A new José Stevens Article

Positive & Negative Poles as Useful Tools

Print this page

Just about everything in our experience has positive poles and negative poles, something that determines whether those experiences are enjoyable, satisfying, and joyful or painful and disconnecting. Positive and negative poles impact roles, goals, attitudes, modes, centers, levels of perception, needs, and values.

Everything you can experience in the human world has these polarities and they can be useful guides to how to approach almost anything to reap the advantages and avoid problems. While we often take these poles for granted, there is a deeper scientific meaning behind the polarities that is well worth knowing. Here we will explore and penetrate this phenomenon in order to gain greater insight, in other words, to connect the dots so that we can better use this critical information about our world.

Let’s take an example from the personality overleaves, the goal of growth. The positive pole of the goal of growth is to evolve, to extend our skills and our understanding of whatever it is we are attempting to master. When we evolve we accelerate our growth and move up the spiral of experience into the next higher octave, a more refined frequency. Growth can be about anything from taking on the challenges of the business world to understanding new languages to realizing greater mastery in expression of music. Growth can refer to gaining experience in relationships, learning to sing and perform, mastering photography, or becoming a superior athlete. Growth suggests lessons learned, more efficiency, less wasted effort and time, and more rapid movement toward what was intended. Despite the hard knocks of learning, the process feels exciting and the results are most welcome. Who does not enjoy greater mastery in an area of expertise?  So far, this is all well and good.

Shamanically speaking all life forms in the known universe are striving to become more powerful, to develop to their next level of sophistication, to grow and evolve, and they will do it by any means possible, sometimes competitively but more often through cooperation because of the understanding that there is strength in numbers. Aligning with others on a similar trajectory of growth is usually sustaining and does promote success. However there are two things here to consider, rate of growth and dealing with the obstacles (the forces aligned against growth) that all life forms face in their path toward evolution.

So it is time now to consider the negative pole of growth (or any negative pole for that matter) and this is can be summarized by several words, confusion, chaos, or entropy. What causes us to experience the negative pole of growth and what does it do to the growth process? To answer this question we will have to sidestep over to science and introduce the second law of thermodynamics. This is a complicated sounding term that simply states that entropy, a measure of disorder or wasted energy, will never decrease in a closed system like our universe. Another more simple way of stating this is that entropy or chaos is always increasing and it is an uphill battle for order to make headway against it. Contrary to this tendency toward increasing chaos and disorder, open life systems are looking for ways to become more ordered and organized, less random and chaotic. Since the overall tendency of things in the universe is to break down and become more chaotic, why then do some systems grow and become complex orderly systems like planets, plants, animals, weather systems, and civilizations? A Nobel Prize winning theoretical chemist named Ilya Prigogine began to study this question and discovered an interesting phenomenon. He noticed that systems that exchange a great deal of energy and matter with their environments were better able to maintain their organization and even evolve and grow into ever more complex systems. He found that because of this heightened exchange they were better able to dissipate entropy, so much so that they could increase their orderliness despite the overall tendency toward chaos.

Human beings are prime examples of what Prigogine named open systems, ones that have this high exchange rate. Humans absorb light, nutrients, heat, air, water, and information and release into the environment more heat, carbon dioxide, waste products, ideas, and activities. This high exchange rate makes humans a prime evolutionary system, a highly successful flow of energy. Being highly adaptable, humans can handle great fluctuations and varying degrees of input in their environment but there is an upper limit on how much they can handle before entropy takes over and they shut down because they are not able to dissipate it fast enough. When this happens we humans have two choices. One possibility is that we can become highly unstable and basically fall apart, get sick, or die. The organization is lost to entropy. The other possibility is that we reorganize ourselves and keep on going at the next higher level of sophistication. This latter choice is what we call the positive pole of growth or evolution. So life systems intending to grow have devised a unique system that allows them to move through or past the forces of entropy in order to evolve.

We have observed that a growing system like a human being is constantly pushing to learn, not just for survival sake, but to actually evolve beyond its current environment so that it can experience ever more variety. Let us go over this process once again to truly understand it. When we have a learning experience we are stimulated, inspired, and subjected to great internal and external activity.  Depending on the intensity level of the experience we typically reach a saturation point where we cannot take in any more information. At this point we shut down the intake process and temporarily become confused, chaotic, and overwhelmed. Entropy has taken hold. In order to evolve beyond this point of stoppage reorganization is needed.

A simple illustration of this might be to consider what happens to garages or storage spaces. An empty garage tends to fill up with all manner of junk, tools, garden implements, suitcases, casts offs from the house, things that need recycling, and so on. Eventually the space becomes full and it can no longer receive any more items. Anyone who has experienced this process knows that looking at a full, messy, chaotic storage place is not fun. It does not feel good. So what do you need to do? You reorganize the space. You take out the junk; you find more efficient ways of storing things. In other words, you make new space. Ultimately you might even opt for expanding the garage or building an addition and this is exactly what happens in the human brain and in the central nervous system of the body. At the point of overwhelm you instantly recognize the need to reorganize so that your system can handle more information and thus expand and grow. First you give yourself a short rest called the goal of abbreviation. During this rest you reorganize subconsciously. You do this over and over and over again throughout your life. Some people are motivated to do it more than others and so they growth faster and get further toward their destination. Other humans are less motivated and they still grow but at a slower pace. When a person is no longer interested in growing, the forces of entropy take over and they begin to die. First they die psychologically and then the body eventually dies because no more reorganization is taking place and input has begun to exceed the ability to dissipate energy. In conventional terms this is what aging is all about. There is a difference between how medical doctors talk about aging and what is actually possible through becoming older. This we will not deal with here but hopefully you understand the implications.

Here let us consider several things. Why is it that some people are more effective and efficient at the reorganization process? What is it that they are doing or what do they know that allows maximum acceleration? First of all we know that stress can interfere with growth and accelerate aging. While some stress is stimulating and helpful, too much tends to create rapid overwhelm where the growth process is constantly interrupted and stoppage is frequent. This slows down the growth process dramatically. So what is it that actually creates stress? We say that stress is a response to too much input but that does not really tell us what we want to know. The truth is that the experience of stress is actually the result of resistance to whatever we are experiencing either internally or externally. The more resistance someone responds with, the greater the stress, the more slowing down or stoppage happens. So why do people resist and how can they learn not to resist so much?

Resistance is basically a way of saying, “I don’t like it. I don’t like what is happening to me. Make it go away.” The emphasis here is on the phrase “to me.” This is the experience of the world coming at me, as if I am a victim of it and have to fight it off. Now, while this is a popular perception, because most people think of the world as out there and happening to them, this is a disastrous position to take. Not only is it extremely stressful, but also it is simply wrong. There is nothing happening to any of us. It just seems that way. We are actually responding to an inner experience that seems to be projected into the world that our senses faultily tell us is out there. This perception, true as it may appear to be, is immature. One of the reasons that it is immature is that it does not allow a person to take responsibility for their life and for their experience. So the more immature a person is according to the age of their soul, the more they will tend to resist their experience, the more stressed they will be, and the quicker they will age. This is why many younger souls age quickly. Mature souls can be terrifically stressed as well because they have maximum input without actually realizing that they are creating their reality so they are often in major resistance. Typically they are outraged about what is happening in the world and to themselves and they hate it but feel they can do little to rectify it.

When a person finally realizes that they will never be able to fix reality by anything they can do out in the world they suddenly turn the corner on stress. When they realize that all healing, all repair work happens by working on their own projections, they get a greater sense of more control and greater power than ever before. And they begin to get results because they are no longer resisting their experience. Now they can be with whatever experience comes along and simply witness it and take responsibility for it. This is a major step ahead allowing the growth process to accelerate. The overwhelm and stoppage are now vastly reduced and reorganization happens frequently with much greater efficiency.

This is what is known as a learning curve. At first progress is slow and tedious, constantly interrupted by resistance and overwhelm. Gradually the person begins to tolerate more and more ambiguity, more and more times of confusion without becoming overwhelmed. They learn to resist less and accept more. The more they do this the more rapid their learning and they begin to accelerate ahead of the pack. Going back to our notion of the success of open systems, some people carry a system that is more open than others. The more open the system the greater the success with evolving, growing, progressing. This is called adaptability, flexibility, having an open mind, contemplating a wide range of possibilities, and seeing the potential win or learning in every experience. In other words it is a more positive attitude, a glass half full mentality.

So now let us consider other positive and negative poles so that we can see how this same process applies across the board. Consider the goal of acceptance for example, the positive pole is agape, unconditional acceptance, the negative pole is ingratiation. Agape is wide open, a full exchange with the environment. There is no resistance in agape and therefore no stress overwhelming the system or slowing things down. On the other hand ingratiation carries worry, the question about whether I will be accepted or not. That questions causes energy to be expended on trying many different things to become accepted. Eventually the worry and stress about what to do will overtake the system and shut it down. The eventually response will be, “I can’t figure it out so I quit.” All growth stops here unless a reorganization takes place. If the person says, “I quit. I’m hiding at home from now on. I am not playing.” and so on, this stops anything further. Yet what if the person says, “I quit this ingratiation. From now on I am going to forget about worrying about whether I am being accepted and I am going to concentrate on accepting others no matter what?” This then is a reorganization to a larger playing field that reduces the stress and pushes the person toward the positive pole.

Since this is a year with the influence of the king role let us look at its positive and negative poles. The positive pole of king is mastery and the negative pole is tyranny. Tyranny is crushing dominance and the desire for control based on the fear of not being in control. Being a fearful response, tyranny is highly stressful to the organism. The person will have a great deal of attention focused on ways to tyrannize their subjects out of fear of their rebellion. At some point the amount of information required to control everyone and everything will become overwhelming, causing the king to have a break down or lose to the inevitable overthrow. On the other hand if they operate from mastery there is no fear, no stress and they find ever more ways to demonstrate great competence and leadership thus a break down or an overthrow is highly unlikely. They are operating from a growing evolving pattern.

No matter what set of poles we are dealing with there will always be the same pattern. The positive pole will always be less stressful and more expansive and conducive to forward movement. Basically it moves in the direction of essence or oneness, the most powerful force in the universe. The negative pole will always be based on fear, driven by false personality, highly stressful and given to overwhelm, entropy, and stoppage. This is like paddling the canoe upstream. Ultimately it’s the disintegration of order, otherwise known as death.

Positive and negative poles can only exist in a dualistic universe, the physical plane. Since dualism is impossible in the face of the oneness of Spirit, there are no poles in an enlightened space. Think of positive poles as a bridge between what is utterly false and what is ultimately true. The positive poles get us out of the lie and into the truth. Once there, the concept of poles vanishes. Spirit uses such bridges to remind us where truth is and as a prod to wake up.

Did you enjoy this article?

Share it with your friends and family on your favourite Social Network.

José Stevens

José Luis Stevens, PhD is the president and co-founder (with wife Lena) of Power Path Seminars, an international school and consulting firm dedicated to the study and application of shamanism and indigenous wisdom to business and everyday life. José completed a ten-year apprenticeship with a Huichol (Wixarika) Maracame (Huichol shaman) in the Sierras of Central Mexico. In addition, he is studying with Shipibo shamans in the Peruvian Amazon and with Paqos (shamans) in the Andes in Peru. In 1983 he completed his doctoral dissertation at the California Institute of Integral Studies focusing on the interface between shamanism and western psychological counseling. Since then, he has studied cross-cultural shamanism around the world to distill the core elements of shamanic healing and practice. He is the author of twenty books and numerous articles including Encounters With Power, Awaken The Inner Shaman, The Power Path, Secrets of Shamanism, Transforming Your Dragons and How To Pray The Shaman's Way.