One of the most grounding and comforting concepts I’ve learned in all my years as a psychotherapist is the concept of the dual natures. This concept is very central to Jungian psychology and in the nutshell, it states that all of universe is comprised of dual natures. Each individual nature in the dyad is opposite of the other and therefore, is complimentary. One needs the other to exist.
For example, one of the basic notions is that if there is joy, there must also be sorrow. If there is death, there is also life. If there is progress, there is also regression. And so on and so forth.
Each nature in the dyad is inseparable from its counterpart. They do not exist without each other. Like a complete breath that contains both the inhale and the exhale and which cannot happen without one following the other, the dual natures are distinctly separate and simultaneously inseparable.
It was a powerful synchronicity that the very theme of the 2019 semester of “Singing Over the Bones” taught by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés was dual natures. This is how Dr. Estés talked about the dual natures: “We need both. We cannot give up one or the other without being diminished somehow. If only one is developed, we become lopsided.”
We have not been initiated into this way of seeing things. We have been taught to privilege one and disregard the other. We have been taught that it is “either or” and not “both and.”
Many of us have learned that it’s either perfect or its not. That it’s either good or it is bad. That it’s either right or it is wrong. That we are either right or wrong. We’ve learned that it’s either desired or it’s undesirable. There it’s either ugly and or it’s beautiful. We’ve learned that wellness means the absence of sickness and that sickness means someone or something is unwell.
Seeing everything as “either or”, we had to decide which side we’re going to pick. And so we picked the good, the right, the desired, the beautiful. So you see, many of us have been initiated into a split world where the only possible way to live is to suffer, is to be lopsided.
There is a term in Jungian psychology called enantiodromia, which literally means “the tendency for things to turn into their opposites in time.” This movement for one thing to flow into its opposite and then for that to turn into the other again in time speaks of the importance of flow as a feature of life.
Hierclitus said, “Everything changes and nothing stays the same” and yet, we are often expected or expect ourselves to stay the same. Always good, always polite, always conscious, always kind, always calm and so on and so forth.
When we can move from one nature to the other, we’re in the flow. When one side of that expression is blocked, there is no energy flow and the energy becomes stagnated. Tending to both natures on the spectrum is key to wellness because it promotes flow-when both natures are active, we literally move from one to another thus creating circulation of energy.
Here are three practices that can help you begin working with dual natures:
Get to know your dual natures: Examine specific polarities. For example, one set of dual natures is sovereign/relational. To create flow, both natures need to be acknowledged as important and valuable. To do so, create a list of questions that would help you get to know both natures as they are expressed through you. Here are some of the example of such questions.
What I do for myself, what I do for others
Who I am when no one’s watching, who I am around others
How much time to I spend alone, how much time do I spend with others
What I do because it feels right to me (harmony with myself), what I do because I want to be in harmony with others
What burdens me and what nourishes me when I’m around others
What burdens me and what nourishes me when I’m in my own company
Welcome the shadow nature: Sometimes we’re significantly challenged by one nature in the dyad. For example, you might clearly prefer predictability and order while having things feel unfinished or messy might feel very unsettling. Seeing how the latter creates a sense of internal distress, you might find yourself refusing or avoiding situations that create that for you. If you’re working with creating flow and increasing energy, however, instead of pushing the unwanted nature away, you might want to see times when things appear to be uncertain or less organized as opportunities to welcome and make friends with the other nature in the dyad.
The balancing act: It is not unusual for one nature in the dyad to be more developed than the other and, while this nature enjoys its full glory, the other is often neglected and starts to dry up. To support the flow of energy, begin by looking at the expressions/natures that are more prominent and robust and then look for their opposites. How are those natures doing? For example, if you typically find yourself to be more on the serious side, check in with the nature that needs play and silliness. If you find that you haven’t seen that expression come out in a while, look for something that can help nourish and feed that part of you.