This great article written by my wife, Jennifer Sault, MFA,MD/Eds, LMHC, Guided Imagery Guide, Certified Hypnotherapist, taught me so much that I feel the need to put it on my blog site. Some of the ideas she taught me I have also included in my book.
We All, men and women, are made up of both masculine and feminine energy. Yang, or masculine energy is the archetype of focus, direction and goal orientation. It is assertive, logical, left-brain and linear, and it is associated with doing. Yin, or feminine energy is the archetype of openness, flow, intuition, and creativity and is associated with the state of being. It is compassionate, and nurturing and right-brain and holistic. These energies are both necessary! Purely yin energy might be highly intuitive and creative, but the ideas never make it into physical form. Purely yang energy is full of zip and enthusiasm, but lacks the creativity to give it structure. All of us, men and women, are somewhere along the continuum of yin and yang dominance, and a rare few have found the place of balance in the middle.
Until relatively recently, society has assigned masculine and feminine roles according to gender, without understanding that our physical and emotional health, as well as our spiritual development, depends upon creating a balance of the masculine and feminine energies within us, whether we are male or female. The archetype of the male was the provider, the decision maker, a strong, largely silent, dependent presence, Fatherhood was mostly a matter of setting an example of what the male was expected to do and to be, a somewhat distant role rather then an intimate daily involvement with his children.
The women’s movement of the nineteen seventies was a drive towards creating a more healthy balance within women. The feminist pioneers were dissatisfied and unfulfilled with being limited to a traditional feminine role of wife and mother and being dependent. Assertiveness training, one of the tools of the movement is about developing healthy yang energy, to complement,not replace, the highly developed yin.
A generation latter there is a sizable movement towards the development of healthy yin energy within men. There are fathers who want to be a nourishing presence in their children’s lives, husbands who want a balanced partnership and shared responsibilities,, men who want the freedom to express a full range of emotion. There are other men who are feeling lost, who don’t know any more what their role is or what is expected of them. As women began to explore their power of choice, these men were faced with a situation for which they had no models and no experience. Traditional man, the provider and protector, the head of household and primary decision maker, began to be something of an anomaly.
In our culture, which sex we are largely conditions our gender identification and therefore the dominance of yin or yang. The people around us are likely to encourage certain behaviors based on whether we are little boys or little girls. A girl, for example, born to parents with traditional ideas of gender roles, may be called a “little princess” from the moment she emerges into the harsh lights of a delivery room. She may be coddled and protected and given overt and covert messages conveying the impression that she deserves and requires protection. She may internalize those messages and grow up believing that it’s not okay to develop and express her masculine energy. A small boy gets the message that it’s not manly to cry, which often becomes internalized as a belief that it is not acceptable to express., or even to feel the tender emotions, He learns to channel that energy into physical activity, or violence. As a culture we may not like or want to encourage anger in males, but we do not say it is unmanly to cry or to be afraid.
Jennifer (one of my preceptors to life writes: I had a conversation with an attorney once at a neighborhood party. His specialty, he said, was “to make money
Criminal law: drug dealers and DUIs.” I recently had my first experience to the legal system with a client who was a battered wife, and I wondered how in the world attorneys and others who work at the courthouse deal with the toxic energy there. “By shutting down,” he said. He mentioned several times that his shutting down had created difficulties in his marriage.
A shutting down of the emotions often resulting in marital discord is not a monopoly of the legal profession. “E” was married to an emergency department physician, and over five or six years she watched him shut down his compassion and empathy because he had never learned how to be compassionate and detached at the same time. The only way he knew how to protect himself from the cruelty and pain he experienced every day was to cut himself off.
The inner yearning for balance is manifest in our relationships. Our choice of partner indicates the qualities that we believe, at a deep level of mind, we are lacking. We are seeking wholeness and completion in another person, when in fact we need to find wholeness within ourselves. A woman, who lacks the self confidence to make her own decisions and take care of herself will remain emotionally immature if she seeks a mate to take care of her instead of developing her yang aspect. Likewise, a man who denies his feminine aspect – the nurturing , compassionate, intuitive aspect of his being-and allows his partner to express all the emotions in a relationship, will not be healthy and whole, emotionally or physically.
Client T was in his early forties. In terms of the success criteria of our culture the had it all, respect, wealth, attractive home, lovely wife, handsome son. Yet, he was desperately unhappy and suffering physical and mental problems of increasing severity. Yin and yang roles within his marriage were clearly defined along traditional lines. He was the provider,, the decision-maker, and head of the household. His wife was his helpmeet, his dependent, the homemaker and nurturer. As her due, as part of their contract, she enjoyed the fruits of his successful professional life, and he felt it was his duty to continue to provide them for her.
T reached the very bringk of physical and mental breakdown before he was willing to question the foundations upon which he had built his life. Through courageous self-exploration he healed the wounded yin, the feminine side of himself that had been locked away since he was a small child undergoing male acculturation from his father. He had been taught that a real man, first of all, makes a lot of money. He never shows weakness, fear or indecision. There had been no room in T’s life for art or music; there was no” woman’s intuition” in his way of being, no “woman’s touch” in the stark white walls and utilitarian furniture of his office. As he integrated his feminine aspect, his physical and emotional health improved dramatically and he experienced a spiritual awakening that gave his life deep meaning.
Yin and Yang speak different languages. Learning to speak each others language, learning to empathize with each others world view, is part of development on all levels and vital to creating not only an intimate relationship with another, but a deeper understanding of self. It is not that any relationship ever reaches the point where he speaks fluent yin and she speaks fluent yang and they live happily ever after finally. It is a journey not a destination, rediscovered at each way station. It is the journey itself that nourishes growth and wellbeing. When partners in a relationship fail to understand that, each partner can become locked into the misery of misunderstanding and feeling misunderstood.
P was an ex-marine in his early 50s. He had tried his best to be what our culture and time, and no doubt the Marines, had taught him a man should be. Strong!
Taking responsibility! Making decisions! Doing his duty~ He had done his duty, providing for ones wife’s children by another man, paying off various wives’ debts and being the family provider while pushing his personal dreams onto the back burner.
Underneath the John Wayne façade he was wounded. Wanting and needing to love and be loved but not having any idea how. He had a pattern of choosing women who were needy, wanting to be taken care of, wanting to abdicate responsibility for their lives, probably younger, probably very attractive. But he never managed to create the satisfying relationship that he wanted.
Opening the heart can be a terrifying experience for such as P, because it means exploring realms of emotion that have never before been acknowledged. He had always disregarded pain, physical or emotional. He was proud of his ability to go back to work immediately after knee surgery or a serious accident. When a wife let him down he left her, secure in the belief that that he had done his duty and she was wrong. He nursed his pain in solitude, never sharing it with anyone, never nurturing himself in any way.
The series Star Trek in its various incarnations, examined the issues of our time in the context of a future culture that has survived the nuclear age and learned to transcend the eye-for-an -eye ethos. One of the ways in which the series confronted contemporary challenges was to take some of our cultural archetypes and express then in extreme form. Vulcans are pure Yang, our cultural veneration for reason untempered by yin. But where our culture simply disparages emotions and considers them a sign of weakness, Vulcans banished them completely to a deep and heavily fortified region of the psyche and live solely according to the dictates of logic and reason. They believed themselves superior to humans because their decisions were uncontaminated by emotion, or yin energy.
Subsequent variations on this theme, as the series developed were Commander Data and the Doctor, a machine and a computer-generated hologram respectively. Unlike Mr. Spock they recognized their lack of wholeness and tried, in ingenious and often entertaining ways, to become “more human” by exploring and developing the non-rational aspects of humanity: emotions, or yin. So far we are able to program a computer to do left brain functions, but the right brain includes intuition and inspiration qualities that are indefinable and unprogrammable and a vitalpart of who we are.
The first men in space were scientists, engineers, fighter pilots, pure yang. And yet as they gazed on the ineffable beauty of our planet, a blue glowing jewel against the black infinity of space, they became poets and mystics. There is no language in yang for the response of the soul to such experiences, and yin finds a way – at those moments of transcendence – to make her presence and power felt. Most of us have known such moments, however fleeting, as we read a poem, heard a particular piece of music, or watched a sunset; moments when we knew, deep within, the harmony of creation. Whether we heed the call, whether we pay attention and work to integrate the moment of balance into a lifetime of harmony once the moment passes, that is our choice and our challenge.
Alan J. Sault MD, ABHM-Dpl
Author: Emotional Vampires and Your Hormones: an holistic physician’s view of how stress affects your well-being and what you can do about it