Swinging the Pendulum

What if you think you need to maintain an old situation that you’re only tolerating for the secondary gains, and you don’t feel you can afford to quit immediately and lose those gains while you seek a better situation?

For instance, what if you don’t think you can afford to quit your job and have no income coming in while you search for something better?

Or what if you don’t feel you could leave a so-so relationship while you look for a more aligned partner?

It will probably slow you down if you remain stuck in those situations, but it doesn’t have to derail your progress completely.

When you’re not aligned with a situation, life may eventually eject you from it, or you’ll sabotage the experience enough that other people eventually kick you out, such as by laying you off or by breaking up with you. Tolerating negative circumstances is an unstable situation. One way or another, it will eventually come to an end. The real question is when.

If you prefer to creep up on clarity at a snail’s pace, then tolerating a negative situation is certainly one way to do it. It will slow you down, usually by a lot. But you can still do it if you feel it’s what you need to experience.

Now if you’re not ready to move on from a tolerable situation with secondary gains, but you still want to progress towards greater clarity then here’s a key question to ask yourself (and to keep asking again and again): Which is more important to me right now – the secondary gains I’m getting (like the income, the companionship, etc) or increasing my alignment with something else?

Now if your honest answer is that the secondary gains are indeed the most important to you right now, and if you’re unwilling to risk them, then in a sense we could say you already have pretty good clarity, right? You’re clear that those gains are what’s most important to you. And so you can feel congruent continuing to do what it takes to maintain them.

In fact, if you suspect that’s the right approach for you right now, I encourage you to make that choice. Try it on for size. See how it feels. Go a few weeks living with that mindset. Know that you’ve chosen those secondary gains for now. Tell yourself that this is what you want or need to experience at this point in time. See if you can continue to feel good about that decision.

If you can feel good about that decision, then your negative internal reaction to your circumstances will begin to lift. You’ll progress from tolerance to acceptance and surrender, and you’ll stop resisting what you don’t want. You’ll actually begin to appreciate your situation for the worthwhile value it provides. You’ll appreciate your paycheck more. You’ll appreciate your relationship partner more. And through this surrender, your sense of clarity will improve.

If, on the other hand, your best efforts to accept your secondary gains don’t stand the test of time, and you still find yourself feeling ambivalent about the decision – meaning that you keep waffling back and forth on it – then this suggests that deep down, something else is actually more important to you than the secondary gains you’re trying so hard to defend. It suggests that you’re headed for a transition.

This is another invitation to acceptance and surrender. In this case, can you surrender to the transition that’s coming up for you? Can you accept that you’re currently in an unstable situation and that one way or another, you’ll soon be moving on?

If you can surrender to the inevitability of your transition, you’ll also experience an increase in clarity. It will help you get past the doubt of staying where you are, and this will swing the pendulum the other way. You’ll feel increasingly dissatisfied with your current situation, and you’ll be less willing to keep tolerating it.

Either way, swing the pendulum. That’s the key to overcoming ambivalence. If you swing it one way, and it doesn’t lead to greater clarity, then swing it even harder the other way. Lean one way, and if that doesn’t work out, then lean even more the other way. And keep increasing the amplitude of your swings till you break free on one side or the other.

Either you’ll come to love your current situation, and you’ll fully surrender to it and release any significant resistance to staying. Or you’ll find your current situation so intolerable that you’re finally ready to move on and transition.

You can swing the pendulum even while you continue to experience the secondary gains.

If you don’t swing the pendulum, or if you’re not willing to do so because you perceive it could risk your secondary gains by increasing the chances of a transition, then there’s another layer of acceptance and surrender that you can work on. And that is to accept that you’re effectively sentencing yourself to an ongoing lack of clarity. You’re degrading your hope of experiencing more clarity than you have right now.

You have the option to do that. You can keep yourself stuck in ambivalence and confusion if you so choose.

But if you do want greater clarity, then it’s wise to accept that you cannot continue to tolerate what you don’t actually like. And moreover, you cannot continue to tolerate ambivalence either. And the reason is simple. Tolerance and ambivalence don’t create clarity; they just perpetuate confusion.

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Read Swinging the Pendulum by Steve Pavlina