There’s a lot of talk about walls lately. They seem to be going up everywhere.
In Hungry, refugees are cutting through and climbing over the 4-meter high barbed wire fence that extends along the Serbian border for 110 miles. British Prime Minister Cameron has recently received EU approval to control Britain’s own borders. And Israel’s prime minister Netanyahu announced this month his intention to “surround all of Israel with a fence” to protect the country from infiltration by both Palestinians, whom he described as “wild beasts.”
Perhaps the best known wall-builder today is the U.S. political candidate Donald Trump. On numerous occasions, he has boasted about building a wall along the Texas-Mexican border and “getting the Mexicans to pay for it.” Recently, however, he was firmly, but indirectly, admonished by Pope Francis during his visit to Mexico. The Pope said:
“Anyone who thinks about building walls … and not building bridges, is not a Christian.”
What struck me is that Pope Francis seemed to say that a Christian builds bridges AND walls. He did not denounce the walls, but simply added the bridges.
But this simple addition actually requires us to perform an extremely difficult, but necessary act of love and will.
Holding the Tension between Walls and Bridges
Building both walls and bridges requires us to be able to hold the tension between the two. A wall evokes separation. A bridge evokes connection. On a personal level, my clear and firm boundary (my wall) is necessary for me to maintain my identity and hold my physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual being. You (and everyone else) also need similarly held personal and psychological boundaries. However, for us to fully engage with each other in relationship, we also need to hold our personal boundaries while we build a bridge between us.
In fact, this bridge between us can only be built upon my clearly defined wall and your clearly defined wall. To be in a free and open relationship, we both must be able to hold the tension between our separate selves and, at the same time, stay together. We need these limits imposed by the walls around us, before we can be truly free to become ourselves with each other and for a new entity to emerge – our we-ness.
In psychosynthesis terms, this wall and bridge can be seen as polar opposites that must be brought into equilibrium and finally synthesis. Assagioli used triangles to illustrate his idea of balancing opposite energies. Here is one copied from his archives:
On the left corner of the triangle, we have “Hatred/Indifference.” This is when our walls are carried to the extreme. On the right hand corner, we have “Attachment/Jealousy.” These feelings can occur when the “bridge” between us in off- balance. This can happen when we merge with another and become completely dependent on that person for our own identity.
Observing Your Inner Walls and Bridges
However, the point of equilibrium appears between them as “Human Affection.” Assagioli insisted that the mid-way point between two opposites is not static inside us, but rather in “a state of continuous oscillation.” This back and forth can create a lot of tension!
For us to hold an objective understanding of the tensions, we need to bring awareness to all that is happening in the moment, with the goal of creatively seeking an equilibrium. The whole idea is to keep practicing and bring awareness to how we balance these opposites of building walls and bridges. You do this by first observing the wall you have built. Try not to identify with it. Then observe your “bridge building” and do not identify with it either.
This week, you might try to bring awareness to both your wall and bridge building as you interact with others. When do your walls go up? When do you reach out and try to connect? Are these two dynamics working in a healthy, balanced way? Or do you find yourself feeling fear, hatred, clinginess to another, or in need of attention? At what point exactly are you experiencing feelings of human affection?
Transforming Human Affection into Spiritual Love
Once we reach the mid-way point of Human Affection and experience as a steady reality, then synthesis can occur. By holding the creative tension between a polarity, we give space for a completely new and higher entity to be born.
It is a wise person who can play with opposites and watch with awe as they awaken and manifest into a completely formed higher quality. This quality seems to “jump” inside us to a higher level. I mentioned earlier that we-ness might appear as a new synthesis of you and me. At the top of his triangle, Assagioli showed this dynamic transformation as “Spiritual Love.”
Spiritual Love is what I think Pope Francis was perhaps aiming for when he talked about building wall and bridges. Spiritual Love brings freedom and joy to everyone involved. In the words of Assagioli:
Spiritual Love is generous, irradiating. A person who loves spiritually, remains free and gives freedom to others. Roberto Assagioli