The Concept of Polarities

Extract from our Book
Emotional Management Method

Chapter V.
The concept of Polarities

Polarities - the definition

I understand by "polarities" extremes, which exclude the possibility of existence of its reverse. For example when you see white, you don’t see black at the same time. When a knife is sharp, you don’t perceive it as blunt. Polarities therefore are extremes of our perception, activity, emotional state, way of thinking, a phase during a phenomenon that’s occurring right now. When you’re looking at one side of a coin, you’re not able to simultaneously see the other. When you’re under a wave, you can’t also be on it. When someone is far away, they can’t simultaneously be close. If you’re sad, you can’t also feel happy, because our brain works this way that it physiologically narrows its focus to only one angle of our emotionality, the positive state or the negative state.

Examples of polarities:

  1. Polarity as an extreme of our perception:
    freedom – imprisonment, I am able to – I am not able to, possible – impossible.
  2. Polarity as an extreme of our activity: jumping up – sitting calm, falling asleep – waking up, tension - rest, struggle – peace.
  3. Polarity as an extreme of our emotional state: sadness - joy, anger – acceptance, love – hate, fear – tranquillity.
  4. Polarity as an extreme of a way of thinking: not good enough – good enough, pessimism – optimism, worrying – enjoying, lack – abundance.
  5. Polarity as an extreme of occurrence of the phase of a phenomenon: day – night, life - death, inhaling - exhaling.

It’s important to mention that polarities are not always an objective phenomenon as the day and night. If they relate to emotional states, our perception and way of thinking, they often are very subjective. What for one person is the opposite of belief: "No one loves me" or "Nothing ever works out" may be different for various other people. Just as the opposite of love is hate for some, for others it can be anger or fear. The perception of polarities depends on our experience of life and the way how we perceive relationships between cause and effect.

If you’re in the most common state of awareness, characterizing your daily activities, which is known as beta, you can’t simultaneously feel one polarity and it’s opposite.

Exercise experiencing polarities:

  1. Imagine something that made you laugh lately, or a situation where you felt happy. See all the elements of this situation in full and feel it deeply, until you are able to recall positive emotions.
  2. All the time whilst experiencing these positive emotions, imagine a situation when you were angry at someone or when you were very sad or scared.
  3. Come back to the positive state.

Probably, when you’re imagining a positive situation and feeling positive emotions, it’s difficult for you, at the same time, to feel clearly anger, sadness or fear. If, however, you would go into negative emotions, it would be difficult to return to a positive state. Usually, in the normal beta state of consciousness, we are able to focus only on one state of mind and we do it subconsciously as if on autopilot. This is as if we would get into an emotional tunnel and with this narrow perspective it’s hard to change our mood. That’s why people who are depressed or experiencing attacks of anger can’t so easily redirect their attention to the opposite state of mind. Good news is that you can train yourself in changing your mood from negative to positive, if you’re able to remember the set of associations leading to positive feelings. Changing awareness from negative to positive by invoking appropriate images or associations is one of the techniques used in Tibetan Buddhism. It’s worth adding that to really be able to change your state of mind on a deep level, you need to enter the alpha state of consciousness, which is experienced, when we slow down "the run" of our daily activities, meditate, or when we are in a state of relaxation.

Only in a deep alpha state we are able to simultaneously experience with our mind both of the reverse states at once: the positive and negative, and feel harmony and tranquillity at a deeper level of our senses. Emotional Management Method works on enabling you to resolve your negative emotions on a deeper level. One of secrets to entering the deeper areas of your alpha awareness is your breathing, which becomes deeper and calmer. Normally emotional states such as anger, anxiety, and excitement are accompanied by quick and shallow breath. Slowing down your breath helps to switch the brain into alpha state.

According to Buddhist psychology the breath results in the ability to access to a variety of emotions and our emotional history, and just by breathing, we can heal these emotions on a very deep level.

Polarities as part of the natural order of things

Polarities are not a concept that Patryk and I created and which previously didn’t exist. Polarities have always existed in nature. Just like night and day, cold and hot, sun and rain, sleep and wakefulness, sea inflow and outflow, the phases of the moon, birth and death.

For example, notice your breathing. There is always a polarity of inhaling and exhaling. If you focus on breathing for a moment, you will discover how the unity of these two polarities of inhaling and exhaling influences your whole existence. I remember once when I went on a vipassana meditation retreat, consisting of 10 days in silence, where we were being trained in the different methods of meditation under a teacher’s supervision. The first session began in the evening. When silence was announced, the whole group sat in the courtroom to begin the first meditation. It seemed simple, because the exercise was just to observe breathing, but I had never done it before. When I began to focus on my breath for the first time in my life, I almost panicked thinking that I would be short of it. It was so hard for me to endure a pause between inhaling and exhaling. I was afraid that if I exhale, I would run out of air. Instead of observing my breath, I began to control it. This pause between inhaling and exhaling reminded me of another important polarity - life and death. When I went from the unconscious into the conscious, instead of relaxing, there was a struggle. There was anxiety, rather than calmness. This feeling gave the signal to the brain that I’m in danger, and then instead of starting to breathe slower and deeper, I started to hyperventilate. I had to listen to the breathing of other people around me to calm down and feel safe again.

The polarity of inhaling and exhaling has a great impact on our life. Every day, with every single breath we start new life, oxygenating our blood and letting the heart beat. With each exhalation, we get rid of what is unnecessary for our body, all the toxins are cleared out from our respiratory system and blood. Inhaling and exhaling are polarities in themselves similar to our nervous system that works likewise. Our nervous system consists of two reverse systems: the parasympathetic system and sympathetic system. When we are in the resting phase, the parasympathetic system is activated, responsible for relaxation and improving digestion. However when we experience stress or tension, the sympathetic nervous system activates, which is not as "sympathetic" as it sounds. The sympathetic system is responsible for the fight or flight mechanism. This system activates the whole body. The heart starts beating faster and the hair stands on end. Our nervous system with the opposition between the parasympathetic and sympathetic system is another amazing polarity, which affects many of our live mechanisms, to which we are subjected every day.

The best examples for various polarities you can find in nature. Living in cities of prosperous western societies, we don’t feel the power of nature so strongly. I remember visiting my grandmother, who had a cottage in the woods. In the morning it was so cold that we had to warm up near the fireplace in the kitchen, and during the day we took heat from the sun. At nightfall, all the animals in the forest went silent and the only sound was the pounding silence. On a clear moonlight night, the haze swarmed the forest. When there was no moon, such darkness was falling that we couldn’t see the furniture in the room. At dawn the birds woke us up with a cascade of sounds and the new day begun. While watching the fire in the fireplace, you could see the birth of a new flame and subsequent annihilation of the pieces of wood. In order to relax by the fireplace, first you had to work hard, and bring the wood inside. The melancholy of autumn was changing over to winter silence, then into the blooming of spring and the heat of the summer. Just like after the rain the sun shines and after the winter spring comes, old houses in the village collapsed with the death of grandparents are rebuilt by young ones. Living in the countryside even for a while, it was also easier to understand that after grief eventually joy comes and it was easier to trust in the eternal order.

In our times we take distance from nature. We separate ourselves by using electricity from warming up in the ritual of fire, by thermostats in the rooms from following the weather changes, by hot running water from using water from the cold streams, by lanterns from the darkness of night, by hospitals to keep us from death. Supposedly everything becomes easier but we experience more stress because of the lack of connection with our own selves and the lack of understanding of the interference of opposites, which more or less consciously we still sense. We experience every loss so much as if it was a fire or flood in the olden days, and success as if it was spring coming after a long winter. Having no contact with ourselves and not understanding what it’s like to be in harmony and in balance with that which occurs in nature, whenever we experience any trouble, we think that it will always be like this.

Our limited perception

Usually when going through a problem, our perspective becomes very limited. It’s as if you were looking at the world through the wider side of the funnel and saw only a small part of the view on the other side. If we would use a funnel perspective as a metaphor for how our view on a particular situation is narrowed sometimes, then you could see your current situation only to extent of what somebody said to you or did. You would see only what happened in the relation of accompanied emotions of sadness, anger, disappointment, shame and fear. You couldn’t see that maybe someone else in your position could feel joy, tranquillity, fulfilment, relaxation, freedom, love. By realizing that you got stuck in a rut of the polarity, you can finally get outside of the limited perception and look at the event from a new perspective. Then, manoeuvring between the experiences of rage and euphoria or other couple of polarities, you can finally find a point of view, which is more realistic, yet gives you the prospect of more constructive actions based on your skills and intuition.

Based on the principle of contrast between the two polarities you’re able to look at the situation in a more creative way and reverse the funnel to see all the opportunities in front of you. Firstly, there might be that the new opportunities will not only help you to change the perception of a problem but also what might result is that there is no problem anymore. Secondly you will find inspirations to react in an entirely new way, without giving in to the routine way of reaction.

A good example of a difference in the approach to new things is the way in which children react when they see the sea for the first time. Some are very afraid of the immensity of the water and cry, others are just surprised and have their eyes wide-open and touch the water surface just a little bit with their feet. Others are delighted with the sea and immediately jump into the water like in a huge puddle.

The perception of what we consider to be a problem is similar. Some people love to appear in public. From early childhood they’re joyfully reciting poems and singing with their childish voice. Others are almost paralyzed with fear when they have to show up in public. It’s just a matter of perception. If we were able to change the perception and modulate it in the direction of our dreams, the world would align itself to how we want it to be.

When you ask various people about their experience of a certain event, everybody would have a different perspective to share. Some would perceive it as a problem, some as a challenge and for others it would be just a piece of cake. Based of the variety of perspective on the same event, we could easily come to conclusion that the nature of events is essentially neutral and it’s us who give them meaning. We colour events with our point of view, prejudices, former experiences and acquired knowledge.

A good example of how our perspective varies was researched on cats. In the experiment, kittens from their very early days were kept for a few weeks in an environment where everything could be seen only in horizontal lines. When a kitten was let out into the normal environment, it was stumbling for some time into everything that was vertical, because it was not able to notice it. The same happened with a kitten in the vertical conditions, they couldn’t see any horizontal shapes. This phenomenon of narrowed perspective also can take place with humans. Anthropological studies describe that people living in the jungle taken to the savannah for the first time, seeing a buffalo from a distance, thought it was a fly, because they’re lacking of a sense of perspective.

It happens similarly with many things in our lives that looking from the point of view of one polarity we sometimes don’t notice that the event or object can be seen in a different way. Emotional Management Method helps to extend this point of view and allows you to choose from which perspective you really prefer to look.

Towards Unity

There is a state of mind, which exists above the division into different cognition categories. In this state we are not subjected to either a strong desire or avoidance. We don’t dream about being somewhere else than we are right now, neither do we reject the presence of here and now. These states of union could occur in the rare moments when we are dazzled by the beauty of a landscape, a sunset, or we are holding hands with a beloved person or cuddle a new-born child. Such moments of harmony and contentment happen to us naturally but only from time to time. However, we do have the ability to be in these states more often. We can experience the state of union more frequently by learning to bring in the alpha state through deep prayer, meditation or feeling of gratitude for what we have.

We can also achieve the state of being above polarities after 20 minutes of a session of Emotional Management Method. We will experience a moment in which we look at our lives in a new light, as if we are standing on the top of the hill. This new clarity of our mind enables us to choose the path to go further.
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