by Aiden Nettavong
Taoists believe in duality within the Universe - opposing creative forces which, when acting against each other, create all there is. This is depicted in the yin yang symbol; a wholeness created by the two opposites, each containing within itself the seed of the other.
Most people see this and understand it as if one was a "good" force and the other a "bad" one in opposition one to another. But this is not entirely true. While good and bad can be represented within this, it is not the entirety of its meaning. While "good" can be represented by the yang and "bad" can be represented by the yin, these are but human terms; their meanings derived individually by each person whose understanding is rooted in their culture and education.
A more accurate view of these oposing forces can be seen as yin representing dark and yang representing light, yin representing dusk and yang representing dawn, or yin representing the side of a hill cast in shadows and yang representing the side bathed in sunlight. These all represent another key-belief for the taoists: that wherever one aspect of the creative forces which create existance is present - the other is containted within it. One cannot know darkness if they do not know light, dusk cannot occur without the preceeding dawn, and there cannot be shade on one side of the hill without sunlight on the other.
This illustrates that, while these are opposing forces, they come together in a unity which taoists call the Tao (the way); one cannot exist without the other, both constantly playing off one another (yet both needing each other) in a cosmic dance of energy spanning all of time. This dance plays out throughout existance on all levels, even within ourselves.
The psychologist Carl Jung touches on this with his idea of the Shadow Self. The idea holds that in order to reach self-actualization (being who you truly are/your true-self) one must balance their Shadow Self with their outward personality. This is a problem for most as the Shadow Self represents all the pieces of one’s personality which they do not like or are ashamed of and thus repress.
When taoist thought is applied to this it can be seen as an imbalance of yin and yang within a person; a denial of the darker portions of their personality (their internal yin) while over-emphasizing their lighter qualities (their internal yang). Doing this creates an imbalance and thus the person will lose their way (their Tao). This imbalance leads to unhappiness as the overemphasis of one’s yang puts strain on it, exhausting and weakening it over time. All the while the supression of one´s yin causes it to push harder and harder to exert itself, to a point where it explodes through the exhausted yang in a burst of anger or violence. While many believe it to be important to supress what they see to be "bad" personality traits, qualities, and impules in favor of more socially acceptable ones, if in doing this one is denying their natural impulse to a situation (their way/Tao) then it is not actually beneficial to anyone. After all, good and bad are relative terms invented by man and as such nothing is intrinsically either.
It is only through the balance of all aspects of one;s nature, the acceptance of all that one is that one can truly follow their path. By accepting that these "bad" traits are part of one´s being, one is not only better able to control and utilize them for good purposes, but also begins to be able to find the root of why one manifests these traits. In doing this one can firstly identify why they believe these traits are "bad," evaluate whether or not these traits could actually be used positively, and if not learn how to uproot them rather than supress them.
Good and bad exist within us all, but it is not through hiding one’s darker aspects that one will achieve virtue; it is only through the acceptance of all that one is and following who their heart knows them to be that this can be achieved.
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