I'm just trying to put the atom back together.
Phoenix is also about synthesis and adaptability. Diplomacy is the art of understanding both sides. Once you understand both halves, you can become them and then transcend them.
Male and female polarities are the most obvious, and the easiest for many to start with. Gender-switching gives you an image to focus on, an idea of "other" that you can picture. The genderqueer nature of the phoenix is essential here; without the ability to understand both gender roles, the seeker will struggle to go further. The full concept of polarity includes many mindsets and concepts that are associated with either male or female but in reality belong to individuals, not genders.
There are many different roles to be understood. It's not simply a matter of roleplaying, but of truly understanding and appreciating both roles: dominant and submissive, master and servant, fire and water, earth and air, hunter and gatherer, and, ultimately, projective and receptive. Ultimately, it's about the energy.
Remember that the Chinese firebird has already mastered this synthesis, bringing the feng and huang together in a single bird. The larger picture, the Phoenix's dance with the Dragon, means stepping beyond the individual's work and bringing in another partner - the Phoenix is the catalyst, taking in and shaping the raw energy of the Dragon. But while the Phoenix is the receptive partner, both need to be capable of giving and receiving for the work to, well, work.
It's essential to find both those halves in yourself, then, before you go working with a partner. Who you are when no one else is around is your truest self, right? In the silence of your head, can you be male and female? Can you be light and dark? Because as much as you think you know one, you need to understand what separates it from the other. All those trite comments about how you need the darkness to appreciate the light? At the base of it, they're correct.
Once you can at least see things from every angle, you've begun to understand the firebird's point of view. It can be paralyzing to understand both sides, because you learn where one has to give ground for the other to gain. Taoism finds virtue in this - the tao divides into yin and yang, but one who knows the true tao strives to reach wu wei, the state of acting without acting. A lesser echo of this is that understanding prompts inaction.
I think there is a greater understanding, though, as well - where action instead becomes effortless and one moves in harmony without needing to consciously direct it. It's necessary to pull back from that lesser understanding, however, and keep pushing toward a higher goal.
Putting the pieces together and seeing both sides of the puzzle doesn't mean you're done with your path. It just means you're finally starting to see the bigger picture.