3 MIN READ | Positive Psychology

Life Is Complex: Let’s Talk About The Duality of Life and Death

Scott Trettenero

Cite This
Scott Trettenero, (2017, March 1). Life Is Complex: Let’s Talk About The Duality of Life and Death. Psychreg on Positive Psychology. https://www.psychreg.org/duality-life-and-death/
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Duality is an essential concept that must be grasped if one is wanting to have a deeper understanding of life. Without recognising duality, we are missing out on one of the most profound learning tools available. Duality teaches us that every aspect of life is created from a balanced interaction of opposite and competing forces. Yet these forces are not just opposites; they are complementary. They do not cancel out each other, they merely balance each other like the dual wings of a bird.

With the concept of duality it is said that you can’t fully understand one side of the dual nature of something without comparing and fully understanding the opposing side. For example, you couldn’t understand what the concept of ‘up’ is without having a ‘down’ to compare and contrast to.  Same applies for in-out, hot-cold, sweet-sour, young-old, male-female, liberal-conservative, and on and on, the list goes. If we don’t have an opposing counterpart, then it can’t have any value to us.

Let’s apply this concept to one of the most consequential aspects of our existence: life and death. What if it is equally as valuable to experience the non-physical world that death gives us, as it is to experience this physical world? Maybe we wouldn’t fear death as a lot of us do now. What if we lived our life not being afraid to die, by knowing that this next aspect of existence was just the other side of the same coin?

What could be a more profound example of duality than life and death? What could illustrate more succinctly how duality works in our world? In order to die, you must first be alive. We would never know what death is unless we are alive, which gives us a comparison. Let us explore this magnificent teaching tool and what it helps us to learn about duality in general.

First of all, this example allows us to understand how clear and distinct duality can be, even to our limited perception. I believe that this is an example we can all understand. Either you are alive, or you are dead. It is hard to create any grey areas within this black and white scenario with our highly subjective perception. There are a lot of dualities we experience that aren’t so cut and dry as life and death. Dualities such as right-wrong, or good-bad, have so much relativity between all of us that they become hard to distinguish as a universal measure.

Because we are alive, we can sense and value our ‘aliveness’. We can perceive ‘aliveness’ because we are alive. Because we aren’t dead and we have no tangible access to the dead, we really can’t truly understand death. That leads us to be afraid of this unknown. But what if when our physical bodies die, we become part of a beautiful and wonderful existence in a non-physical world?

The problem with the duality of life and death in this world is that we don’t have access to the other side that would help us to better  understand and cherish our life here on earth.

Duality doesn’t stop with our life and death example. Our entire existence in this world is run on duality. Why this basic concept of life isn’t even mentioned in our education or upbringing or wherever is mind-boggling to me. It helps to explain so much in our life. For me it explains how our opposing values are both integral aspects of a ‘whole’. We can’t have one side without the other.

Most all of our value-based conflicts have their roots within this scenario. If you think about this in depth, our conflicts with others who differ from us reflect our inabilities to understand the other side’s value. Just as death is presently beyond most of our capabilities to understand, our inabilities to understand our opposites in this life reveal our lack of perception. We just need to expand our consciousness and recognise how this world really works in order to learn appreciation and gratitude for the life we are living. Understanding duality is a good starting point.

Death is one of the most difficult of life’s dualities to accept. Our culture has done a very poor job of preparing us for its reality, as it has on the concept of duality. We have a long way to go to get caught up with the insight duality provides us.

It is because there is death that there is life. We were born. We will die. We were not alive before we were brought into this world. We are part of the never-ending cycles. I have to believe and have faith in the continuum. Live well and live deeply with a fearless heart, as we are here to experience this side of the thread. The other side is there waiting to provide us its lessons.

Image credit: Freepik


Scott Trettenero’s book, Master the Mystery of Human Nature: Resolving the Conflict of Opposing Values helps readers learn about themselves. 

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