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I can feel it coming with my clients and myself. When clarity begins to emerge from pain, suddenly energy will begin to cycle. This is inevitably when thoughts race around and around in circles and can’t quite take an alternative path forward through the next threshold of awakening – or aha moment. As pain subsides, polar thoughts and emotions emerge regarding the meaning of the experiences.

As painful as this stagnate process is for clients, it is an indication a the proximity of their next big forward leap in healing or growth. Often their are some very limiting behaviors that are reactions to this stickiness. Once the polarization is resolved, poof, limitations are history!

I look for these polarities in sessions with clients. We identify and name them and then explore them. Our brains struggle to allow two polar thoughts or emotions to coexist in our meaning making categorizations of events. When you can allow for both polars to exist – co-exist, then you can move on. Hold them together, love them both, they are both truth. Give yourself the gift of polarized meaning and you will notice limitations begin to release.

One the clearest examples of polar thinking is around fault and blame. I should premise this example by saying that releasing the concept of fault and blame altogether is important to emotional and relational health. Our example will be a woman who would like to be free of obsessions around a recent break-up in a relationship. Her partner was not very nice to her, called her names and blamed her for the issues in the relationship. He was unwilling to get help to resolve the issues as he felt she was manipulative and she needed to be more secure in herself in order for their relationship to succeed. She would become emotional and reactive when he was not willing to work out conflicts. She would cry for his attention to their ailing relationship.

She is stuck following the break-up. She wonders, “was I right, did he lack empathy and interest in an equal relationship, or was he right, am I insecure and manipulative?” She fluctuates between these polars constantly, trying to pick one as the truth. She needs meaning in order to move on and feel sure she is not repeating the same mistakes. And her brain cannot accept both of these at the same time as they are opposite truths. She earnestly pleas with her friends to get an objective view of the fault in the relationship and friends and family are defensive of her, condemning him for his behavior. She is left feeling lost and confused, her sense of reality and truth is shaken.

What then if she holds these polars together, he cares though is limited (for whatever reasons) empathetically and emotionally, AND she can improve her sense of security and self-esteem to keep from caring to control those she is in relationship with. Often when a partner is not responding to an emotional need, the individual will begin to use passive aggressive approaches to try to get the need met in another fashion, unconsciously attempting to manipulate the partner into meeting that need. These patterns are established much earlier in our lives with our caretakers and are repeated unconsciously because they are familiar relational dynamics – they feel like the norm and we know what to do with the norm. When the truth is clear around both polars being truth, she can begin to see that she cannot and will no longer try to control a relationship with someone that is not fully invested in the relationship’s growth – an unavailable partner. She can than be free to focus on her own well-being and accept relationships only with those that can show her emotional respect through their actions.

Voila! – she softens into truth and the energy is free flowing once again. Thank you polar thinking!

To polar thinking,

Kim Ottinger

To schedule a free 20 minute phone consult with Kim for art therapy, talk therapy, EMDR, or sensorimotor therapy or to work with a therapist who knows how to guide you through polar thinking 

in Washington, DC, email her at kim@yoursoultherapy.com