Relationships: Duality vs. Reality


After my recent post, “Animal Medicine: Acquiring Power and Success,” I received two comments that I found very interesting. William Horden cited the differing energies of the stallion and mare to illustrate the need for integrating our masculine and feminine sides. Ram0singhal distinguished the difference between our attitudes about what is positive and negative, or good and evil, and life’s actual underlying Oneness. What these two comments have in common is their emphasis on the importance of transcending dualistic thinking.
Dualistic thinking? What does that have to do with me and my life? you might be wondering. Well, everything, actually. The way we think influences the way we live and relate to others. If there’s anything about yourself, your relationships, your life, or the world you’re not happy with, you can change it with greater awareness of the way you think about it. Really. Believe it or not, our thought processes are at the root of our problems, and the worst culprit is dualistic thinking. Essentially, dualistic thinking is perceiving the world in terms of “black and white” opposites in which there is only one correct answer.
There’s nothing right or wrong about classifying things in terms of opposites; in fact, this is the ego’s natural mode of perception. For example, our senses constantly highlight the differences between day and night, sun and moon, north pole and south pole, east and west, male and female, light and dark, self and other, fire and water, hot and cold, hard and soft. Likewise, there are vast differences between our inner and outer worlds, our thoughts and emotions, our life styles and the life styles of others, and so on. Distinguishing differences is the way we come to understand our world.
The problem with dualistic thinking is our tendency to make moral judgments about opposites. When we see one side as “right” and the other as “wrong” and get all charged up about defending our side and rejecting the other, we stop communicating and start fighting. But think about it. Is either side in any of the above examples objectively better than the other? No. We might prefer one over the other, but essentially both are naturally occurring, morally neutral aspects of life.
For example, my husband processes life’s input by logically evaluating physically observable phenomena. I am more attuned to my intuition, feelings and values. The difference between his objectivity and my subjectivity used to create real problems for us, and there were times when we were both certain the other was not only wrong but bad in some indefinable way. But as we got clearer about how we were thinking and what we were feeling and started communicating our truths honestly instead of quibbling about who was right and who was wrong, we discovered that, at bottom, our conflicts were based on our lack of understanding about the natural processes of our own souls and our inability to accept the validity of each other’s.
Changing the way we think has made all the difference in our relationship. With each step we take toward transcending opposites that threaten to separate us, we grow more understanding, forgiving, and compassionate, and more intimate with ourselves, each other, and the benevolent, underlying Oneness of reality.
How does dualistic thinking create problems in your life? How are you doing at overcoming it?

Join 5,851 other subscribers


0 Responses

  1. divine…..
    eternity is dancing on eternity like
    football hence eternal space outside
    and inside… in between leather or body
    so why dualistic thinking, negativity and stress ?
    one time 20-25 years before , the
    aircraft I was travelling fell
    by 200 meters in air turbulence.
    everybody including myself were
    expecting a disaster….suddenly a small
    child laughed loudly as for child it was
    like a roller coaster ride…a certain
    wisdom surfaced in me and I also
    laughed inside…
    a child of five years is laughing…and so called
    called knowledgeable me who claims
    to have seen this world is fearful……
    suddenly all fears disappeared and
    surrendered to cosmic wish… in no
    time again… smooth flight….learned
    first wisdom from enlightened child…
    ..happiness… breath to breath… and
    in following months the knowledge…
    how mind works ? and mind as divine
    p.s…should share the wisdom how
    mind work may be it can be a child’s

  2. Thank you for your comment, Ram0singhal. Since you already understand these matters, what I have to say in response is more of a clarification of the topic for those readers who may be interested.
    Since differentiating between opposites is how we become conscious, dualistic thinking is the normal condition of the ego. Thus, no matter how afraid, stressed, or unhappy we may be, we approach our suffering dualistically unless an extreme measure, like your traumatic airplane experience coupled with a child’s laugh, causes the veil of normal perception to drop away and we see the truth: the preciousness of life in its myriad manifestations and the fallacy of our fears, worries, and moral judgments, none of which could have prepared us for, or saved us from this moment. Suddenly, my opinions and your differences no longer matter; the only thing that matters is the miracle of this breath, this being alive right now. Thus do we begin to see holistically and enter a new realm of integrated consciousness.
    It’s extraordinarily difficult to understand or enter this kind of awareness by logic and reason alone; I think the body, with its instincts and emotions, also has to be shaken up by some sort of physical, certainly emotional, trauma. Generally then, transcending duality is a function of mental preparation combined with a physical experience that forces us to face our mortality. But this awareness can be easily lost if we fail to nurture it with regular mental training that brings our minds back into the Oneness until it becomes second nature.
    May I ask what kinds of mental training you have practiced? My practices have been dreamwork, reading, writing, meditation, and yoga. I’d be very interested in knowing what has worked for others as well.
    All my best,

  3. Dear Jeanie,
    The wisdom of your posting, ramOsinghal’s response, and then your response to him display a rarified understanding on each of your parts. It is interesting that your focus is on one’s relationships with an other and his focus is on one’s relationship to one’s self in a stressful situation. There is stress in both instances and the reflection and choice of the response by the individual is the key.
    As we grow into to adulthood, we live our lives in continual interactions and challenging situations. The abandoned joy of a child is beautiful, but not his or her temper tantrums. We learn much consciously and subconsciously from our family, friends, culture and lived experience. Maturity, I believe, is the reflective consideration of our reactions to situations and relationships that help us learn to choose how we want to respond.
    Ram’s reflection on the giggling of a child during the free-fall of the airplane dissipated his fear. The child’s joy was spontaneous; Ram’s was a reflective decision on how best to view the situation where he was completely out of control.
    My hope is to live my life in spontaneous openness, based on balanced reflection. To get to a place where my body, heart and mind respond, not in fear or dualistic self righteousness, but with clarity, greeting each moment with openness and love. I too have found, Yoga, meditation and dreamwork, plus honest, reflective self awareness helps.
    In relationships I had to learn that when someone has a problem, he or she may want to share or maybe not. If I am in balance, I can listen, show respect and empathy, but I can not fix someone else’s problem. On a few occasions when I was treated harshly by a colleague, I had to learn that there are times when someone does not want to discuss a matter with me. I have had to learn that I can “walk away”, still respecting him or her and myself, but knowing that dialogue or resolution is not possible at that time.

    1. Dear Sally,
      I love your reflections on the difference between a child’s spontaneous openness to life and an adult’s balanced reflection, and I share your desire to live in both realities at the same time. Neither is complete in itself, but together they create the expanded state of awareness I’m calling integrated consciousness. They also are another way of expressing the motto of this blog: “Think psychologically”;(i.e. with balanced reflection), “Live Spiritually” (i.e. with love and reverence for life in the Now.) Thank you so much for clarifying this in a way I hadn’t considered.
      Your practice of “honest, reflective self-awareness” is crucial to the kind of mind training we’re talking about. I’m naturally self-reflective, but my years of dreamwork helped me see the spaces and imbalances in the way I reflected on my thoughts and behavior. For example, for years I thought I was just being honest with myself when I was actually being overly perfectionistic and self-critical. It took several dreams of a man who was critical and unkind to me before I realized that I tended to reflect on myself from my Spiritual Bully’s point of view and not from a more balanced perspective which would also consider my positive human qualities! I see him more quickly now and am usually able to send him packing before he brings me down!
      And thanks for your wisdom about relationship problems. It takes so much self-awareness, self-discipline, and respect for the differences of others to walk away without achieving closure when people want to ignore your desire to help or when they try to dump their problems on you. I admire you very much for being able to do that. Thank you so much for your valuable contributions to this discussion.
      All my best, Jeanie

  4. “How does dualistic thinking create problems in your life? How are you doing at overcoming it?”
    i go to the wildlife refuge with the goal of taking photos of the great blue heron. the dragonflies dart like lightningbolts. frogs squeak like mice when they jump from the bank and disappear into the muddy bottom. swallows flit over the mirror water, dipping into the sky’s reflection to take a bath. red-wing blackbirds chase one another through the cat-tails. mallard hens marshal their second brood of ducklings along the marshy edge of the pond. canadian geese race across the pond, calling sternly to their fledglings to follow suit if they have any hope of being ready for the migration south.
    but does the great blue heron even pause for a moment from his interminable preening across the pond? of course not.
    my own damn fault, of course. set out with a goal in mind, creating a duality by desiring some strictly personal preference before i even got to the refuge. my desire for a specific outcome runs ahead of me like a long sunset shadow, like a prow wake in front of a boat. i upset the whole refuge with my clumsy thinking.
    how am i doing at overcoming it? better some days than others. i resolve once again to go explore and play and discover what the world has in store for itself–maybe tomorrow i will do better….
    brilliant post, jeanie, and the discussion between you and ram0singhal and sally is just plain magic!
    thanks to all,

  5. Dear William,
    Thank you for adding another dimension to our discussion about relationships and dualistic thinking. We’re always in relationship to everything. So how do we relate to a situation in daily life when it doesn’t meet our expectations?
    You want to take photographs of the great blue heron feeding and flying, but s/he won’t stop preening. You want good photographs. Bad heron to not cooperate!
    I want to revise my power point presentation for tomorrow’s dream workshop but my computer’s free trial use has run out and it’ll cost me $150.00 to update it even though I’ll probably only use the new installation once in the next year. I want to make a good updated presentation. Bad Microsoft to force me into a difficult choice I don’t want to have to make!
    Sally wants to be a good listener and helper. Bad client and colleague to refuse to talk.
    Ram0singhal wants to arrive at his destination safely. Bad airplane to go into free fall.
    Ram0singhal demonstrates how to lose our attachment to outcomes, thus transcending the dualisms that have the power to imprison us in agitation and rob us of joy. You see and accept the beauty of the preening heron and take one of the most exquisite photos of your career. I see and accept my perfectionism and happily put my credit card back in my wallet. Sally sees and accepts the client and colleague’s reluctance to talk and walks away without rancor or blame. Ram sees and accepts the beauty of the moment when his life is in the balance and instead of succumbing to fear feels only joy.
    In the words of my favorite bard, Kris Kristofferson, “Life is the question. Life is the answer. God is the reason. And love is the way.”
    Blessings to you all, my dear soul siblings,

  6. Hi Jeanie,
    I find this post and the comments intriguing, because I’ve been processing my two modes of thinking lately, and seeing that both are necessary for balance in my psyche.
    I was born on the cusp of Libra and Scorpio, air and water, analytical and feeling, concrete and going with the flow. Sometimes, when I’m lucky, I can keep a balance between these two strong modes in my psyche, and that is when my creativity flows. But, there have been times when seeing things in black and white have grabbed me and won’t let go. This has made me and those I’m attempting to communicate with unhappy.
    What really changed my thinking in a big way was an experience I had with my husband. In a moment of serendipity, I got to “see” how unitive thinking positively affects energy field of another. My warm and loving (now deceased) husband, who wasn’t always above dualistic thinking, but was more often than not, a great example of an open and receptive person to both sides of the “story.”
    One day we were arguing about something, me drawing a line in the sand as the “way things are!” and I chanced to really look into (not at) my dear husband’s face that was so soft and open and compassionate, his eyes right there with me in my pain, and a little closed door in my heart just opened effortlessly. I know it sounds strange to some people, but that moment was a turning point in my dualistic thinking.
    When your heart is open, unity is the psyche’s natural mode of processing it would seem.
    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share my feelings about this!
    Much love,

  7. Dear Jenna,
    What a beautiful illustration of the healing power of unitive, or holistic, or enlightened, or integrated consciousness– whatever we might choose to call it. The softness, openness, and compassion of your husband are, indeed symptoms of this expanded awareness which is a very rare and unusual quality in humans. I’m not talking about the weak passivity and unauthentic martyrdom that sometimes pass for sainthood, but about the authentic, enormously potent force of love. Perhaps that’s why, when you see it, you can’t help but be affected by it. Perhaps that’s why people like Jesus and Buddha made such powerful impacts on everyone around them and still do millennia later. Simply put: They had transcended dualism and thus knew how the soul is healed.
    I think there are a lot more people around today than we realize for whom this is a way of life. We certainly don’t see many of them in movies or on television!! And we don’t necessarily see a lot of them in churches either! But they’re out there. They may not be saints, and they may not be called to be spiritual leaders, or any kind of leaders of all, and they may not even be able to tap into this rarified atmosphere very often, but when they do, they, and the people around them are blessed.
    Thank you so much for your valuable contribution to this discussion.
    With much love and gratitude,

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Recent Posts