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.

Remember, it’s when your current beliefs are being challenged by new “conflicting” information. 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 (aka the swing): “If I’m not supposed to need, then I suppose that means that I have to push all my needs down. My needs won’t matter, and I have to self-sacrifice.”
  2. Your life coach tells you, “You cannot control your partner.” The misguided belief (aka the swing): “If I can’t control my partner and they’re “not showing up”, then it’s hopeless. I should just leave. Learning/changing/everything else is pointless. OR I stay and I am stuck in this, I must settle.”
  3. Your partner wants more of your time. The misguided belief(aka the swing): “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.”
  4. Your friend tells you, “Relationships require compromise”. The misguided belief (aka the swing): “We shouldn’t have to change who we are – there should be no compromise in relationships! If I compromise that means I have to self-abandon and give everything I have. Even to my own detriment.”
  5. You see a book except, “Look for the positive in your partner”. The misguided belief(aka the swing): “So you’re saying I should ignore bad things about them?! And be taken advantage of?!”

HOWEVER, the middle for each of those goes something like this:

  1. My needs are valid. I can have some of my needs met by my partner AND I can meet some of my own needs. I don’t have to ONLY meet my partner’s need for space and neglect my need for closeness. We can find a way to meet both our needs. And I can learn to meet some of my needs so I am not putting so much pressure on my partner.
  2. I do not need to control my partner to get the change I desire nor do I need to try to repress my emotions/needs as an opposite attempt. Rather, I 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 of my future relationships.
  3. I can have a conversation with my partner about their needs and my needs. We can discover how much more time they need AND make sure that I still get some alone time to recharge.
  4. I do not need to only be concerned with myself, nor do I need to self-sacrifice. Rather, I can consider my needs AND my partners needs. Together, we can find some middle ground that will work for both of us.
  5. I can still look for red-flags, and have conversations about behaviors that are hurtful. AND I can see that my partner is human, with their own wounds, fears, & trauma which means they will make mistakes. Just like how I make mistakes. Which means I can choose to appreciate and be grateful for the parts that I admire about them. I can choose to

I hope that you picked up on a pattern. The middle often brings together the two sides with ‘AND’. It’s not black and white, this or that, all or nothing. Two things that may seem contradictory can exist at the same time.

Why The Pendulum Matters

Now that you know what it is, how it looks, and 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 trying to help friends or clients, 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 post 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 actually trying to avoid — it’s quite ironic actually.

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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