Do you have an equality complex?

We all know what a superiority complex is… and can easily see that it drains creative energy.

Thinking you are better than others is one of the fastest ways to shut down your capacity for experimentation and collaboration, two key creative traits.

Also problematic is its opposite, an inferiority complex, which is a hive-bed for fear, resistance and self-sabotage.

But what about the equality complex?

I didn't even know there was such a thing until I heard it described by Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay), who pointed out that it too required you to see yourself as separate from (some group of) others and make comparisons.

“Equality does not bring suffering but the equality complex does,” says Thay. “The equality complex says: I am as good as her, or I claim the right to be as good as him.

“But it is only when you know that you are her, you ARE him, that you have harmony and happiness.”


You ARE him: this is Thich Nhat Hanh's radical concept of interbeing.

“Interbeing” is a word that is not yet in the dictionary, a combination of the prefix “inter” with the verb “to be” that neatly encapsulates the Buddhist doctrine of “dependent co-arising”.

No room for superiority, inferiority or equality there.

Thay says: “If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in a sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper.

“The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either.

“So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are.”

Cloud is not superior to paper. Paper is not inferior to rain. Neither are any of them equal. They inter-are.

In the same way, you are not superior, or inferior, or equal to anyone else. “You are her,” Thay says. “And she is you. When you know this, you create absolute peace.”

And true creative connection.

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OVER TO YOU: F-R-E-E-Writing: Which has afflicted you, superiority or inferiority or equality complex? F-R-E-E-Write about which of these three has had most sway in your life and what it has created.