Gradually I'm beginning to realize that my pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain are the opposites of a single thought. How do I back up and see the whole thing in its entirety, so as to be free from this unconscious duality?
The understanding of the operation of the opposites is not an intellectual act. Using reason to try to escape the opposites, to negate them, is just the beginning of the understanding you need. In truth, using thoughts to address the problem of the opposites only compounds their confusion, as thought - by its nature - can only address one side of a thing at a time. True seeing is not a mental activity. The more you learn about the nature of the opposites, and how they are unable to resolve themselves, the more you will naturally step aside from their influences when they enter you. As you step aside - ultimately learning to see your life outside of theses opposites - increasingly you will be able to see them in their original form.
There is much spoken about in higher spiritual studies concerning the "opposites," and how, for instance, we are unaware that to be for one thing often sets us against something else. Is this accurate? How does it relate to daily actions and decisions we must make?
The study of the opposites is very important in our inner work because it is the nature of thought itself to work in opposites. These workings are themselves in scale. The important point to be made here is that truly learning about the opposites requires being able to observe their operation within us, within our thoughts, in the present moment. For instance, all of us recognize the simple opposites of how a fear thought will produce a prescribed action to free us from the fear we feel. All such thoughts and imaginary escapes are really just the work of unconscious opposites and, when we take direction from this level of thought, we remain captives in the circle of self. But perhaps the trickiest of the expressions of these mechanical, mental opposites is that thought always divides the person seeing from what he sees. This is a deep subject requiring much study and self-observation; however, it is priceless for your inner development.