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Harmony and Control


Explanations > Needs > Harmony and Control

Harmony and integration | Chaos and rigidity | Harmony and control | Finding the balance |  So what?


Harmony is...

A deep need we have is for alignment in our lives. When we perceive harmony, we experience an inner comfort and a sense of 'rightness'.

The dictionary defines 'harmony' as

A consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts.

This highlights that harmony requires multiple elements. It is about a relationship rather than a stand-alone quality.

When things are in alignment, they work well together. Where one thing feeds into another, then only what is needed is provided, and at the moment when it is required. A lack of alignment creates discord and waste.

While harmony gives a sense of comfort it is not without tension. Like yin and yang, harmony is not a static state but a dynamic balance. Extremes somehow cancel each other out and, as with much music and art, can result in a surprising beauty.

In music, harmony comes from the combination of different notes where a momentary chord contributes to the dynamic melody.

Social harmony occurs where people with differing views exist together by accepting that their own view is not the only valid one. An important aspect of this is a sense of fairness, where everyone's needs are optimally met.

In Chinese culture, musical and social harmony are closely related, and harmonious music is a cause of harmonious people.

As well as living in harmony with others, we need to live in harmony with ourselves. Within our minds we have multiple personalities, differing views and inner conflict. If we can create peace and acceptance between these thoughts, we can find a greater inner harmony. This internal peace is a key focus in religions such as Buddhism and Taoism.

Chaos and rigidity

Siegel (2008) notes that harmony comes from internal integration and that a lack of harmony results in moves either towards chaos or toward rigidity. Harmony is the mid-point on this scale, where a thing is neither chaotic nor rigid, yet has a dynamic order that incorporates elements of both.

Rigidity and chaos are related to judging vs. perceiving as used in Jungian personality type models. A 'judger' seeks to control and can end up in rigidity. A 'perceiver' deliberately does not apply structure in order to keep options open and lives in relative chaos in order to keep their options open.

Harmony and control

We all have a need for a sense of control and this also permeates our desire for harmony.

Chaos within a person's life is characterized by a lack of control. While they may try to control things, they are less than successful. Indeed, unintelligent effort to control chaos can just make it worse.

Rigidity is an opposite of chaos, where the person nails down everything into a defined structure. In contrast to the under-control that leads to chaos, rigidity exemplifies over-control and is characteristic of the 'control freak' and micromanagement. Paradoxically, rigidity can build up pressure that eventually explodes into chaos.

So what?

Harmony, then, can be seen as a balance of control, and skill in achieving harmony is hence one of ability to control the balance between chaos and rigidity.

Balance is not just averaging; a manic-depressive person who swings between extremes has very little harmony in their lives. A better way to balance is by reducing the extremes. In a way, it is about creating balance within balance.

When influencing others, consider the harmony in their lives. Increasing harmony is likely to be seen as desirable, and can hence be used a route to persuasion.

See also

Tension principle, Harmony principle


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