Semantic Polarities – Ugazio, Parks

“Valeria Ugazio’s book Semantic Polarities and Psychopathologies in the Family: Permitted and Forbidden Stories proved particularly useful. Ugazio considers the construction of identity in terms of a number of “semantic polarities” (fear/courage, good/evil, success/failure, belonging/exclusion) and suggests that in each family of origin one criterion of value will tend to be hierarchically more important than others in the way people talk about and assess each other. As a result, it becomes a matter of urgency for each individual in the group to find a stable and comfortable position in relation to this dominant polarity. Is it, for example, more important in this family to be seen as independent and courageous, or as pure and good, or as a winner? Wherever and for whatever reason an individual is unable to find a stable position—perhaps he or she wishes to be good but simultaneously yearns for transgression, or desires intensely to belong but then feels diminished by inclusion in the peer group—this can lead to the kind of conflicts and oscillations we associate with mental illnesses, or again with the tensions and ambiguities we find in creative art.”

Parks, Tim. Life and Work: Writers, Readers, and the Conversations between Them