Cheryl's Blog

Week 11 – Embrace Conflict: Hold the tension of the opposites


On March 31st & April 1st I’ll be speaking at the Start Over Smart conference designed to support people who are going through the challenging transition of divorce.  I’m delivering the keynote address on Sunday morning and you can learn more about the event here.

Have a peaceful week!



p.s. – Need a little Divine Direction? Use the “Touch of Grace” button on our homepage here.

Topic of the Week

Embrace Conflict

I’m visiting London for The Writer’s Workshop and wanted to rebroadcast an old newsletter.  When I opened my file to search for one, I found this newsletter, written after a vacation I took with my husband, Michael.  I love how the right thing appears when you allow Life to lead.  Here I am in London loving our workshop while at the same time missing home.  Here’s what I wrote…

During our vacation I was struck by a feeling I often experience when I travel – conflict.  While I enjoy the sights and sounds of a new place, I also miss the beauty and comfort of home.  Often, the feelings for both are equally strong.

When this happens, I remind myself of a message I heard long ago from a teacher who has had a profound influence on my life and my work.  Her name is Marion Woodman and she used to tell us that wholeness comes from learning to “hold the tension of the opposites.”

It’s the nature of living as a human being on earth to deal with the tension of opposites.  After all, we live in a world of duality.  There’s day and night, summer and winter, good and evil.  Navigating the complex feelings that come from holding this tension can be stressful and challenging at best.  You interview for a new job, for example, and find yourself anxiously waiting to hear how you did while knowing that at the same time you need to be patient and detached from the outcome.  Or, you try to be a good parent by encouraging your child to go out into the world to live a full, rich life, while everything inside you begs to hold tight to keep him or her safe.

How do we hold the tension of the opposites and still thrive and enjoy our lives?  What can we do to make this experience less stressful?  Here are a few things that have helped me:

Give voice to your feelings.  As I grappled with mixed emotions during the trip, I felt alone and a little crazy.  After all, here I was in one of the most beautiful cities in the world (we were visiting Paris) and part of me wanted to be home.  It didn’t make sense.  But, once I stopped suffering in silence and shared my thoughts with Michael, I discovered that he felt it, too.  Sharing my feelings and knowing I wasn’t alone immediately made me feel better.

Honor the opposites.  Rather than judge one side as better or worse than the other, honor both parts equally.  I spent some time by myself writing about the traveler in me who was thoroughly enjoying seeing new places, meeting new people, and having new adventures.  And I also wrote about the other part that loved our home, missed our little cat, Poupon, and wanted the comfort and peace of familiar routines.  What I soon discovered was that giving time and space to both parts of me made me feel stronger and more able to be with the tension.

Strengthen your ability to hold both.  Once I felt stronger, I had a glimpse of what Marion was talking about when she said that “wholeness” comes from holding the tension of the opposites.  Rather than try to exorcise or ignore my uncomfortable feelings, I needed to see the choice to be with both as a kind of “inner training session.”  As I centered myself in the tension, I imagined weaving parts of me together into a stronger, more mature woman.  By doing this I was developing an emotional muscle that would ultimately allow me to bring more of who I am to the world.

I hope this makes sense.  As is often the case, I’m working it out as I write.  I know I’m not alone, though.  We’re all faced with the task of living with opposing feelings and experiences.  It’s what we do with it that matters most.  My intention is to master the art of holding myself in the beauty and possibility of the in-between world.  And I invite you to join me .

Take Action Challenge

This week, identify an inner conflict that reflects two different parts of you.   Then, talk to someone about it.  Share your feelings and experiences.  Give time and attention to both parts by writing about them in a journal or notebook.  Finally, find an image that reflects the strength of holding the tension and allow this image to inspire you to stay steady and strong.

I want every kitten in this week’s video. You can watch it here.

Life Makeover For The Year 2012 (sm) is written and produced by Cheryl Richardson. If you have any questions or comments, or for reprint permission of this newsletter, please email: © Copyright 1999-2012. Cheryl Richardson, P.O. Box 13, Newburyport, MA 01950. All rights reserved.