In this paragraph, we will discuss the passive and active polarities, which determine how organisms handle their existence in their environment. Maintaining an organism’s structure, differentiation from the ecosystem, and discreteness require effective functioning and good luck. The passive and active polarity is similar to the polarity of pain and pleasure and is divided into two parts. The first part is the ecological accommodation mode, which signifies the inclination to fit in passively, remain anchored in a niche, and subject to the environment’s unpredictabilities and vagaries. The condition for this mode to work is that the surroundings will provide the nourishment and protection required to sustain life. This is the primary survival mode in the plant kingdom, as they cannot move and rely on their surroundings to provide for their needs.
In the animal kingdom, we see a second mode of adaptation. There is a stronger inclination towards ecological modification, which means there is a tendency to change one’s environment. The active-passive bipolarity means that we can categorize the full range of human behavior in terms of whether we take initiative in shaping life’s events or reactively accommodate them.
In order to achieve optimal human functioning, a flexible balance between the passive and active polarities is necessary. During the first stage of evolution, which relates to existence, behaviors that encourage both life enhancement (pleasure) and life preservation (pain avoidance) are more likely to achieve survival success than those limited to only one. Similarly, adaptation through modes of functioning that exhibit both ecological accommodation and ecological modification is more likely to succeed than either one in isolation.
One might question the advantages of the passive mode. It may appear evolutionarily unwise to passively submit to one’s environment. However, in environments that do offer protection and provisions, as seen with plants, it is actually advantageous. (52) On the other hand, actively modifying the environment requires expending one’s limited energy to seek protection and nourishment. Now, let’s examine the active polarity.
The active polarity represents an individual’s inclination towards taking initiative and shaping their life events. Those who are high on this polarity tend to be alert, vigilant, and assertive. They possess considerable energy and drive, which they channel into stimulus-seeking activities. However, an unhealthy extreme of this polarity is evident in individuals with antisocial personality traits. Such people are impulsive and excitable, seeking to elicit pleasure and rewards through means that are not culturally acceptable. (53)
To gain a deeper understanding of the two bipolarities discussed, let’s consider how they interact with each other. First, we can look at how life extension aims (the combination of life enhancement and preservation) interact with environmental adaptation aims (the combination of ecological accommodation and modification). Life extension aims are focused on a person’s continued existence, while environmental adaptation aims are focused on responding to one’s surroundings. Both modes of adaptation can be used to pursue life extension aims. Essentially, all of life’s activities can be viewed as a combination of pleasure or pain enhancement or avoidance, using either passive or active modes of environmental adaptation.
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