Taoism and Integration of Personality


Today we talk about a relatively new psychological principle that Lao Tzu talked about thousands of years ago. Our uplifting news comes from Hawaii.

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Show Notes

Daily Reading

Today's reading is from chapter 28 of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching the translation of Jonathan Star:

We are posting an expert rather than the entire passage. If you like this translation, please consider purchasing from the publisher.

Hold your male side with your female side

Hold your bright side with your dull side

Hold your high side with your low side

Then you will be able to hold the world


Lao Tzu is touching on something we'd come to recognize thousands of years later in psychology as something called Integration of Personality. We humans are complicated creatures. There are so many minute details that make up who we are, from our physical body to our memories and habits, to our emotional disposition.

We know that all of these different aspects of who we are can seem to be at odds with each other. The things we want and do when we're feeling one way may seem correct at the time, but when we look back on them from a different perspective or emotional state, we feel regret. We might think of the biblical story of a man who sells his inheritance for a bowl of soup when hungry, or a businesswoman who cheats on her husband in a moment of passion. These are examples of intense emotional states prompting action that cause disproportionate harm, but the different parts of us can seem at odds in smaller ways too

Maybe you have some work to do but you'd rather hang out with friends. The parts of you wanting each of those things (security and career growth on one, sociability and fun on the other) are not wrong in wanting either of those things, but they're still at odds.

What Lao Tzu is advocating is that we don't see all of these aspects as disparate things, but as parts of a unified whole. In psychology, complete integration is the ideal of personality. It results in what is called "sound behavior", which sounds a lot like  right action in Buddhism.

Basically, when we get to a place when we're not fighting ourselves, we reach this state where Lao Tzu describes "there comes a power abundant in its giving". The more we can learn to trust ourselves, be happy with ourselves, and learn to hold space for things that seem to oppose each other, the more energy we have to affect the change we wish to see in the world, to help others. It starts with paying attention.

Uplifting News

Depleted sea-corals near Hawaii are starting to show signs of recovery after 30-40 years of federal protection. This is great news, because it's the first time these corals have been studied for this long. It's showing that, with long term protection, there may be hope for some of these coral communities to recover.

 Quote of the Day

“When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.”

― Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man