XXXI. Girlfriends and Boyfriends

Hexagram 31. "Influence (Wooing)"
Hexagram 31. “Influence (Wooing)”

Despite the fact that we are numerically not there yet, hexagram 31 represents within the text the start of the second half, or “Book Two.” Whereas the first half was primarily concerned with natural/cosmic phenomena, we are here told that the second half will concern social interaction and relationships. Accordingly, we begin with the image of courtship and dating – the mutual attraction between women and men. If it appears on the surface that dating is an insignificant or insubstantial element in the scheme of the universe, it should be emphasized that it is used here to suggest that the basis of all success between people (not just romantic or sexual) is varying forms of mutual attraction.

Awww, how sweet is that, I mean, with the ocean and all...
Awww, how sweet is that, I mean, with the ocean and all…

The meat of the hexagram’s teachings concern, specifically, attraction and influence. The “attraction” between Earth and space – not an unscientific concept despite the unscientific terminology – is what allows all of us to exist. Wise teachers use forms of attraction to influence people’s hearts and minds. Wise leaders use forms of attraction to influence groups and events in order to achieve peace and stability. In general, we would do well to remember that, according to the laws of the cosmos spelled out for us here, all solid relationships exist on the basis of a strong and independent person subordinating themselves to another person and putting them first.

At the earliest stages, the conceptual influence is in existence, but with no outward evidence to be seen by others, nobody reacts. Thus, in the very beginning of such things, nothing good or bad will happen. In the course of events, however, we may find ourselves pushed into certain action entirely outside of our conscious control and without any input from our will. If we wish to be successful in these matters, and recognize such a situation coming to pass, we must wait quietly and inactively as best we can. The time will eventually arise in which we can act under more complete and genuine influence.

Like this guy's.
Like this guy’s.

Now, if we truly want to influence someone, or a group of people, it should go without saying that we can’t just rush headlong after them like a dog chasing a car (or a tail). That’s not the way to succeed. Don’t just set about to manipulate them on a base level, either – that will bog us down and limit what we are able to do in the future. On the same token, let’s say we’re in the service of someone else – we also shouldn’t go rushing blindly after any old thing that they claim to desire in a given moment. There’s no prudence, there. Not only is it not necessarily a winner for ourselves in the long run, it’s also probably not in the best interests even of our superior who claims to want it. This isn’t an exhortation to defiance (although that can be fun sometimes too); restraint here is the name of the game. The same goes for our own desires and whims, even if we think they originate within our own hearts. That’s a disaster waiting to happen. Despite what we generally are predisposed to think in a given moment, it is actually in holding ourselves back from capricious flake-outs that we can achieve for ourselves the greater measure of freedom.

Indeed, when it comes to our hearts and the strange things that they do and want, be proactive. If we allow only influences that are pure and productive of good character to reach our hearts, then our hearts will be fully trustworthy at all time. That’s priceless. Naturally, of course, subconscious ideas and tugs appear from out of nowhere. They come and go on their own and we have no control over them. That is neither good nor bad, but an important reminder that there are times in which we may wish to hold firm and avoid being swayed by any influences at all. Just like everything else, though, we can’t take it too far. If we are never influenced, or never influenced by anything outside of ourselves, we will in turn find ourselves unable to influence others. It’s a two-way street.

Just ask this guy.
Just ask this guy.

Lastly, we are exhorted to avoid wasting our time with empty bullshit talk. We won’t accomplish anything trying to influence people using words that have no underlying substance. True influence and attraction occur when dealing with something real and something actually believed in. Anything less isn’t worth our precious limited time and energy.

As always in these storied pages, balance is key. Don’t brush off advice all the time, because if you act like you already know everything, eventually people will stop giving you any kind of counsel. In addition, we are warned that, even in times of joy, keep as still as possible inside so that you don’t blow your attraction and influence by taking things overboard.


This post is the thirty-first of sixty-four in our Days of Change series exploring each hexagram of the ancient Chinese I Ching one by one. To sample others in this series – or go wild and read from the beginning – go here.

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