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Unbalanced Opposite Selves
Many of the ‘problems’ you experience with your own inner selves will turn out to be connected with this lack of balance between polar opposites, particularly where each one is trying to be stronger than the other. Awareness of these problems is the key to much of the most empowering work you will find yourself doing with the selves.
What about Polar Opposites in Other People?
Polar opposites also exist outside you, usually in someone near to you and particularly in your partner. Because their self has an ‘opposite’ energy as well as a contradictory attitude, the two selves operate something like magnets, attracting and repelling in turn. The conservative accountant is attracted at first to the wild uninhibited alternative therapist and she is attracted to his stability and common sense. But after two years together the opposite selves find themselves locked in a love-
The Selves go to War in Relationships
Another example is the kind of relationship where each partner has a self that is concerned with solving a mutual problem. If partner A’s specialist self is ‘cold and logical’which happens to be the polar opposite of the ‘sensitive and caring’ self in partner B then when they try to resolve the problem they usually end up in another negative bonding war. As you come to understand the patterns you will find it easier to resolve or get out of this kind of fight and keep love alive.
Power Struggles Within You
Two polar opposites inside one person can also get into an internal fight. For example Jill may have a stronger or more empowered ‘strong and sensible’ self who is good at handling difficult situations. But Jill often experiences an internal struggle if her ‘strong and sensible’ self fails to get the results she hopes for, because another member of her inner self family is her equally prominent and dramatic ‘aggressive’ self. It does not happen to agree with the ‘strong and sensible’ approach when things need fixing and it believes its way (the opposite way) is much better. Both selves are there to protect her underlying vulnerability which is a fear of being controlled by others. But that does not stop the inner conflict within Jill, as each self tries to control the other. The stronger the intensity or energy of the two selves, the further apart they tend to get and the greater the sense of imbalance when either is ‘in command’. This is another time when balancing, using the aware adult seems to be the only effective solution.
Stronger Selves Over Protect or ‘Parent’ Weaker Opposites
However, polar opposite selves do not always fight. Sometimes the stronger one in the pair acts very much like an over protective controlling parent and after judging the other one as being too soft or weak to look after itself, makes a fuss of having to support and protect it. Unfortunately the stronger self believes the best way to do this is for it to restrain and control the weaker one. Parenting selves are not always strong, just the stronger of the pair. A relatively weak low energy protector like ‘put others first’ can still take control and restrain an even softer self like ‘free to be me’ to the point where it is stifled and is unable to grow or gain in strength. The ‘others first’ self justifies this (again like a judgemental, controlling parent) because it believes the ‘free to be me’ self would be labelled as selfish and the rest of the inner self family would be facing too much stress and anxiety if ‘free to be me’ was allowed to grow. This is usually untrue.
‘Flips’ between Opposite Selves
However, despite the parental control of the ‘others first’ self, there are times when the softer opposite self (‘I want to be who I really am’) suddenly rebels and for a while acts in the stronger or more empowered position. It’s a bit like an animal escaping from its cage, and running free. Usually, the original parental self regains control after a little time and returns the softer one to its ‘cage’ to be hidden away again, but that self has not forgotten its taste of freedom and starts working immediately on a new escape plan for next time. This process where a weaker self suddenly seizes control is called a ‘flip’. Throughout this book you will find many examples and some more detailed discussions and explanations of these flips.
Polarised selves also tend to think in a polarised way, seeing the world in terms of black and white, right and wrong, with no room for a middle road or third option in between. When you are making a decision, one of the clearest signs that the aware adult has created a balance between polarised selves, is when you find yourself thinking about third and fourth options rather than only one or two solutions. Though common, examples of polar opposites do not always involve a stronger or more empowered versus a low energy self. The opposites can be a pair of any kind in which both are active and have a high level of energy, each believes it is better or more successful than the other and each disagrees strongly enough with what the other one wants or does.
Comparatively lower power weaker protectors like ‘let someone else do it’ can still end up in conflict with another similarly low powered polar opposite like ‘victim’ just because they have opposite views about who knows the best way deal with life from the low power position.
All this leads on to a connected problem when selves get themselves trapped into thinking that the world outside them is also polarised. As we get caught up in the polarised thinking trap (duality) we limit our options and lose sight of the choices we really have, as explained in the
* NOTE: The term "Aware Adult" is not a direct equivalent to the "Aware Ego" "Aware Adult" as I observe it reflects many of the characteristics of the part Hal and Sidra call the "Awareness Self" or "The Watcher" and is much the same as Pia Mellody's 'functional adult' I find this appraoch more acceptable for Australians particularly as the term "ego" in Australia has so many different connotations and meanings for people (some of them quite negative)
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Opposite Selves and Polarity Issues
It is not a fixed rule, but most active selves have what is called a ‘polar opposite’ self.
Polar opposite selves within you can be identified by their contradictory beliefs or opposing attitudes about what is ‘best’ for you and what is not. For example your ‘pusher’ self may believe that you need to study harder to help gain your qualification sooner, while your polar opposite, the ‘take it easy’ self believes that you are working too much and need a break.
Often one self wants to stay in a relationship while another self (inside the same person) is hell-