DR JOHN DEMARTINI - Updated 6 months ago
Every human being has a unique set of values or a set of priorities they live by.
When they perceive that their values are supported by another individual or group of individuals, they tend to open up and become more passive and peaceful.
However, when they perceive that their values are challenged, they tend to close down and become more challenging, wrathful, and conflict-oriented.
In other words, each individual has the capacity for being both a pussycat and a tiger.
I know in my own life that when I perceive that individuals are supportive of what I want, I'm a pussycat, but if I perceive that they are challenging or interfering with my values, I can be a tiger.
We all have the capacity for both polarities equally inside ourselves.
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I like to think of these two sides as being like a magnet – perfectly balanced and inseparable.
In the same way that a magnet has both a positive and negative pole, so too do you have the capacity for both polarities.
Many individuals spend their lives trying to get rid of one side of themselves in an attempt to live a one-sided life, which I believe to be an unsustainable fantasy and impossible.
I love to tell the story of my time at a ‘peace’ conference where I was invited to speak. At one point in my presentation, I asked the 200 delegates from around the world to raise their hands if they had experienced a moment of inner peace. As you can imagine, the majority of them quickly raised their hands and smiled.
I then asked them to raise their hands if they had experienced moments of inner turmoil and conflict. There was a long pause as they looked at others around the room. After all, they were at a peace conference and likely did not want to appear to be hypocritical.
So, I told them that I certainly experience times of inner turmoil and conflict, which seemed to break the ice. The majority of delegates then suddenly raised their hands.
I asked if everyone agreed that, as human beings, we all have moments of peace and moments of turmoil. Everyone I looked at appeared to concur.
I then asked them to raise their hands if they experienced times of peace in their relationship with a mate or partner and other times of turmoil. Once again, most people raised their hands.
I asked the same question about their relationships with their children, their extended family, their social networks, and their business. Once again, they all agreed that they experienced times of peace and conflict, agreements and disagreements, support and challenge, cooperation and competition, pleasures and pains, as well as peace and war.
I then asked, “How then, do you perceive that world peace is possible when each one of us experiences both sides in every dynamic we’ve just discussed?”
The silence in the room was palpable, especially given the fact that we were all at a peace conference aimed specifically at helping to create world peace.
I went on to ask, “At what point does world peace somehow miraculously come about when no individual, group of people, or family manages to achieve and sustain it?”
During the pause that followed, I went on to talk about the Global Peace Index (GPI), which is the world’s leading measure of global peacefulness. In compiling the report, the GPI team takes 99.7% of the world's population and monitors it to ascertain the degree of peace and war in the world.
What’s interesting is that over the decades they have been monitoring it, the GPI continues to center around a medium point of peace and war. In other words, across the globe, there tends to be a balance of peace and war.
This amplifies what I said earlier about my certainty that it is not sustainably possible to live a one-sided life where there is agreements without disagreements, peace without war.
I am not a proponent of a one-sided life because I believe it to be a complete fantasy. Instead, I'm a promoter that you're going to experience both in life.
Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher from 2,500 years ago wrote about how all pairs of opposites arise together, and subside together out of and into a unity and maintain a unity even in their separation. Each pair of opposite regardless of their forms follow this principle, i.e. Agreements and disagreements, the law of similarities and differences, and the law of the one and the many, have all been sustained through time.
This is also reflected in Modern Chaos Theory in the Law of Eristic Escalation which cites that the second you try to impose order on individuals, chaos ensues; and the second you try to create chaos, order comes about.
WHY are there these pairs of opposites? Why are you going to experience one with the other?
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned how every individual on this planet has a unique set of values or priorities, things that are most important to least important in your life.
Whatever is highest on your values is where you're spontaneously inspired to act and where you activate the executive center in your forebrain.
When you try to do something low on your values, you activate the more survival part of your hindbrain, the amygdala, which is more reactive instead of proactive.
In brief, the amygdala wants you to avoid pain and seek pleasure; avoid predator and seek prey. This is also called the survival center of the brain, as opposed to the executive center, which is a thrival center.
A thrival center is where you're most likely to be objective and neutral. A survival center is where you’re likely to seek pleasure, pride, and fantasy. As a result, you are likely to set unrealistic expectations and fantasies, project your values onto others, and puff yourself up with pride. This tends to attract conflict into your life to bring you back to your centered, balanced, neutral and most authentic self.
Walter Cannon wrote a book called The Wisdom of the Body in which he writes about the body’s striving to be in homeostasis, in a state of balance. When you have that, you tend to have resilience and adaptability, are most adapted to a changing environment, and are most fulfilled in life.
So, when you live in accordance with your highest values, activate the executive center of your forebrain and are objective, you are most likely to thrive by embracing both sides.
However, when you attempt to live by your lower values, you activate your amygdala, try to avoid one side and seek the other side, and exist in survival mode.
If you seek and receive support, agreement and peace you can become more juvenilely dependent and when you attract challenge, disagreement and conflict you can become more precociously independent. Maximum growth and development occurs at the border of support and challenge. The more prey you consume, the fuller and fatter you become and the more a predator will target you as its prey.
If you seek a prey without a predator you can become gluttonous, fat and not fit. If you have predator without prey you can become starved, thin and not fit. But when you have a balance of both prey and predator simultaneously like in a food chain you can maximize your fitness. The same for support and challenge, agreement and disagreement, or peace and conflict. Both are essential to maximize your adaptability and fitness.
The more you're addicted to peace, the more likely you are to attract conflict to balance it out and set you free of your dependency.
The more you're addicted to one side, the more the other side is drawn into your life to liberate you.
It's like that old proverb that says that whatever you try to run away from you keep running into.
So nature automatically has these pairs of opposites, and when you finally appreciate these two sides and understand their equally valued importance, you tend to stop looking for a one-sided world.
I’ve been studying peace and war for quite a few decades and have seen how if there's peace in one part of the world, war tends to break out in another part of the world. For example, when the Iron Curtain came down, we saw conflict taking place in Africa. You can actively trace peace and war migrating around the globe.
You may see this on a smaller scale in your own family, how when you have peace at home you may experience conflict at work or vice versa. Even the peace and war transform between various family members over time.
I have seen this play out often in my own life. So, I stopped the fantasy of looking for a one-sided world and embraced the idea that human beings require both. We even have a double sided, complementary opposite paired autonomic nervous system to handle both sides of the equation for wellness, resilience and wellbeing – rest and digest and fight or flight.
To sum up so far: there are two sides to life, a pair of opposites. Maximum growth and development occur at the border of the two sides, and love is the synthesis of the two sides.
I've demonstrated this in my signature two-day program, the Breakthrough Experience, which I've been teaching now for almost 34 years.
Part of the program is where I show you how, in the exact moment that someone is challenging or criticizing you, you'll find someone supporting you, and vice versa. You may not have been conscious of both sides at the time. But when you look you’ll discover it’s there.
Peace is an unconscious side of the conscious conflict, and war is an unconscious side of the conscious peace.
The desire for a one-sided world where everyone agrees with each other and is peaceful is a futile fantasy that is unproductive. Instead, I think that a healthy dialectic of similarities and differences of opinions is essential for evolution.
I'm not interested in trying to be one-sided. I'm interested in integrating the pairs of opposites inside our nature and appreciating their essential and loving synthesis.
In the Breakthrough Experience program I help participants take every trait that they see in other individuals and look at where they have displayed the same trait.
One of the reasons for this exercise of that when you find more times of similarities when you’ve done the same thing, you tend to move towards ‘peace’.
When you perceive more differences where you think, “Oh, I would never do that and I pride myself on never doing that,” you tend to have resulting conflict.
When you see a balance of similarities and differences, when you have a balance of the one and the many, union and division, peace and war, and even marriage and divorce, you have love.
Evolution requires both sides to evolve, and you need both sides to evolve.
What's inspiring is that you can integrate both sides.
- When you live by your highest values and activate your executive function, you are most likely to integrate both sides objectively.
- When you try to live by your lower values and activate your amygdala, you are most likely to polarize both sides subjectively.
The highest part of the brain integrates the pairs of opposites.
As such, it has dialogue, and dialogue is communication with equal sides.
If you're puffed up and proud and talk down to someone, you're likely to project your values onto them and expect them to live in your values.
If you're humble, you're likely to inject someone else’s values into your life and expect yourself to live in them.
Neither of these is obtainable and sustainable, and is, in my opinion, completely futile.
However, when you level the playing field and can see that what they're dedicated to is serving what you're dedicated to, and what you're dedicated to is serving what they're dedicated to, you can appreciate them.
Although there may be differences and different opinions, you will be able to see how they still serve you and so you will be more able to communicate and grow.
This is vastly different from alternating monologues where you're talking down, talking up, walking on eggshells, or telling others what to do.
Anytime you hear yourself saying to somebody that they 'should', 'ought to', 'got to', 'have to', 'must', 'need to' (or perhaps even say the same things to yourself), know that those imperative communication systems originate from an imbalanced state and are most likely to result in resistance.
So, you can live congruently with your highest values and live by priority, and become more resilient, adaptable and equitable as a result. In this case, you are more likely to have equitable communication and embrace both support and challenge, peace and war, instead of trying to avoid one side of them.
Permitting yourself to embrace both sides is the key to fulfillment in life. In other words, instead of searching for one side, it is wise to embrace both sides of life
No one beats you up as much as you do, and no one builds you up as much as you do.
If you sit and give blame or credit to someone on the outside for these two polarities, you're not likely to look inside, reflect and realize that you have the same traits yourself.
When individuals remind you of what you don't own and love in yourself, you tend to become either ameliorative or retaliative as a result.
It’s one of the key reasons why I teach the Demartini Method in the Breakthrough Experience because it’s the most powerful way I’ve found of integrating the pairs of opposites and integrating the peace and war components of your existence.
By going inward and asking yourself, “Where do I do whatever I perceive in others?” you calm down the differences and level the playing field, which allows for more equitable dialogue.
It means that you own the liked or disliked traits inwardly that you admire or despise in others outwardly. As such, you’ll tend not to be the underdog, walk on eggshells, try to inject their values, and have futility, or tend not to be the overdog, walk arrogantly and try to project your values, and have futility.
By owning the traits of individuals around you, discovering that you have all the things you see in them, and having reflective awareness, you level the playing field, have equanimity within you and equity between them, and dialogue is born instead of alternating monologues. As such, you liberate yourself from the angst of trying to achieve a one-sided world.
The majority of individuals are stuck in their amygdala and living in survival.
As such, they’re highly unlikely to be maximally fulfilled in life. They're not living congruently with their highest values. They tend to project their values onto individuals with pride and become addicted to fantasies.
We see it in the news. We see it in the media. We see it in politics. We see it in religion. And we have moral hypocrisies that are born out of it. Those are the very sources, believe it or not, of the very polarities that we're trying to break through, and that's the hypocrisy that we face.
To sum up:
I'm not here to promote the idea of a one-sided world. I don't find that to be productive. I'm interested in helping you embrace both sides of your life and the world around you.
I believe that everything that's going on in the world within and around you is trying to guide you to an authentic state and a place of equanimity to help you find the equalities between individuals.
The equality between individuals is not peace but instead a balance of peace and war, similarities and differences. It is a true state of love.
No two individuals have the same hierarchy of values. No two individuals can have the same viewpoint of life. You're going to have differences because there's a full spectrum of values from one extreme to the other.
If you can ask the question, how specifically is what someone else is dedicated to helping you achieve what you're dedicated to, and how is what you're dedicated to helping them fulfill what they're dedicated to, you can begin to have dialogue.
It doesn't mean you're going to have peace. It means you're likely to have a balance of peace and war in an organized fashion – respectful agreements and disagreements helping each other expand.
When you learn how to communicate effectively, you're living in the dialogue. When you're not effectively communicating because you're downstairs in your amygdala, you are likely to go into conflict because you're setting up peace and war fantasies instead of embracing the two sides.
Just as Heraclitus described that everything is born out of pairs of opposites and you can't have one without the other, when you finally embrace that and own both sides of yourself, the hero and the villain, the saint and the sinner, you're less likely to emotionally react and more likely to think before you react.
As such, you are more likely to have dialogue, appreciate the differences, converse about them, and learn from each other because something that they're dedicated to can serve you, and what you are dedicated to can serve them. In that way, you can embrace the balance of the two instead of escalating them to extremes.
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