Yanantin and Your Relationship
One of the basic philosophical and religious thoughts in the western world is the distinction that opposites are in conflict. This is reflected in the conversations of “good vs evil” and the “battle” of the sexes, masculine vs feminine. It is also reflected incorrectly in interpretations of feminist philosophy that masculine is bad, and needs to be replaced with the feminine. Many eastern philosophies reflect something different.
“The yin and yang symbol in actuality has very little to do with Western dualism; instead it represents the philosophy of balance, where two opposites co-exist in harmony…”.
It is also the case in many indigenous cultures in South America, in particular in Peru, where they live yanantin, or “complimentary dualism”. As much as we desire to believe these ways of thinking in the west, we have been so deeply programmed with conflicting dualism that even though we can know the distinction of “opposites exist in harmony” intellectually, most often it is not truly lived in our deepest mindsets and actions.
This is reflected in most relationships in either very overt or often covert ways. How do I get the upper hand in my relationship? If I am living the masculine, it can be revealed in a difficulty in understanding feminine and vice versa. The comprehension that these opposites are actually working together and form a unique whole is frequently missed. We can also see this in ourselves as individuals. How do I balance the conflicting parts of myself, whether it is in the masculine and feminine aspects of myself, or with the parts of ourselves that limit us and produce possibilities within us? In working with thousands of individuals over the past two decades, almost everyone wants to exorcise the “bad” parts of our selves – “I just want to get that out of me” – and just be the “good” part. Well, I don’t believe it works that way. These parts of ourselves are compliments. The origin of these aspects of ourselves is the same source. For everyone, we are shaped by the world. As David Whyte expresses in his poem “Working Together”:
“We shape our self
To fit this world
And by the world
Are shaped again”
There is nothing “wrong” with us that we have limitations. There is nothing “right” with us that we have “strengths”. These aspects of self complement each other. We focus on our strengths – as it should be – and manage our limitations. Much of our energy is derived from this conflict. It is one of the things that builds character within us. When we give too much energy to either end of this spectrum, we fall out of balance. This conflict within ourselves is reflected in our actions in the world – it cannot be otherwise.
To live this balance in our relationships, particularly in our primary relationship, requires us to first find the balance within ourselves. This is our personal work – to be able to accept ourselves as we are and to love all the different parts of ourselves. We work to balance the masculine qualities and the feminine qualities within ourselves first. This opens the opportunity to be in a balanced relationship. Without this, we will reflect the imbalance in our actions with our partners in ways that make them wrong or that makes us right – another reflection of the “conflict” of right and wrong. Can we be open to possibilities reflected in our partners that don’t seem to fit our own thinking and perceptions? Can we pause long enough to be less reactive – “fighting” – when we are confronted with dissimilar thoughts and ideas? Can we be open to a sensibility that what lands on me as “wrong” may be just another possibility? This is a personal paradigm shift from basic “western” thinking to yanantin. What may seem in conflict is actually just another possibility.
Consider what may happen if we are able to embody complementary dualism as an individual. Instead of conflict, there is openness. Instead of shutting down to “other”, we open to new possibilities. Instead of making “other” wrong, we accept their thinking even if we disagree. What would it be like inside of yourself? What would it be like in your relationship? What would it be like globally?
Make no mistake – this paradigm shift is ambitious. Conflicting dualism is deeply imbued in most of us through religion, movies, TV, advertisements, the news, editorials, politic debates – we are surrounded with it. We swim in the soup of it daily. It is work to make this shift, and like any other way we may want to change aspects of ourselves, it is possible. A good question to ask ourselves is how this manifest in us. What are the stories I live in that reflect conflicting dualism – about myself, others, and the world? What actions do I take in my life that reflects this? What am I practicing internally and externally? It is through this deep and thorough introspection that we are revealed, and these revelations allow us to make new choices. With persistence and perseverance we can put these new choices into practice. And with practice over time, we change.