I am a woman of extremes. There, I said it.
I’m either straight down the line, the practical high-flying pragmatic thinker that’s hell-bound on achievement and often loses her sense of humor. Or I’m the crazy, silly, fun, wildly carefree girl.
I don’t say things like, “Let’s go for a 20 minute walk to blow off the cobwebs.” I’ll say, “I just love being in the mountains… I’m going to trek to Everest base camp.”
I never have just one. No. When the biscuit tin is opened, I end up saying, “Oh my god, I went to have one biscuit and now the whole pack’s gone!”
So what, you might say, it’s just a few biscuits.
But living in extremes means that I have drastic mood changes. I may suddenly want a total career change, because of a mild frustration in a meeting. When I was single, I’d go on new date every day of the a week, then swear off dating for months. I may feel like I want to end a friendship, because I don’t get a birthday invite, or feel like throwing the towel in because of a minor disagreement with with my partner.
When you live in the extremes, you tell yourself, “I must follow my head, and not my heart.” Or you tell yourself, “I must follow my heart and ignore my head.” It feels impossible to have a bit of both.
Living in the extremes is one kind of manifestation of perfectionism. Outwardly, it can propel your energy levels, and may lead to many great achievements like career progression, achieving fitness goals, creating a sense of safety, and removing negative people from your life.
On the flip side, it can be ruthless. You take no prisoners, with either yourself or others. This can lead to imbalanced extremes of emotion, such as hopelessness and desperation, ongoing anxiety, frustration, fear, inferiority, and generalized anger.
Trying to get back to the “grey zone” can feel a bit like being adrift at sea. There is no firm land to place your feet on, because comfort is found only in the tangible solid land of the extremes.
1. Become aware of your emotional pendulum.
If you see your extremes as a emotional pendulum, you can imagine how it will feel if you just put a wall up to stop the swing – it’s gonna hurt like hell, and possibly do some damage.
You may attempt to stop the pendulum by cursing yourself for having such extreme feelings, and then actively try to suppress them. Or, if you just feed into the pendulum and allow it to gain momentum, this can mean it completely swings over the top and you plummet toward the other extreme. Have you ever eaten very healthy for a week and then spent the weekend binging on sweets, sugar, and fatty foods? That’s your pendulum swinging right over the top.
When you are swinging to your extremes, choose instead to take a gentler approach that involves standing back and watching the pendulum swing. This neither adds fuel to the fire, nor is as painful as forcing the emotion to stop. Through such observations, the pendulum is going to eventually lose momentum and slow back down to balance.
At this time, while you watch and evaluate, instead of cursing, and sending yourself into a downward spiral of shame and anger, observe and take a moment to tell yourself that your extreme views and behaviors are manifestations of the shadowy parts of the self that remain hidden from view and there is a part of you that is certain of their truth. Your inner self is telling you that these emotions must find an outlet into the world, or a terrible discomfort will ensue.
When you start to develop an ongoing relationship with these shadowy sides of yourself, you become aware of the unconscious associations that trigger extreme beliefs, behaviors, and reactions. In time, recognition of these unconscious extreme patterns mean they will have less of a grip over you, the swings will lessen, and your life will regain balance.
2. Listen to both your internal masculine and feminine energies.
Both men and women carry masculine and feminine aspects within them and life is a continual attempt to find the perfect balance between the two forces.
Masculine energy is goal-oriented, has strength of purpose and discipline. Feminine energy is full of potential, follows its own rhythms, moves playfully back and forth but always ever forward, and is attracted to the light. It knows how to play and loves life.
When you find balance, there will be an equilibrium between the two forces where a firm masculine standpoint is simultaneously held but with the flexible surrender to growth, embracing the unfolding of energy and creativity from the feminine.
Many women, including myself, have been influenced by a patriarchal family, and also live in a society that has a cultural bias toward masculine energy.
It takes conscious attention to notice that masculine energy is dominating your mindset, which may lead to being single-minded, stubborn, and closed to change because of past experiences. Through this awareness you can allow your feminine energy to come to the forefront, which will let you become guided by your instinct, the now, and the natural flow of the situation.
3. Go easy on yourself… and others!
You can’t become frustrated or upset when others aren’t guided by the extremes like you. You’re probably be hard on yourself to a disproportionate degree, and irritated when someone else makes decisions outside of your perceived extremes.
But it’s important to try to step away from being entwined in that feeling and seeing it as a reflection of your core self, rather it is just an outlook you have learned and developed over a lifetime. You are ready to learn and grow away from it, simply because it does not serve you in the way it used to.
If you live in extremes, you may not know what it feels like have a balanced view of the world, so it will feel like you are learning a foreign language. This will take time, as it does when you’re learning anything new – so go easy on yourself! Over time that will start to diffuse into your internal dialogue, and interactions with others.
4. Exaggerate to the point of ridiculous.
There is a meditation by Osho that involves feeling and fixating upon the emotion of anger acutely and in its entirety. After a while of doing this, the anger becomes a parody of itself, the total focused abstraction of the feeling takes you beyond it, and the only thing left to do is laugh.
I find myself doing something similar with my extremes. For example, when I go through an obsessive phase with perfume (which has definitely happened before, I’ve made long trips just to buy more sultry scents than I could use in a year), I imagine going to every shop, buying everything up, spraying all of them at one time. I see everyone’s faces in my manic perfumey haze and the ridiculousness of the image makes me take a step back from the thought, laugh a little, and put off any shopping trip until I am feeling more balanced.
It is the farce that diffuses the emotion propelling the forward action. In this example, I realize that the fierce appetite for that perfect perfumey state actually enslaves my mind rather than liberates it, so I can rein in my extreme views.
So okay, you’re a little over-the-top with certain things. It’s not your identity, it’s just the best way you’ve found to get through life successfully so far. Go easy on yourself, take a step back, embrace your feminine energy, have a little laugh about it and, with some patience, over time you will get better at bringing yourself back into balance.