“It is more rewarding to resolve a conflict than to dissolve a relationship.” – Josh McDowell
In the process of teaching our graduate course in counseling theory, I re-encountered a term from Carl Gustav Jung. The word is “sygyzy,” and it has applications to astronomy, philosophy, and other disciplines as well. This week’s newsletter incorporates Jung’s definition:
Paired opposites: where One is never separated from the Other- its antithesis.
As a professional counselor, the meaning of the term applies to relationships. Most immediately, the concept has relevance to couples counseling and the painful and pressing differences and disagreements that bring couples into treatment. Ultimately, counseling produces either a vehicle for mutual accommodation or facilitates the regrettable pathway to the relationship’s dissolution.
Perhaps there is a more satisfying outcome to counseling than simple tolerances for differences. That’s where “sygyzy” comes in. To fall back on its astrological definition for an apt example, it is said that the sun, the Earth, and the moon are connected in the manner of syzygy. They are different; they are separate; and yet, they are inexorably connected by gravitational pull and the essence of matter. And in that fashion, we are connected to our partner, even when there are differences that seem to separate and divide us.
The children’s literature author, Shel Silverstein, speaks of our “Missing Piece.” In the world of the jigsaw, the puzzle pieces, even when they fit, rarely slide together smoothly. They are generally “pushed together” rather than effortlessly bonded. And so it is with our partners.
Our earlier newsletter about “Joe the Doorman” (July 7, 2015) reminds us that complex relationships inevitably lead to disagreements because of the serious matters that we must address with our partners. Money, sex, children, and careers are always fodder for conflict. Yet, we also understand that the most meaningful, satisfying, and gratifying of all our endeavors stem from that relationship.
Even the Bible speaks to the topic of syzygy. After the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, it is proclaimed:
“I (God) will put enmities between the man and the woman.”
This suggests that it is expected that there will be fundamental friction between partners, even as there is attraction. We are drawn to someone who represents our “missing puzzle piece.” While we presumably have much in common with our partners, we also benefit from the positive traits they possess that we lack.
Speaking personally, I continue to be attracted to my wife of decades, but also benefit from her virtues, which often contrast with my shortcomings. I can be irked by her good qualities as I simultaneously appreciate them. And so it goes.
So what is it that the Bible, Jung and Silverstein have taught me via that funny sounding word: syzygy? I understand that I am blessed to have this person in my life with whom I can also experience friction. And as we know from physics, friction produces both the heat of passion and the light of wisdom and knowledge.
We are truly blessed with both our partners and our differences.
A sound relationship is a union of two good forgivers. -JVF