Enantiodromia and the New Age of Sustainability

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"In the philosophy of Heraclitus, enantiodromia is used to designate the play of opposites in the course of events--the view that everything that exists turns into its opposite..." - Carl Jung (1949)


The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung drew heavily upon the ancient Greek Philosophers in formulating his groundbreaking theories in analytical psychology.  Among his most important insights was the Karmic tendency of human emotions to metamorphose into their opposites--Enantiodromia.

In his Collected Works, Jung described his use of the term as "...the emergence of the unconscious opposite in the course of time."  Jung observed that the emergence of unconscious ideas occurs when an extreme one-sided tendency dominates conscious life; eventually an equally strong countervailing tendency builds:  Euphoria becomes melancholy; valued becomes worthless; and good becomes bad.  

And so it may be that Enantiodromia can help us better understand the current trajectory of the World:  Brexit in Europe and the rise of Donald Trump in the US have signaled an accelerating global trend toward economic nationalism, protectionism, and xenophobia.  Failing states, mass migration, and fear of terrorism are driving a world-wide shift toward isolationism replete with Border Walls and Travel Bans in the US.  Automation and artificial intelligence are widening the gap between the Haves and Have Nots, resulting in a swell of dislocated communities, people left behind, and a shrinking middle class.  A nostalgic desire to return to the high-paying factory jobs and mass consumption of old are fueling a roll-back in environmental protection, resurgence of fossil fuel investment, and a denial of global climate change.

The Trump Administration in the US has appointed an EPA Administrator that wants to eliminate the agency, an Education Secretary that does not believe in public education, an Energy Secretary that thinks the main job is to lobby for the fossil fuel industry, and a chief strategist that advocates for closing the borders and turning the clock back on civil rights.  Many now legitimately fear that these accelerating global trends will inevitably lead to rising religious and ethnic intolerance, trade wars, military conflicts, climate crisis, environmental meltdown, and a new authoritarianism.  

But what if all these recent trends were a blessing in disguise?  What if they represent the last gasp of a dying system?  What if we are on the verge of a major shift in World View that will catapult us into a sustainable future?  Remember that the principle of Enantiodromia teaches us that extreme one-sidedness builds up a tension, and the more extreme the position, the more easily it can shift to its opposite.

A Hillary Clinton Presidency would probably not have created such an extreme; on the contrary, it would in all likelihood have resulted in slow death rather than deep change.  What if the world-wide protests, grassroots activism, and town hall engagement that have been spawned in the past few months are just the tip of the iceberg?  What if this is just the start of a giant pendulum swing in the opposite direction?  What if we are on the cusp of a new age characterized by tolerance, social inclusion, regeneration, and environmental sustainability?  Remember: It's always darkest just before the dawn.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Stuart L. Hart published on February 26, 2017 2:20 PM.

Transformational Sustainability Initiatives: How to Move Beyond Corporate Sustainability Ratings was the previous entry in this blog.

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