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The Ultimate Personality Conflict (and how to solve it)

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen Red Feeling and Blue Thinking fight out a trench war.

Fundamentally it is a personality conflict, a big one too. But how could it be resolved?

It is what happens when either/or thinking replaces both/and.

We can map the conflict on the typological functions as follows.

Blue Thinking says:

We have to reopen the economy and we have to reopen it soon. People have to get back to work, and children back to school. This panic is dumb, the pandemic will pass. Some people will die but we can't afford to kill our economy!

Red Feeling responds:

Safety and well-being of people come first. We cannot infect more people or overwhelm our hospital system. People are dying at an alarming rate, without their loved ones at their sides. The economy will suffer but we can't afford to kill more people!

Both points of view have their own validity, and yet they're perfectly opposite.

One thing is certain, they do not afford each other much wriggling room.

The really big problem starts with the perception of a life-and-death struggle, an epic conflict between good-and-evil:

  • One's right, the other wrong

  • One's good, the other bad

  • One's strong, the other weak.

​Once this starts, it's hard to stop. It's how individuals, relationships, teams, and organizations collapse.

And the problem continues with an endless and ugly blame-game, larded with conspiracy theories.

Jung said a polarized psyche is a neurotic one. And we are seeing plenty of that in our collective behavior.

So. Don't. Go. There.

As Abraham Lincoln said, "A house divided against itself, cannot stand." He was probably the last American politician who understood the following principle:

One of the great paradoxes of life is that the purpose of polarities is not to polarize but to harmonize.

True and authentic power is found by holding the tension between the poles of polarities so that they become balanced, integrated, and dynamic.

Real human suffering takes place in the conflict of polarization. It's how individuals, teams and organizations collapse.

Carl Jung wrote that we need to hold the "tension of opposites that provides the stimulation which culture needs for its further progress."

So there you go. Couldn't have said it better.

Holding the tension starts with putting all your energy into answering the simple question:

How can we serve the needs of both Red Feeling and Blue Thinking?

How can we open the economy, our schools and yet be safe from this virus?

Once you start doing this, you start to truly access your human intelligence, your human consciousness.

Asking the right question is usually half the work.

If, as a society, we'd spend all our mental, emotional and financial energy on answering this question, a completely new reality would emerge and we'd all be a lot better off.

I've seen some brilliant solutions and comments on social media from people that can hold this tension. Some countries also seem better at this than others.

Many admire Germany's resolve (fast and free testing, robust contact tracing, mandatory masks, resulting in low community spread, death rates, and economic damage).

But what really caught my eye was that the University of Leipzig conducted an experiment with volunteers in three different indoor concerts to see how the virus spreads and what measures are most effective.

A simple, powerful experiment that is in the interest of both Red Feeling and Blue Thinking.

Very clever! Not without risk, but a calculated risk. This story has made headlines. The results are expected this fall.

"Life is born only from the spark of opposites", Jung wrote. I am starting to think he was right.

Holding the tension starts with holding the tension in yourself, the Spine of your Personality. Embrace both/and, and let go of either/or.

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