Enantiodromia (Greek: ἐνάντιος, enantios, opposite + δρόμος, dromos, running course) is a principle introduced by psychiatrist Carl Jung that the superabundance of any force inevitably produces its opposite. It is similar to the principle of equilibrium in the natural world, in that any extreme is opposed by the system in order to restore balance. However, in Jungian terms, a thing psychically transmogrifies into its Shadow opposite, in the repression of psychic forces that are thereby cathected into something powerful and threatening. This can be anticipated as well in the principles of traditional Chinese religion – as in Taoism and yin-yang.

Though “enantiodromia” was coined by Jung, it is implied in the writings of Heraclitus. In fr. 126, for example, Heraclitus says “cold things warm, warm things cool, wet things dry and parched things get wet.”[1] It also seems implicit in other of his sayings, like “war is father of all, king of all” (fr. 53), “they do not know that the differing/opposed thing agrees with itself; harmony is reflexive (παλίντροπος palintropos, used of a compound bow, or “in reflexive tension”), like the bow and the lyre” (fr. 51). In these passages and others the idea of the coincidence of opposites is clearly articulated in Heraclitus’ characteristic riddling style, as well as the dynamic motion back and forth between the two, generated especially by opposition and conflict.

Later Plato in the Phaedo will articulate the principle clearly: “Everything arises in this way, opposites from their opposites.” (sect. 71a).[2]

Since Jung’s recognition of it many centuries later it has been observed in modern culture. For example, it has been applied to subject of the film The Lives of Others, to show how one devoted to a communist regime breaks through his loyalty and emerges a humanist.

Jung used the term particularly to refer to the unconscious acting against the wishes of the conscious mind. (Aspects of the Masculine, chapter 7, paragraph 294).

Enantiodromia. Literally, “running counter to,” referring to the emergence of the unconscious opposite in the course of time. This characteristic phenomenon practically always occurs when an extreme, one-sided tendency dominates conscious life; in time an equally powerful counterposition is built up, which first inhibits the conscious performance and subsequently breaks through the conscious control. (“Definitions,” ibid., par. 709)

Enantiodromia is typically experienced in conjunction with symptoms associated with acute neurosis, and often foreshadows a rebirth of the personality.

The grand plan on which the unconscious life of the psyche is constructed is so inaccessible to our understanding that we can never know what evil may not be necessary in order to produce good by enantiodromia, and what good may very possibly lead to evil. (“The Phenomenology of the Spirit in Fairytales”, Collected Works 9i, par. 397)

The term has also been applied as a neologism to describe the tendency of a younger generation to manifest the undesirable traits of a previous generation, despite the repudiation of these traits when they were young.

Neologism Defined Wikipedia

A neologism may also be a new usage of an existing word, sometimes called a semantic extension. Cf. idiolect.

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