As the delightfully irreverent Tom Robbins once said, “We waste time looking for the perfect lover, instead of being the perfect love.” This may offer some explanation as to why half of all marriages come unhitched. Most plunge in thinking they have found their other half, only to end up disappointed post-honeymoon when they still only feel like half a person.
Sidestepping the nurture versus nature debate, it does seem like each of us is skewed to one end of the gender spectrum or the other. The problem with talking about it is that we’re hungry for more nutritious language on the subject. Feminine and masculine are such loaded terms, using them loops us on semantic treadmills instead of moving us forward.
Borrowed as it may be, the Chinese model of yin and yang is profoundly more evolved, and therefore relaxing. It shows how the opposites are present in every person, and function interdependently. That means if you are more yin-skewed, you will have a deficiency of yang and vice-versa. Unless you make a conscious effort to develop your other inner-half, you will mostly likely look to your partner to redeem those undeveloped qualities for you.
Standing alone, both yin and yang are incomplete. It could be said that the central task of dreamwork is to bring them into balance. Courting our inner-opposite is what the alchemists called coniunctio, later referred to in Jungian circles as the Sacred Marriage. Paradoxically, it is through our outer dissimilarities that we learn about our inner complements.
Yin is the loving, feeling, compassionate force within. It knows the wisdom of surrender and chooses to yield, even when everyone else is getting ahead. For Yin, withdrawing is entering. It’s there that we gestate our dreams, refine our intuition, and have a center from which to interrelate. Yin touches into the great web of timeless time, knows that tribe can only prosper when everyone is considered.
Yang is our direction, focus and backbone. With piercing clarity, Yang chooses a standpoint and sticks to it. It is assertive, analytical and works independently. It knows how to discriminate and cuts away the excess. It builds systems like economics, politics and law, and takes action when something needs to be done. Yang is the arrow that speeds to its target, turning our dreams into realities.
You can see what a perfect couple they are! But when they don’t work together, each falls into its negative aspect. An overemphasis on one polarity creates devaluation of the other. Too much yin drowns in the emotions without yang’s structure. Too much yang…well, we needn’t look far to see what havoc patriarchy causes for us all.
To grow our inner opposite, we have to move in ways that aren’t always comfortable for us. As Kathleen Noble writes, we must be “independent without being alienated; courageous without being contemptuous of the weak; powerful without dominating or exploiting others; rational without suppressing or abandoning feeling and intuition; autonomous within interconnected, interdependent, and equal relationships; nurturing without denying or sacrificing our own needs.”
Playing the opposites against one another in the male/female game to justify our own inconsistencies just won’t fly in a real marriage. Instead of hitting the road when the patina wears off, if we both aspire to cultivate our wholeness, we may just find real gold under the grit.