3. Tenacity

The gigantic tension before the shooting of an arrow, and the total relaxation seconds later, is my way of connecting to the universe.

- Paulo Coelho

Vitality cannot flow forever unhindered. Firstly, your expression of life energy will cause friction with others who become threatened by your rising power. Secondly, when in a state of openness and love, a person is vulnerable to being manipulated and hurt. If enough abuse takes place, then that person will stop trusting others and close off. Thirdly, at some point, vitality will not be enough. You will need to be firm and penetrate with assertiveness if you want to achieve your goals. Whether defending yourself from harm or looking to impact the world around you, you will need to have something made of tougher stuff.

Put simply, tenacity is the capacity to tolerate the tension created by a build-up of vitality. Holding your own during a disagreement involves being in a state of stress, as does communicating your desires in a clear and impactful way. Expressing your sexuality requires you to sit with tension for a time. Interacting with others requires shifting between ease and pressure as the conversation evolves and loaded topics come up. Feeling emotions without dissociating from them involves tension, as does engaging in physical activity.

Tenacity shows that you mean business, that you ‘have a backbone.’ People notice when it is there. It requires laser-sharp focus and a strong will, and is a muscle which you develop by embracing challenge and healthy conflict. The tenacious not only accept tension, but gladly lean into it, knowing it is the only way to grow.

If vitality corresponds to what Carl Jung called the Anima, i.e. the feminine, tenacity would relate to the ‘Animus;’ its masculine counterpart. The Anima is abundant and ever-changing, while the Animus is laser-focussed and structured. It brings order to the world. Like taming a wild horse, tenacity helps you channel vitality in constructive ways and at progressively higher levels. The Animus and Anima must therefore work together to achieve wholeness. Without the ferocious power of the Anima, the Animus has nothing to direct toward a goal. Without the structure of the Animus, the Anima remains directionless and ineffective. Therefore, the stronger the flow of vitality within us, the more tension is required to create a container around it and channel it in useful ways.

Tenacity is also directly correlated to security, with its sturdiness and durability creating a feeling of safety and trust as a parent would in a child. Amid chaos, only the tenacious can restore order. When hell threatens to break loose, tenacity brings a welcome authority. Like the pangs of childbirth, nothing manifests without a constant rhythm of tension and release, a shifting from vitality to tenacity and back again.

Hate: The governing emotion of tenacity

When we give others the wheel, they can steer us in the wrong direction. Some people negatively impact our lives without our permission. Hate therefore helps us set boundaries, reclaim agency and rebel against a perceived abuse of power, aiming to halt its momentum and regain control. Hate also seeks to restore self-esteem as well as fairness to a relationship.

Hate only grows destructive if it merges with the death instinct. When someone interrupts or resists our expression of power, they blunt our life instinct, which leaves us prey to the magnetic and downward pull of death. Rage is a desperate attempt at regaining control so that we may resume our upwards trajectory toward a higher state. For those who are abused, bullied and oppressed for long enough, the death instinct comes to dominate their experience. Eventually, it becomes too much, and they turn it outwards, aiming to annihilate whoever enters their scope of vision. Others turn the death instinct toward themselves as self-hatred — growing reckless, self-destructive and even suicidal. 

Tenacity is concerned with far more than this violent, split-off form of hate. Resistance, spite, stubbornness, coldness and contempt as well as rage can be useful tools. To resist, insist, and occasionally erupt with just cause, these are impulses which allow us to pursue an empowered way of life. Progress often calls for this kind of healthy conflict. When paired with the life instinct, hate becomes a useful way of demonstrating your strength and dependability, which is usually well-received and respected by others.

When tenacity is disrupted

We initially grow tenacity through family. When guardians are tolerant of assertiveness and tension in the home, then a child can develop comfort with hardening to get their needs met while relaxing back into vitality when satisfied. In rigid environments, those in power will not tolerate resistance, and will punish it with utmost prejudice.

For children who have their tenacity thwarted, their only choice is to drift back down to the level of vitality. They instead use appeasement and submission to influence their guardians into granting them their needs. The resulting personality is chronically nice and fears conflict. The most potent expression you can expect from such a person is passive-aggression. The ‘nice person’ has lost touch with their tenacity, dwelling within an invisible boundary that they are terrified to cross.

Without tenacity, a person must resort to wishful thinking to feel any sense of achievement and progress, since they are effectively unable to penetrate the world around them. The nice person’s energy remains defanged, where neediness is the only tool they have to get what they want. Furthermore, without tenacity to create a container, the nice person remains unable to hold tension. Whether it is at work or in their personal life, they are always in someone else’s container, and as a result, at the whim of other people’s desires. A narcissist thrives above all when their target lacks tenacity. Without the capacity to hold tension, the target cannot set boundaries, and the narcissist can assert their influence with far more ease.

Becoming stuck in tenacity

On the other side of the coin is the chronically angry person. Rather than seeing tenacity as a tool to make progress, they turn it into a hammer to use whenever something frustrates them or causes them to feel shame. Anger for them is a way of life, where they remain on the edge of aggression at all times. This takes the joy and spontaneity out of their heart. Tension dominates their experience, sometimes being constructive, but mostly hindering their relationships and causing untold psychological damage to those who love them. Spending time with such people is always uncomfortable, due to the unresolved tension created by their anger boiling beneath the surface.

When tenacity is established

The person who successfully develops tenacity has learnt to create a container around their life energy, and can hold tension long enough to achieve their goals. For a person in a state of scattered vitality, the possibilities are endless yet unrealised. In a state of focussed tenacity, a dream can become a reality. Filled with willpower and secure in their boundaries, a person’s life energy begins to concentrate, bringing into focus a mysterious opening within the Self. This doorway into the divine allows them to live out the inherent potential of the Self and to flow with the world around them while shaping it to their will. As a result, the tenacious person can move to the next stage of development, which is establishing a fortified and sacred inner ‘realm,’ where the spiritual ground is fertile and full of potential.