Depth Psychology Blog

Holding the Opposites, Grounding in Earth to Cope with Difficult Times

31 May 2013 4:33 PM | Bonnie Bright (Administrator)

Holding the Opposites, Grounding in Earth to Cope with Difficult Times

When we are not grounded, not connected to our roots, terrible psychic issues occur, which lead to feelings of intense fear and anxiety suggests Jungian analyst Judith Harris, in her book Jung and Yoga: The Psyche Body Connection. She quotes C. G. Jung, who, in his complex work, Mysterium Coniunctionus, establishes that the element of earth holds the exact central point between the tensions of two opposites.

Grounding oneself in the earth results in feeling held by the Great Mother, rendering one nourished, nurtured, and whole. The center is the eternal, Harris states, and all that is contained within it is represented by the archetype of the Self, which contains the totality of the psyche. The center implies stillness, and in the stillness there is space for something new to emerge. When we connect to the sacred center, the earth, “the deep-seated origins that existed thousands of years before us brings healing at a profound mystical level” (Harris, p. 76).

“He who is rooted in the soil endures,” wrote Jung (1927). “Alienation from the unconscious and from its historical conditions spells rootlessness. That is the danger that lies in wait for the conqueror of foreign lands, and for every individual who, through one-sided allegiance to any kind of -ism, loses touch with the dark, maternal, earthy ground of his being. (Jung, 1927, p. 103).

According to Jung, when we go “down” (the direction of earth), we connect with the collective unconscious which includes the past: we go back in time, and in so doing, we touch all the unfulfilled lives that have been lived before us, allowing them to be lived out; redeeming them. This alignment with the center, the earth, the archetype of the Great Mother allows us to discover the miracle of creativity (in Harris, 2001).

Man facing coming night storm

Judith Harris reminds us that when sufficient energy moving in one direction accumulates, it will always ultimately be reversed in order to prevent one-sidedness. When torn between the opposites, chaos results, and we are literally torn in two—unable to stand, to move, to bear the confusion—while still being drawn further into the chaos. The age-old motif of descent, or “dark night of the soul,” carries with it the theme of a quest, an initiation, a purification that will lead to liberation, renewal, and rebirth.

When times seem dark, there is little we can do but to hold the tension, the grief, and the pain. We must be willing to be still and grounded enough in order to witness the fall of night, the darkness that makes its cold nest all around us, cutting us off from home. There can be no regeneration until we can do so. Until we all are willing to reconnect with our roots in Mother Earth, to take on the darkness and embrace it, we will continue to colonize others, to disregard the spirit and inspirited that surrounds us, and to suffer. Sometimes symbolic death can occur in the process, but in dying, new life occurs. When the Gorgon, Medusa, of Greek myth was decapitated by Perseus, it is said that her blood gave birth to the Pegasus, the winged white horse who represents poetry and creativity.

Somewhere within me, as I write these words, I have the sudden felt understanding this underlying eternal tenet: that in holding the tension of the opposites, a miracle occurs. The transcendent solution that arises is tangible; real. If I can just be aware and still myself in that center between the opposites of any seemingly hopeless or stressful situation… If I can just feel my feet on the ground and hold the tension, even in the midst of two end points that don’t appear they can ever be reconciled… If I can ground myself down into the earth, I can actually be present enough to behold the process taking place.

It seems like few of us in our fast-paced (often overwhelming and sometimes frightening) contemporary culture are willing to embrace the dark earth; the deep, devouring feminine that insists we surrender and be purified. Collectively, we tend to mill about our daily lives with their myriad of responsibilities, activities, and worries, disconnected, lost, homeless, fearful, and alone. Where do we begin?

It begins with the individual taking root and making a stand even in the midst of fear, anxiety, and despair. Rather than fleeing into panic, distress, or anger, or trying to distract ourselves, we must each learn take on that dark night, to stop the frantic buzzing of useless wings and allow the night to wash over us, silent and still as we embrace it; as it engulfs us and devours us. We must hold the tension; trusting that something bigger exists, releasing the attachment to the notion that we will ever see the hive again, but knowing that the earth is so much bigger. 


Harris, J. (2001). Jung and yoga: The psyche-body connection. Toronto, Canada: Inner City Books.

Jung, C. G. (1927). "Mind and Earth" (1927). In Collected Works Vol. 10: Civilization in Transition.

Bonnie Bright is the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, the world's first comprehensive online community for depth psychology, and hosts a podcast, Depth Insights, as well as editing the semi-annual scholarly e-zine of the same name. She founded, a free online database to find or list depth psychology oriented therapists and practitioners. She holds Masters degrees in Psychology and Depth Psychology, and is a Ph.D. candidate at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, CA. Follow her on Twitter @bonniebright5 or on Facebook at


  • 31 May 2013 11:57 PM | Joy Malek
    Thank you for this deeply resonant piece. Holding the tension makes me think of Marion Woodman's The Pregnant Virgin, in which she talks about ritual as a way to birth the transcendent. There is something about making a ritual of holding the tension, of saying "I am not going to cop out by going in one direction or the other; I am going to sit tight and wait for the Third to emerge" that creates enormous potential...and is yet so foreign to our way of thought.
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    • 25 Jul 2013 8:44 PM | Kirti Patel
      Joy, you comment reminds me of the transcendent-immanent paradox. The transcendent is Divine as the higher power, and the immanent is the Divine within. So, I am learning to hold both personal control and surrender in my life. As I surrender to the Divine, I find that we are co-creating my aspirations and how they show up in the world.
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  • 26 Jun 2013 10:17 PM | Brenda Ferrimani
    I enjoyed reading this article and looking at the images. The dance of opposites is quite a challenge, and I get it that with the life we lead in this modern age, it's important to stay grounded. When I first began to notice my dreams I had a series on this theme; I would fly every night in the most wonderful way, but before the end of the dream people, or other things would try to force me down to earth. As part of understanding myself I had my astrology chart done. Jupiter is in my midheaven between the 9th and 10 th houses and Saturn is opposing, directly beneath. Jupiter's energy is about expansion, while Saturn's is about restriction. Seems my soul was feeling this push and pull and thus my nightmares. I've learned to value the pulling down to earth as much as all the outer growth. We need both to stay balanced and sane. I wish there was a place to upload photos. I have several that pertain to this subject, as a dream artist I would like to share. Thanks for the lovely article!
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  • 14 Aug 2013 7:02 AM | Nance Harding
    Bonnie, thank you so much for this article. I entered the midlife transition through illness and have been interested in illness as a path to individuation ever since. I'm beginning to outline a book about the process.

    The title you're writing about may be of use to me. I have a question that has never been able to find an answer at any of the depth psych conferences I've attended, but maybe you know where. The question is this - Do you know of any research that addresses the negative mother complex and autoimmune disorders?

    Thank you so much for your time and effort you put into your online work. Take care, nance
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