We all have yin & yang elements to us – light & dark, left & right, logical & creative. These elements can sometimes stand in stark contrast with each other and in some cases, we’ve become acclimatized to keeping them separate. I remember first learning about the left & right hemispheres of the brain in high school biology and psychology classes and that left me with the impression that these two sides of me would never mix, and could even explain some of the internal conflicts I would experience.
Since then, I’ve come to both appreciate these seemingly opposing characteristics and also to see how as part of the whole, they really serve to support & complement each other. It really is a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
The concepts of analog & digital have been very meaningful metaphors for me. Having both music & technology in my background, I grew up during that transition from analog recordings to digital and all of the arguments & critiques that arose during that period.
At that time back in the ‘80s, proponents of the digital audio revolution talked about the superior process of digitizing music and reproducing it perfectly for our enjoyment. Critics argued (and some continue to make this point) that the process of digitizing music can never accurately capture the nuance and inherently “smooth” curves of audio signals. We are analog creatures that don’t quantize any of our senses into discrete chunks – we revel in the “fuzziness” of our senses & experiences.
Visually, the argument was pretty clear to me – you can have a smooth sine wave undulating up & down, or its digital equivalent made up of (incredibly small) square steps that would always have a jagged quality to them. In practice though, while I enjoy the experience of listening to analog music sources (and the associated memories), listening to modern digital sources is functionally the same to me.
Bringing this back to the topic of yin & yang, I’ve come to see how analog & digital have also applied to aspects of my being, namely my behaviours & thoughts, respectively.
There was a time when I read a bit of Tony Robbins and while I don’t follow his practices, I appreciated one concept he shared about behaviour modification. I’m paraphrasing, but he would advocate for using our emotions as a guide for changing our behaviours and saw it as an instantaneous change, like a light switch. If you don’t want to feel a certain way, then stop performing the behaviour that leads to the feeling.
There’s a very clinical & objective nature to this approach that I appreciate. It’s very logical & it clearly defines how to approach a situation. However, the challenge I have had is that things are not always so easy.
In my years of journalling, my approach has been to write what I am feeling, what I’m thinking, and finally what my goals are going to be. The “thinking” section is my chance to become a bit more analytical & objective about what I’m experiencing so that I can formulate some goals to work towards. Making clear decisions is a very “digital” process to me. Changing my behaviour, though, is not as clear cut or direct.
My habits & behaviours aren’t like light switches that I can turn on or off. In the past, I believe that’s where some of my frustration would come from – that conflict between my expectations of change, and my reality. Since then, I’ve benefited from books by people like James Clear and Charles Duhigg to better understand how our mental processes generally work and how to develop systems to better achieve our goals.
Acceptance has been key for me – accepting that I am not a machine but am a feeling human being. Accepting that things take time and are not instant. Accepting that we are not isolated & insulated from our environment & the people in our lives. I give myself the benefit of the doubt and the self-compassion to understand that any growth I make will take the time it needs.
Appreciation & gratitude are key tools as well. Especially with regards to my thoughts & behaviours, I’m grateful for the awareness to identify when I believe I need to make a change, and to come up with a plan to achieve that. My thoughts of where I want to end up serve as a map of sorts. My behaviours are part of the journey – it’s may never be a direct straight path, but it will surely enhance my appreciation of the goal.
My thoughts & behaviours are linked together, and while they can feel separate & distinct, they do truly support each other and come together into something more than either of them contribute on their own. They are my own reflections of analog & digital, the yin & yang that make the whole greater than the sum of my parts. What aspects of your own self are seemingly distinct & separate, but complement & enhance each other?
Thank you for the time you’ve taken to read this article and I hope it has resonated with you in some way.