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A Special Place for Blog Lovers with a Touch of Science!

What does Enantiodromia mean?

Credit: Gettyimages

Easy words,... difficult words...

Often, we hear words that seem to be incomprehensible or terms used by philosophers or scientists that are condemned as abstract or unearthly. There is a tendency, which praises the simplicity of popular language. Of course, if something cannot be described in a common and natural way, it raises suspicion. However, specialized scientific terms have their irreplaceable role in expressing exact notions and processes. Thereby, when mentioning words like apperception, transcendental, ontology, quantum continuum, etc., scientists (but not only,) are addressing certain phenomena that are hard to be described in simple words, or appear as vague as the terms themselves, if we use metaphors or some other literary device.

Here we've got one useful instrument for interpretation called hermeneutics – another foggy notion. In fact, it is not so difficult to understand that one. In our case, it is just to search for the definition or etymology of a given term and then put it into its specific context.

Today, we're going to take a look at the word enantiodromia. Have you heard that one, well, you could already say yes!


Etymology, Meaning, and Hermeneutics of Enantiodromia

The term derives from ancient Greek enantio (opposite) + dromos (running). If taken literally, it means "going towards the opposite way". This is quite close to its meaning: "the tendency of things, beliefs, etc., to change into their opposites." Ok, now that we know the meaning and origins of the term, it doesn't really elucidate its usage and specific sense. It should be put in context.

The coinage of the word itself is ascribed to Joannes Stobaeus – a shadowy figure from 5th century AD, who lived in Macedonia and of whom little is known. He is the author of a vast compilation of valuable Greek texts. Then, we should turn our attention to the concept behind the word. Most probably the first known author, who implied it, is Heraclitus of Ephesus, who lived around 535 – 475 BC. He put forward the idea that the strife of the opposites is actually an example of harmony. In fragment 126 (one of his works preserved through time), for example, Heraclitus says "cold things warm, warm things cool, wet things dry and parched things get wet." In this union of extremes, they are constantly changing into one another and thus maintaining the sacred balance of the universe.

Many centuries later, the term enantiodromia is used in a different, more psychological perspective by the famous Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung. In Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, he wrote: "Old Heraclitus, who was indeed a very great sage, discovered the most marvelous of all psychological laws: the regulative function of opposites. He called it enantiodromia, a running contrariwise, by which he meant that sooner or later everything runs into its opposite." The definition that Jung gave to the term is: "Enantiodromia. Literally, "running counter to," referring to the emergence of the unconscious opposite in the course of time. This characteristic phenomenon practically always occurs when an extreme, one-sided tendency dominates conscious life; in time an equally powerful counterposition is built up, which first inhibits the conscious performance and subsequently breaks through the conscious control. "

Now, we have both the meaning, the origins, and the context of the term. Hence, we can try to draw out some examples of our cultural and personal experiences. For example, the adoration of Friedrich Nietzsche towards Richard Vagner, followed by his repugnance of the music and philosophy of the latter. To use a modern illustration - the tendency of people engaged in illegal, immoral, or suspicious activities, or propaganda disseminating, without being conscious of their actions, which later become the so-called whistle-blowers. Or, how people who were bullied in their childhood tend to, later, bully others or ex-lovers could turn to hate each other, etc. I will let you think of other examples by yourselves. The point is that the terms that seem to be difficult at first glance, could be really useful, illuminating, and after all, not so hard to decipher, especially nowadays when information is so accessible. So, never stop asking questions, and don't be afraid of words, they are the keys to the doors of knowledge.

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