Integration of Opposites


‘Polarity’ signifies the relationship between opposites.

All natural systems have opposing elements and dynamics that are really just two sides of one thing. Growth and decay in biological systems are two interdependent aspects of the cycle of life. Although they seem like opposing processes, one cannot exist without the other. They are necessary compliments. What role do polarities play within systems? Think about what your workplace would be like if everyone spent all their time communicating and no time actually acting to get things done. Think also about the opposite scenario where only action was prioritized and no one communicated to anyone else. How does the more masculine drive to get things done interact with the more feminine tendency to discuss how that should happen? Does an organisation that needs to make a big decision about its future direction need to prioritize a more masculine or a more feminine approach? How could you balance an existing Polarity or integrate a new one into a system in your life to improve it? How do polarities serve to coordinate systems?


Significance:The Polarity Pattern represents opposing forces as two ends of a continuum in dynamic interplay.

Role:The role of Polarity is to buildand liberate the potential within systems.

Effect:The relationship between polarities stores potential and their integration liberates energies that drive the activity of systems.

Balance: On the one hand, Polarities must be integrated to take advantage of both approaches, but, on the other hand, they must also be maintained to build potential.


The dark coloured shape on the right, joined to the mirror image light coloured shape on the left, demonstrates a relationship between seeming opposing elements. The two inner shapes represent ‘parts’ which are encompassed by the larger oval into a ‘whole’ system.This basic part/whole configuration indicates the role of Polarity as an Aspect of Source.


The interplay of opposites within a system.


The principle of paradox:

The enduring health and evolution of any system depends on the appropriate balance and integration of:

  • the interplay of opposing dynamics, for a given context.


The Polarity Pattern is one of 7 primary Aspects of Source, the most foundational Pattern in the PatternDynamics™ framework.


Nature: Organisms, Ecosystems, and Biosphere

Organism: All organisms must balance the relationship between inputs to their system and the outputs from their system. If an organism is growing then its inputs of nutrients need to exceed its output of wastes. If conditions change in the environment and nutrients for that organism become scarce it must then adjust so that outputs exceed inputs, allowing it to shrink and survive.

Inquiry: What will happen to an organism that continues in a growth mode with high inputs as resources become scarcer?

Ecosystem: The interplay between periods of orderly growth and the chaotic bush fires in northern boreal forests is a major planetary regulator of oxygen levels, and by extension the maintenance of atmospheric conditions favourable to life. If the forests do not burn when oxygen levels become high then less fire adapted ecosystems will ignite. If boreal forests were to continue to burn when oxygen levels are low some organisms may struggle to respire.

Inquiry: What happens to the potential energy that can be released during a burn as the time between burns increases?

Culture: Individuals, Organisations, and Socio/Economic Systems

Organization: The interplay between the more feminine capacity for connection and relationship and the more masculine capacity for individuality and achievement provides a potential within an organisation for outcomes not able to be attained by either extreme of the polarity alone. A relational approach facilitates good communications and good decision making, but a capacity for achievement is necessary to enact the decisions made through those good communications.

Inquiry: Under what circumstances could getting ‘stuck’ in a time consuming relational mode of operating become a problem?

Economy: The economy is potentiated by the dynamic relationship between cooperation within enterprises and competition with outside rivals. Competition leads to productivity and efficiency gains, but unless it is integrated with cooperation it may become a negative force, creating hyper-individualism and social breakdown. Cooperation creates synergies, but unless it is integrated with competition it leads to a loss of drive by high performing individuals necessary for a strong economy.

Inquiry: Can you think of some examples of the interplay of competition and cooperation in professional sporting competition industries.