Journal Article | Transactional Analysis Journal | 35 | January 2005
Transcending Polarization: Beyond Binary Thinking
Human life is an emotional roller coaster, and when confronting emotionally charged events, individuals, groups, and larger collectivities instinctively frame their predicaments in a binary way—as a polarity encompassing a dimension of choice with two mutually exclusive alternatives. Events are thus construed as dilemmas to be resolved in favor of one alternative or the other.However, the inherent tension leading to polarization conceals an important developmental opportunity, if we “hold” the tension long enough to permit exploration, differentiation, and resolution by a third, “mediating” element. In this article the authors explore the regressive (defensive) and progressive (developm ental) functions of the archetypal human propensity to polarize.The neural underpinnings and the psychology of binary thinking are considered followed by an examination of the dialectical patterns found in various schools of psychotherapy and the ways in which they represent attempts to harness the energy of polarization for healing and growth.