On Breaking Patterns


“… by a process which C.G. Jung called “enantiodromia”, the attainment of any extreme position is the point where it begins to turn into its own opposite—a process that can be dreary and repetitious without the realization that opposite extremes are polar, and that poles need each other.”

This extract from Alan Watts’ ‘The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are‘ has been one of my highlights from the book. I have thought on several occasions how the strange nature of opposites creeps up on us when we least expect it, and have seen it play in my own life.

I had an interesting chat with a friend once. She mentioned that she doesn’t have an extreme point of view on anything. She’s somewhat neutral about most things, without taking a very strong stand. She went on to explain how she thought it was futile to have an extreme point of view on anything.

We soon realised that this itself was an extreme point of view. It was an extreme position against taking extreme positions.

It had become its own opposite.

I was fascinated by how we cannot escape the nature of opposites in our personalities and behaviour.

This led me to think about attitudes, behaviour and by extension, culture. If culture can be seen as shared attitudes and behaviour: then it can be construed that any culture that takes any perspective too far, becomes its own opposite. Even if that was a good perspective to begin with.

For instance, a culture that promises to be constantly ‘creative’, does ‘creativity’ over and over again and soon the ‘creative’ process becomes rote. It becomes the very impediment to true creativity. This; I fear, is the true problem with most ‘creative’ industries and why true creativity has been reduced to a label for rote.

The same is true for any culture that tries to be constantly ‘innovative’. For  true innovation to exist: the uninspired must exist too. And when ‘innovation’ is all one does, it becomes repetitive and leads to very little true innovation.

Any culture, individual, or group that is driven by a philosophy manifested in action must constantly question its own action. It must ensure that its philosophy does not become merely a label to a process of repetition that then becomes a mockery for what the philosophy truly represents.

It is essential to break our norms. Break our patterns. In order that our action be truly aligned with our philosophy. In order that our actions be truly fulfilling.

Image credit: Alain Jaquier


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