Enantiodromia (en-ANT-ee-a-DROH-mee-a) is reminiscent of the Chinese concept of yin and yang, which maintains that each quality contains the seed of its opposite, and that absolute extremes transform into their opposites.
Carl Jung used the term enantiadromia to describe the emergence of the unconscious opposite in our behavior. When an extreme, one-sided tendency dominates our conscious life, our attitude or life experience can flip unpredictably into its opposite, causing pain and tumult.
The purpose of good manners is to make other people feel comfortable. Yet, excessive politeness can make people feel uncomfortable, because they don’t know what the overly-polite person’s TRUE thoughts and feelings are. Extreme good manners can create an atmosphere of anxiety — a feeling of having to walk on eggshells.
Moreover, the true feelings of an overly polite person under great stress may suddenly and violently erupt, because she has had to hold back those feelings. When they explode through layers of politeness, it makes people feel very uncomfortable.
Polite people can benefit from learning to be more direct when certain situations warrant it.
The purpose of being direct is to communicate clearly with honesty and candor. However, if someone is overly and too bluntly direct, he cannot be trusted to be silent, sensitive, or diplomatic when necessary. Extreme bluntness can be offensive, in which case communication may be clear but not effective.
In this case, the value of discretion and good manners need to be integrated.
Communication is most effective when we have some ability to be flexible depending on the situation and type of people we’re dealing with. So if you were brought up to be extremely polite, learn to become more direct around direct people. Someone who’s overly straightforward can benefit by becoming more discreet and gracious around people who value courtesy.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD