Duality is an essential feature of the human mind. Our mind makes use of duality to understand the world, to make sense of it.
Had our mind not been dual, I don’t think we could ever possibly describe the world around us. There would be no language, no words, no measurements, nothing. The mind is what it is because of duality.
What is duality
Duality means understanding reality by means of the opposites. The human mind learns by opposites- long and short, thick and thin, near and far, hot and cold, strong and weak, up and down, good and bad, beautiful and ugly, positive and negative, and so on.
You cannot know long without knowing the short, thick without knowing the thin, hot without knowing the cold, and so on.
The subject/object split- the fundamental duality
Your mind enables you to be a point of observation in time and space. What this basically means is that you’re the centre (subject) and the world around you is your observing field (object). This basic duality or subject/object split gives rise to all other dualities.
If somehow this basic duality disappears you won’t be able to make sense of the world because there would be no ‘you’ to make sense and there would be ‘nothing’ out there to make sense of.
To put it more simply, the fact that you’re an observing being allows you to understand reality and you do that by using your mind.
Opposites define each other
If there were no opposites, everything would lose its meaning. Let’s say you have absolutely no idea what ‘short’ means. I had a magic wand that I waved over your head and it made you completely lose the idea of ‘short’.
Before this magic ritual, if you saw a tall building you might have said, “That’s a tall building”. You were able to say that only because you knew what ‘short’ meant. You had something to compare tallness with i.e. shortness.
If you saw the same building after I waved my wand over your head, you could never have possibly said, “That’s a tall building”. You could’ve perhaps only said, “That’s a building”. The idea of ‘tall’ also gets destroyed when the idea of ‘short’ is destroyed.
We form concepts only by knowing the opposites. Everything is relative. If something has no opposite, its existence cannot be proved.
What the mind actually is
Let me give you my brief summary of the nature of mind in 1 short paragraph…The mind is a product of duality or the subject/object split that we find ourselves in when we come into this world. It may also be said that the subject/object split is the product of the mind.
Whichever way around it is, this separateness from the universe allows our mind to function the way it does so that it can comprehend reality and make sense of it.
The mind knows a rock because it sees things that aren’t rock. It knows happiness because it knows something that is not happiness, like sadness. It cannot understand ‘what is’ without knowing ‘what isn’t’. Knowledge cannot exist without not-knowing. Truth cannot exist without the things that aren’t true.
True maturity is attained when a person becomes aware of the fact that the mind understands the world by means of duality. When the person becomes aware of his dual nature, he begins to transcend it. He steps back from his mind and realizes, for the very first time, that he has the power to observe and control his own mind.
He realizes that he has levels of consciousness and the higher he climbs the ladder of awareness the more power he exerts on his own mind. He’s no longer riding the ‘sometimes up and sometimes down’ waves of duality but has now arrived at the shore where-from he can watch/observe/study the waves.
Instead of cursing the negative, he realizes that positive cannot exist without it. He realizes that happiness loses its meaning when there’s no sadness. Instead of being caught up in his emotions unconsciously, he becomes conscious of them, objectifies and understands them.
Hi, I’m Hanan Parvez (MBA, MA Psychology), founder and author of PsychMechanics. I’ve written 280+ articles and published one book about human behavior on this blog that has garnered over 3 million views. PsychMechanics has been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Reader’s Digest, and Entrepreneur.