Finding Answers Through Taoism and Wu Wei Wisdom
How I’m healing my deep emotional scars with ancient philosophy and the teachings of a British Taoist Monk.
Angry and confused
From my teens until now, in my 30s, I’ve been angry. Quick to anger at the slightest inconvenience and quick to yell out “that’s not fair” in my mind at the notion that I’ve gotten the short end of the stick.
Since a child, I’ve been plagued with binge eating, horribly negative self-talk, and the tendency to verbally take out my anger on those closest to me.
I’d stuff my face with the worst fast food I could find. If it was greasy and I could get a lot of it, I would eat until I felt like I would burst just to stop feeling the negative emotions rolling around in my head.
I would repeat things I’d heard while growing up to myself as an adult. I was fat. I was a bitch. I wouldn’t finish anything. I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was. I was incapable of following and succeeding in my passions and dreams.
Raging at my spouse became an almost daily occurrence. If I had a bad day at work, I would come home and vent for hours, going over and over the same points and the same slights.
If I was given the advice to change my situation, I would shut down and ignore the help. My husband couldn’t possibly understand what I was going through. I would then diminish any successes he tried to share later on because I would become jealous that he was succeeding in his passions and I was not. “It is so unfair.” constantly popped up in my negative self-talk.
I never understood why I could be livid at someone being hateful to a loved one but be perfectly fine with talking so much worse to myself.
As most things do, my negative spiral came to a breaking point a few months ago. Don’t they always?
The breaking point
After the second full day of ruminating on an unjust situation at work and repeating the same arguments with my spouse, I’d finally pushed him too far.
I never wanted a solution. I wanted to complain without taking action. I just didn’t know it then.
He threw up his hands and said, more or less, I need to get help because this isn’t working. He gestured between him and I. The patterns I’d kept repeating were too much for him to deal with and honestly; they made me feel terrible too. It didn’t feel good to drum up the same negative things again and again but I kept doing it anyway.
I kept expecting him to be my metaphorical punching bag and excused myself from any personal responsibility to change things.
I wasn’t looking for a spiritual guide or philosophy, but Taoism and Wu Wei Wisdom were the teachings I didn’t know I needed.
After the argument that hit me in the face like a two by four, I scoured the internet for help. Before I put down hundreds of dollars on a therapist, I needed to see if I could help myself if I just took simple deliberate action.
It started with a few videos on YouTube.
I found some very inspiring videos from Tony Robbins, which led me to find the no-nonsense advice of Mel Robbins and her #mindsetreset videos. After a few weeks of devouring all the motivation and mindset material I could find, a new creator I hadn’t seen before popped up on the recommended videos feed. Wu Wei Wisdom.
David James Lees, a Taoist Monk and his wife, Alexandra Lees teach the philosophy of Taoism through their practice in the UK and on their YouTube channel. They give practical tips and advice for the issues we all deal with in this existence we call humanity.
Red light feelings (anger, sadness, frustration, anxiety, etc) are just like a red stoplight, warning us to Stop and be aware of our surroundings. Something isn’t right and we need to address it.
David and Alex teach that many negative feelings, what they call red light feelings, come from our issues that aren’t resolved, mostly from childhood. We feel ongoing anger or sadness because we haven’t dealt with the wounds or incorrect lessons we were taught, sometimes about ourselves, from when we were children.
What? It’s all because of childhood issues coming to resurface as an adult?
I laughed at first and thought, “Wu Wei? Sounds too woo-woo for me. It echoes what every TV psychiatrist would say — to analyze your childhood.”
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Putting the judging and criticizing aside, I found that, shockingly, nearly all of my anger and negative thought issues were directly from my childhood.
Be careful what you say to a child. They will take it with them long into adulthood.
The Golden Thread
The Taoists have a process where you take an issue and follow it down to the root cause. This is called doing the Golden Thread work. You keep asking yourself why you believe something until you get down to one of the core lies we tend to tell ourselves. “I’m not good enough. I can’t cope. I’m not loveable.”
I’m not good enough. I can’t cope. I’m not loveable. These are lies. Stop criticizing, stop comparing, and stop judging yourself.
I’ve found that most of my anger issues about unfairness come from the childhood beliefs that I am not good enough and that I can’t cope.
Finding out the true reason for my anger feels like a light switch has been turned on in my brain. Now that I know exactly why I’m quick to anger, because it is a learned behavior from my father, and why I automatically stomp my foot and say, “that’s not fair,” because of the instilled belief from my parents that I can always do better while my sibling doesn’t have to, has radically changed how I think and behave.
Yes, just in a period of a few weeks I’ve been able to stop myself when I start to go into a rage about something that isn’t as big of a deal as my brain is making it out to be. I’ve been more mindful about what comes out of my mouth and have stopped myself when I’m about to launch a mean comment at my spouse when the root cause has nothing to do with him or the current situation.
Pausing and considering where my anger and doubt is coming from has helped to refocus my energy into more positive thoughts, which in turn helps me relate on a more honest level with my spouse.
Without the anger of my childhood rearing its head and me using it as fuel for my temper tantrums is a blessing to myself and all those around me.
Before I found Taoism I never gave my childhood any real thought. I knew it wasn’t the best, but it certainly wasn’t the worst. I’m sure one could have the best childhood there is and still have issues that crop up as an adult. It is recognizing where the pattern started and stopping it in its tracks that has been more helpful to me that any of the self-help books I’ve read.
Finding the link to childhood hurts and incorrect teachings may not solve every issue. Sometimes professional counseling is needed and there is nothing wrong with that. No one is weak or less than because they seek professional help. What I’ve written is an account of what has helped me personally. It is ok if it didn’t or doesn’t work for you or if you disagree with the spiritual lessons. Everyone is on their own life journey.