The Pendulum Swing

Before we dive into the five pieces of building that relationship house we discussed in the last post, there’s one other concept that’s really important to grasp.

While I don’t know your specific starting point, there is a common experience that we all have when we begin to challenge our internal belief systems.

I came across the label for it while watching a YouTube channel called The WuWeiWisdom, but the description resonated so well that I want to share it with you.

It’s called: the pendulum swing (we’ll discuss the swing part in a little bit).

On a pendulum there’s essentially three points: one far end, the middle, and the other far end. Living on the ends of the pendulum will give you black and white thinking. However, we want to stay away from the ends, and land somewhere in the middle.

The Healing Journey & Your Misguided Beliefs

While on a healing journey, part of the journey’s requirement is: reprogramming our misguided beliefs.

These misguided beliefs show up in a variety of ways, but they are essentially the meaning that you are assigning things. And that meaning is not typically accurate. It’s especially inaccurate when it’s rooted in fear.

The person who harbors misguided beliefs has a tendency to have black and white thinking.

Or in other words, no other possible options exist in their mind – it’s either this or that.

Such as, “Either you love me, or you don’t.” It’d be hard for the person who holds that belief to fathom that someone can love you AND not be sure they want to be with you. This doesn’t mean they’re lying or that they don’t actually love you. (Head explosion? Yea, I know.)

Before you’ve done any reprogramming it’s hard to understand how that sort of scenario can even exist because it “conflicts” with the current information you have stored in your brain. You can only see the side that you’re “naturally” inclined to and its opposite. But the good news is that you can update that info.

The pendulum is a tool that helps make us aware of the contrasted misguided beliefs that live on the ends of the pendulum. Which means, we will have to practice finding the middle.

Let’s look at this in a less abstract way.

The Pendulum in Real Life

Imagine this scenario: you don’t live with your partner, you shoot them a good morning text at 9am, but your partner doesn’t text you back until 10pm. Depending on your own “meaning-making” tendencies (aka misguided belief systems), you will interpret that event to mean something.

It could mean..

  • If I was on my partner’s mind then they would text me. They must not really care about me/I don’t matter to them.”
  • “There’s no reason someone can’t find 2 mins to send me a text out of 12 hours. They must be seeing someone else and that’s where their attention is.”
  • “It’s not hard to send a text, I must be more into them than they are into me.”
  • “Maybe I should end things with this person before I get hurt.”
  • “Good. I’m glad this person isn’t so needy. I don’t want someone controlling me, and taking all my free time. I prefer having less closeness anyways.”

The “meanings” can go on and on — and be more or less extreme. But hopefully you are getting the feeling that these aren’t healthy resolves. These are meanings that are coming from wounds within the individual, such as, “I don’t matter”, “I’m not good enough”, “I’m not lovable”, “I am rejected”, and “I will be abandoned”.

If we look at the contrast of these (aka a healthier individual’s response) it might look like one of these..

  • “My partner must be having a busy day today. I’m going to call my friend to see if they’ll be available tonight to go see that show I’ve been really wanting to see.”
  • “My partner will text me when they’re available. Even if that happens to be tomorrow. It’s perfectly fine, because I have many other things I need/can/want to do.”

The healthier response is not to assign meanings rooted in fears. This person is happy without their partner, but equally happy to allow for interdependence.

This is where the pendulum comes into play.

Again, a pendulum has three points: one far end, the middle, and the other far end.

If we continue with the scenario from above, hopefully you can see that on one side of the pendulum (let’s call it side A) is codependency rooted in a fear of abandonment.

That’s why the meaning, or narrative, becomes “I don’t matter/ I’m not good enough/ I’m not lovable/ etc.” The method on this end to avoid the pain of abandonment, is to have extreme closeness.

And on the other far side of the pendulum (let’s call it side B) it’s hyper-independence still rooted in the fear of abandonment/rejection. The method on this end however, is to have separation as a way to avoid the pain of abandonment.

The middle is the balance between the two, where fear does not reside, but healthy interdependence does.

photo credit: Unsplash Christopher Sardegna

Swinging On The Pendulum

When we need to rewire that belief/way of thinking, it preliminarily causes a conflict within ourselves which causes us to swing from one extreme to another. This is because we don’t yet know what to think/believe when we’re given new information — it “conflicts” with the information we have stored in our brains so we tend to go to the opposite extreme.

That is the pendulum swing (taking things from one extreme to another).

So, if you were to tell the person who lives on side A that they are a bit too clingy/needy, they might swing and say, “What? You want me to be cold & detached? If I don’t need the other person, then what is the point of the relationship?” (Or some variation of that.)

This is a swing to the other side of the pendulum — the opposite extreme. This is black and white thinking.

The person’s options are, “Either we must be enmeshed (spend most of our time together), or we must be estranged.”

This is not accurate. This is a swing on the pendulum.

Even if we start on the opposite side. If you were to tell the person who lives on side B that they are a bit too guarded/uncaring/independent, they swing and say, “What? You want me to be needy and completely lose myself in the other person? If I completely give up my independence/autonomy/freedom, then I’m subject to the inevitable pain of a partner leaving or disappointing me, what’s the point in that?”

Again, this is a swing, going to the opposite extreme. This is black and white thinking.

THE MIDDLE is a balance of depending on someone while maintaining individualism. It allows for interdependence. The middle is the sweet spot.

The next logical question is to ask why do people do this swing then?

Why Do People Do The Pendulum Swing?

The simple answer to why this happens is because people simply don’t know what they don’t know.

Remember those “dirty glasses” we talked about in a past post? It’s a similar thing happening here. Everything has to be filtered through that lens, and depending on the lens, the interpretation is going to be different.

If the person is unaware of the lens, it just seems like “truth” or “fact” to them.

So whatever misguided beliefs have formed due to past events (mostly from childhood, cue attachment styles), are going to be showing up on the pendulum.

But again, we know that living on either side of the pendulum is not where we need to be. There is no inner peace on the edges. That only comes from being centered.

The pendulum can represent many things, so it is not limited to the specific example about codependency, interdependence, and hyper-independence. It is a tool that can be used in many scenarios (even with emotions), to help guide you to the middle sweet spot.

Remember: The pendulum swing happens when information you have stored, is met with “incomprehensible” new information, that you’re running through the only filter you currently have. So the tendency is to go to the opposite side, and skip the middle.

Being able to find the middle is the skill that we are trying to hone.

Further Examples of Pendulum Swings

Like I said, the whole point of this pendulum and being aware of it is: to watch out for misguided beliefs. If you can notice that you’re swinging, then you can know that the healthy response is in the middle.

So let’s just look at a handful of examples so that you can really get a grasp on this concept:

  1. Your partner says, “You’re too needy.” The misguided belief: “If I’m not supposed to be needy, then I suppose that means that I have to push all my needs down. My needs shouldn’t matter, and I have to self-sacrifice.”
  2. Your subconscious is trying to accept, “You cannot control your partner.” The misguided belief: “If I can’t control my partner and they’re “not showing up”, then I should leave. Learning/changing/everything else is pointless. OR I am stuck in this, I must settle.”
  3. Your partner wants more of your time. The misguided belief: “If I do what my partner is asking I’m going to be suffocated, and I’ll have to give ALL my free-time to them.”

HOWEVER, the middle goes something like this:

I know I cannot control my partner, nor would I want to. But I do know that I can control myself. As I grow, learn, change, and show up differently I can foster an environment that may help my partner feel safer to show up differently. And as I begin to model healthier behavior they may also start to mirror my healthier behavior. I will invest the amount of time I am comfortable with investing. But regardless of how this relationship turns out, I will continue to learn what I need to learn, because I understand that if I do not change I will continue to create these patterns in any future relationship.

The misguided belief is: that your partner can only change if you control them, if you can’t control them then they won’t change. So you either must leave or stay stuck. Either way your needs aren’t going to be met.

Now, tying it back to “The X Factor” : A partner may not currently “want” to be in the relationship (aka your relationship is on the rocks and your partner is experiencing uncertainty), but once you start to implement the frame work of The Big 3 & each of The 5 Golden Pieces, you may make it safer for them to show up.

You can’t change someone, but you can fertilize the soil for healing/growth. It is not a guarantee that your partner will become the person you want & need, but you don’t yet know how the dynamic can/will be if you haven’t been showing up the best way you can.

QUICK SIDE NOTE: I’m sure this goes without saying, but this is not permission to stay in an abusive (physical, mental, or emotional) relationship. Abuse IS NOT a relationship that you should stay and try to “nurture soil” with.

Back to what I was saying…

This is a classic case (again!) of, “You don’t know what you don’t know“.

And when you (or your partner) doesn’t know all this stuff (don’t worry I’m going to teach you), you may have the misguided belief that your partner or the relationship is just wrong.

Of course, that’s still a possibility, but you can’t see the road if there’s crap all over it. So we gotta clean it in order to see where it’s really going to lead.

Remember what I said in the last post: Control is an illusion. You can’t control anyone but yourself. Any change that you see in others is because you have changed first.

Why The Pendulum Matters

Now that you know what it is, how it looks, why people do it, hopefully you’ve gathered there’s a reason I’m showing this to you. And it’s because I want you to pay attention to the resistance that comes up as you start to integrate new information.

In forums and even in my own personal experience when asking for advice from friends, I could see people doing this swing, but completely missing the middle. It seems to be a rarity to find people who know how to do this, but maybe you can become one of the few (and share this with friends so we can open up people’s level of awareness).

Swinging on the pendulum keeps you stuck and feeling the negative feelings that you’re (ironically) actually trying to avoid.

If you want to have different results from the ones that you’ve been getting, then that means that you need to do something different.

Like I said, the hard part is when you don’t know something it makes it near impossible for the issue to be addressed. So, do yourself a favor and simply start by witnessing your internal dialogue. As I make suggestions for shifts, notice your resistance, and begin to question the narrative behind it.

As you do this, you will get better and better at recognizing the pendulum swing. The ability to recognize the swing, means you are fostering the ability to change — and that’s worthy of celebration!

Now I’d love to hear from you! Questions? Tell me about some pendulum swings you notice that you do!

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