If I told you to sit with yourself for a moment, identify your mood of the moment, and then think of the opposite of that mood, what would come to mind? Maybe you’re relaxed, so you would think of feeling tense. Maybe you’re stressed, so you would think of feeling prepared. Maybe you’re busy, so you would think of being bored.
Whatever it is that you’re feeling at any given moment has an opposite. And that simple concept holds more power than we typically realize.
Not only do all feelings have opposites, but everything in life has an opposite— concepts, time of days, thoughts, etc.
dark + light
happy + sad
rich + poor
productive + idle
fast + slow
full + empty
The list could go on.
To get a little more feel-y, the appreciation for any given situation, feeling, etc. only comes from knowing it’s opposite. You cannot know what light is unless you have experienced dark, you cannot know what it feels like to be full unless you have felt empty— the definitions of each word in a pair of opposites are dependent on each other.
Everything you feel has an opposite that you will also feel. And that’s okay. Actually, it’s great.
In this blog post, I would like to explain the concept of opposites as I know it, and how it can be a huge influence to our personal growth. To start, I would like to introduce the concept of positive + negative.
Although we could say that “positive” and “negative” are subjective terms, the fact of the matter is that one does not exist without the other. Unless we have experienced both something “positive” and something “negative,” we would not even have the ability to label anything as either. The concept of “positivity” literally cannot exist without the existence of negativity.
This is a deep concept, so really think about that for a moment— we place the label of “negative” on things that we see as— yes, you guessed it— not positive. That is the definition of negativity… lacking positivity.
To get scientific on this concept for a moment, let’s think of the pair “hot + cold.” Most of us can recall from a science class at some point in time that “cold” really isn’t a thing— it is simply the lack of heat. Well, it’s the same thing with negativity— it exists in the absence of positivity.
A fascinating concept for sure, but, how does this affect us? Why should you think about this more often than just right now?
The concept of opposites is personally my absolute favorite concept in the world, so I want to share how I apply this concept to my own life as a contribution to growth.
I think we can all agree that growth is a ~positive~ thing.
And the cool thing is this:
Most of the feelings/situations that we label as negative are the most direct tools for growth.
The other cool thing about the power of opposites is that it’s completely unavoidable!
It’s inevitable to avoid negative feelings— they exist because positive feelings also exist. You will have to feel negative feelings, so you might as well get comfy with them and learn how to turn them into a tool to use as growth.
To keep it really simple, here is how I suggest that you do this: feel it all.
I’m going to say that again… Feel. It. All. Really feel into it. Everything.
Trying to push away feelings we don’t like takes energy, and once we use up energy by pushing them away, not only have we lost energy, but those feelings will pop right back up to be felt again. One of the best ways to handle anything is to tackle it head on— we all know that. When it comes to feelings, they are just that— FEELings. And feelings demand to be felt.
Notice what anxiety and anger and sadness and nervousness feel like in your body— they bring tension and burning sensations and a certain heaviness.
Notice what love, generosity, happiness, and kindness feel like— warm, spacious, light, comfortable, cozy.
Acknowledging each feeling is being honest and true to yourself. It’s crucial. When you give light to the negative, you give light to the positive.
A great way to practice this is a simple breathing exercise, which highlights the pair of full + empty:
For just a few moments, sit with your breath and nothing else. Take a deep breath, as deep as you can, and when your lungs are full, hold the “in” breath for a moment, and feel the fullness. After letting all the air out— completely emptying your lungs— pause there at the bottom, at the end of “out” breath, and feel the emptiness.
Where there is the ability to be full, there is the ability to be empty.
Now, how can this help us grow?
Once we realize the concept of opposites, every passing moment spent in that knowledge shows us the power of the concept.
Where there is night-time, there is day-time coming.
Where there is an uphill, there is a downhill.
Where there is a negative, there is a positive waiting behind it.
Let go of what isn’t serving you.
How can you swipe away the negative— completely swipe away the negative— and uncover the positive, so that it shines through even brighter?
When you strengthen your mind to let things come and go with ease, you strengthen your ability to release the negative and reveal its opposite.
Repeat this concept over to yourself over and over:
You are the sky; everything else is simply the weather.
Our mind is a space that we fill. Our thoughts come, and they go depending on our own release. If we can let go of thoughts that aren’t serving us, we reveal spaciousness. Vastness. It is this spaciousness that allows everything to be. Just as it is.
This spaciousness gives back the energy we use trying to change things.
This spaciousness gives the tensions the space to unravel themselves.
When you untangle and release confusion, knowing arises.
When you untangle and release anger, love arises.
We do not need to bring in love— or anything positive— to our beings, only release what blocks it. (Stephen Levine, A Gradual Awakening)
Growth is not a destination, it is a process. Acknowledging and feeling each feeling that arises along the way is honoring each side of growth: the before AND the after. The feelings that lead us to growth matter just as much as the feelings that arise once we begin to grow.
Growth exists only because of circumstances that make growth necessary.
Falling down is inevitable, but what if instead of just falling, you picked something up while you were down?
I will leave you with the most comforting thought I’ve had up to this point in my life, that just happens to involve opposites:
If you were born with the weakness to fall, you were born with the strength to rise.