The How of Tao

Chapter 19 of the book Self-Help Stuff That Works

by Adam Khan

THE ATTITUDE OF TAOISM and the Buddhist concept of nonattachment and the basic principle of cognitive therapy can be reduced to a single technique that creates calm, contentment, and peace of mind. The technique is to let go of an idea you're clinging to. Remind yourself it is only an idea and stop clinging to it as if the idea were meaningful and weighty.

For example, Judy is a thirty-eight-year-old woman who lives in the same town as her alcoholic mother. Judy was upset about this. It bothered her that her mother drank so much every day. One day she discovered the prime source of her stress: The idea that it was her duty to save her mom.

So she gave up the idea. It was just an idea, after all, it was not The Law. And the idea caused her needless suffering. So every time she felt upset because of her mother's drinking, she said to herself: The only one who can stop Mom's drinking is Mom. She became happier, more relaxed, and probably healthier.

She let go of a fixed notion that she should save her mom. Giving up an attachment to an idea is known by Buddhists and Taoists as nonattachment. It is known by cognitive therapists as arguing against statements. And in Rational-Emotive Therapy, they call it giving up musturbation. Clinging to an idea is the source of the bulk of human suffering.

Here's the technique:

1. When you notice yourself unhappy about something, ask yourself what idea you are grasping, clinging to, clutching.

2. Say to yourself, "This is just an idea, and ideas are not reality. This idea doesn't help me, so I'll no longer use it as a guide. The idea is now dismissed, thank you very much.

3. When the idea comes back later as it probably will dismiss it again. You may be in the habit of thinking the idea, so it'll come up again after you've dismissed it, like an idiot employee who doesn't understand he has already been fired. Send him home again. And again. And as many times as you must until he eventually stops coming back.

You will relax and feel happier every time you let go of an idea that has been causing you unnecessary stress.


Let go of an idea that causes you needless stress.

Why aren't we more positive naturally? Why does it seems our minds and the minds of those around us gravitate toward the negative? It's not anyone's fault. It is merely the product of our evolution. Read about how it came about and what you can do to improve your general positivity:
Unnatural Acts

Would you like to learn more about the fine art of positive thinking? Would you like to behold the power of positive thinking? How about the power of anti-negative thinking? Check this out:
Positive Thinking: The Next Generation

How can you take the insights from cognitive science and make your life have less negative emotion in it? Here's another article on the same subject but with a different angle:
Argue With Yourself and Win

next: Pillar of Strength

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, October 22). The How of Tao, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Last Updated: March 31, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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