Chinese Medicine expresses traits in terms of yin (feminine) or yang (masculine). Yang is fiery, intense, impatient, impulsive, harsh, aggressive, outward, dynamic, and often identified as a more masculine energy. Yin is cool, gentle, wise, reflective, patient, passive, inward, and settled—traits that are often reduced to what many consider “feminine.”
The yin and yang concept became popular around 300 B.C. with the work of cosmologist Tsou Yen and the Chinese School of Yinyang. The simplicity of the notion that all phenomena can be reduced to yin-yang still applies in the modern world. Excessive yang gives rise to wars, conflicts, harsh speech, abuse, anger, hatred, resentment, and aggression. Yin balances yang with wisdom, insight, depth, kindness, understanding, spirituality, compassion, and respect. Chinese Medicine points out the need for balance. We need to increase the yin. To do that, we first need to understand what it is and what it looks like in people’s behavior.
First, let’s get clear that yin doesn’t mean woman and yang doesn’t mean man. It’s been said that a mature self-actualized adult is an equal balance yin and yang. Whether or not that is true, it does carry with it an important message: men are not supposed to be totally yang and women are not supposed to be completely yin. Though saying that out loud seems self-evident, society doesn’t seem to adhere to that principle.
Powerful figures are all too often equated with being very yang. Think of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ronald Reagan, or even Joan of Arc. It’s more challenging to think of a powerful modern role model praised for being more yin in nature. This is an unfortunate state of events because in actuality, yin power overtakes yang.
Perhaps the Mona Lisa smile best conveys the power of yin. Though very peaceful, unassuming, and non-aggressive, that smile has captivated and brought humanity to its knees for centuries. It’s as if she knows something she’s not saying. You would love for her to tell you what that is. You can tell she understands and sees beyond your ability to do so. She commands your attention without lifting a finger. Her power is overwhelming. Though you could turn your back and walk away, you would never forget that she is a true authority.
Even some of Hollywood’s leading male actors, such as Clint Eastwood, command attention on the screen not through their tough guy antics, but more through the moments where they exhibit yin traits. With little more than a seemingly passive glance, Eastwood routinely compelled bad guys to quake in their boots. He had no need to tout his superiority. His silent, passive presence commanded it. Yin power is patient, knowing that paper covers stone.
In this day and age, humanity is so oriented toward the yang, that powerful yin individuals are generally ignored by the media. Loud, dramatic, and boisterous gets all the attention. Powerful yin individuals tend to remain behind the scenes.
Our world is on fire. This is the age of fire (yang). To be heard, people need to scream out. The only power we respect in this age of fire is yang power. But the inward yin principle is every bit as powerful (probably more so) as the outward yang principle. Humanity just needs to learn how to master it. One or two good yin role models—be they male or female—would shine as guiding lights for how yin power is embodied. We, as individuals, need to honor the yin principle and identify role models for it. Ideally, at some point in the future a truly powerful yin master will serve as a role model in the public eye.
Author: Dr. Michael Mamas
Editor: Travis May