learn how to ride the waves in such a way that you have a joyful ride in your life. It’s either that, or you’re going to be the tourist fleeing the beach. Oddly enough, it’s your beach. It’s your wave. It’s your ocean. It’s your ride. It’s your choice.
1. Where do you feel that your life is in and out of balance? How might you change that?
2. How accepting are you of the dichotomies in your life (i.e. bad son vs. good son)? How easily do you move between them?
3. What is the story you tell about your childhood? How could you tell it differently?