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Tao Psychotherapy: Introducing a New Approach to Humanistic Practice 1

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This article introduces a relatively new and unknown approach to humanistic psychotherapy, called Tao Psychotherapy that was founded by a Korean psychiatrist, Dr. Rhee Dongshick, in 1974. Today, Tao psychotherapy is a synthesis of Eastern and Western psychotherapies seeking to integrate psychoanalytic, existential, humanistic, and transpersonal, and Eastern perspectives in a single coherent approach. The article opens with a brief overview of the Tao and Taoism. A sample of writings attributed to Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu is presented as a prelude to a discussion of the meaning of the Tao itself. Following this, the author, a daseinsanalytic psychotherapist who has been studying Tao psychotherapy in South Korea for over two years, presents an overview of this approach, introducing Rhee Dongshick and the Korean Academy of Psychotherapists as well as the distinctive character of this new approach to humanistic practice. The article closes with a reflection on the ancient allegory of the ox herder, as seen in the famous ten ox herder pictures, discussing it from Taoist and Heideggerian perspectives, especially as it is relevant to the process of psychotherapy. Throughout the article the author reflects on the cultural sources of Tao psychotherapy and on the implications of the approach for humanistically attuned, depth psychological thought and practice.
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Tao Psychotherapy: Introducing a New
Approach to Humanistic Practice1
Erik Craig
Director, Center for Existential Studies and Licensed Psychologist
in Private Practice, Santa Fe, NM
This article introduces a relatively new and unknown approach to humanistic psycho-
therapy, called Tao Psychotherapy that was founded by a Korean psychiatrist, Dr.
Rhee Dongshick, in 1974. Today, Tao psychotherapy is a synthesis of Eastern and
West er n ps ych ot herap ie s see ki ng to i nt egrat e ps ych oa nalyt ic , ex ist en tia l, h uma ni s-
tic, and transpersonal, and Eastern perspectives in a single coherent approach. The
article opens with a brief overview of the Tao and Taoism. A sample of writings at-
tributed to Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu is presented as a prelude to a discussion of the
meaning of the Tao itself. Following this, the author, a daseinsanalytic psychothera-
pist who has been studying Tao psychotherapy in South Korea for over two years,
presents an overview of this approach, introducing Rhee Dongshick and the Korean
Academy of Psychotherapists as well as the distinctive character of this new ap-
proach to humanistic practice. The article closes with a reflection on the ancient alle-
gory of the ox herder, as seen in the famous ten ox herder pictures, discussing it from
Tao is t and Heideg ge ri an p er sp ec tive s, e sp ec ia ll y as i t is r el eva nt t o th e pr oc es s of
psychotherapy. Throughout the article the author reflects on the cultural sources of
Tao p sy ch ot he ra py a nd o n th e im pl ic at io ns o f the approach for huma ni st ic al ly a t-
tuned, depth psychological thought and practice.
In August of 2004, I was invited to Seoul, South Korea to speak in a congress on
“Taopsychotherapy and Western Psychotherapy.” This experience gradually led to
an intensive collaboration with the founder of Tao psychotherapy, Dr. Rhee
Copyright © 2007, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Correspondence should be addressed to Erik Craig, 113 Camino Escondido, #3 Santa Fe, NM
87501. E-mail:
1This is a revised and expanded version of a paper presented in an APA Division 32 paper session
entitled “Topics in Spiritualityand P sychology” held Friday, August 19, 2005, during the 113th Annual
Convention of the American Psychological Association in Washington, DC.
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Dongshick,2and his students.3Ihavebeenreturningregularlytolearnmoreabout
Tao psychotherapy, to interview Zen-Buddhist masters on their experience of spir-
itual practice and enlightenment, and to share my own understanding and practice
of humanistic and existential depth psychotherapies.4However, my first visit to
Seoul was the most surprising.
Arriving at the opening session of the congress, I found myself thrown into an
unanticipated world. There, in a large plush meeting room, were 350 participants
including psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors, as well as twenty or so
Buddhist monks in full regalia, and nearly that number of philosophers, particu-
larly Heidegger scholars. I soon realized that, here, in this audience was nothing
less than a whole school of Korean humanistic psychologists, an impressive body
of dedicated practitioners of a compassionate, deeply intuitive, relational approach
psychotherapy. It was surprising to find such a vital community of humanistic
practitioners virtually unknown to humanistic psychologists in the West.
Here, in this article, it is my privilege to introduce this relatively new and un-
known known humanistic psychotherapy called Tao Psychotherapy, a synthesis
2For those unfamiliar with the use of the traditional use of names in Asia, it is worth noting that the
family name, in this case Rhee, is presented first with the given names following in sequence. If I were
born Korean, I would be addressed as Dr. Craig Peter Erik which could also be rendered in written form
as Dr. Craig Peter-Erik or, even, Dr. Craig Petererik. I specifically asked Dr. Rhee what his preference
would be in writing a bout him in Western presenta tions and journals. He immediately responded that he
wanted me to present his name just as it would be presented in Korea. As always, of course, there is
more than meets the eye in such a cultural tradition. Whereas in the West we emphasize the individual
and self-actualization, in the East it is the family and one’s ancestry that is considered most important.
3In keeping with the millennia long traditions of teaching of Eastern practices, in Korea, Dr. Rhee is
often called “Master,” and his students “disciples.”
4I should clarify what I mean by depth psychology, a term first used byEugen Bleuler (1910) to des-
ignate Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalyse.Inspiteofthecommonerroneousbeliefthatdepthpsychology
refers primarily to Jungian psychology, the term is actually more widely and accurately used to refer to
all those psychologies that developed out of Freud’spsychoanalysis,includingbutnotlimitedto,psy
choanalysis itself, analytical psychology, object relations, psychoanalytic ego psychology, psychoana-
lytic self-psychology, interpersonal psychiatry, psychodynamic psychology, intersubjective psycho-
analysis, relational psychoanalysis, existentialanalysis,andsoforth.ItisworthnotingthatJung
himself never thought of his analytical psychology as the first or only depth psychology and, indeed,
always acknowledged Freud as the founder of depth psychology and saw his own psychology as only
one among many depth psychologies all of which owed their source to Freud’s groundbreaking work.
The essential claim of all depth psychologies is that there is much about being human that remains hid-
den to the eye, indeed, even to thought at all. Thus, depth psychology is simply that kind of psychology
that takes seriously the unseen, the unthought, and, even, the unthinkable and unspeakable. Most sim-
ply put, depth psychology is “a psychology of the invisible, a psychology of the secret, a psychology of
concealment as such”(Craig,2005,p.10).Depth psychotherapies, therefore, all have at least one pur-
pose in common, namely, to entice out of hiding those secrets that contain, among many other things,
the key, first, to understanding the individual’s own-most suffering and, second, to freeing up those pos-
sibilities for being in the world that have been held hostage to that suffering and the psychological de-
fenses against it.
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of Eastern and Western psychotherapies seeking to integrate psychoanalytic, ex-
istential, humanistic, and transpersonal perspectives in a single coherent ap-
In order to fully appreciate the nature and contribution of Tao psychotherapy to-
day one must understand not only the above mentioned western
psychotherapeutic perspectives but also certain traditional Eastern ideas, tradi-
tions, and practices, especially with respect to the teaching of mindfulness, or,
more appropriately, “mind-emptiness.” Immediately, you can see what I mean
about understanding Eastern thought and practice: for one thing, it is intractably
paradoxical (from the Greek meaning alongside or beyond dogma, received
opinion, or logical thought). In this case, forexample,studentsofenlightenment
are taught to be mindful just in order to be mindless, to have an empty mind, a
mind free of determinative, categorical conceptualizations. In keeping with this
kind of psychological openness, Tao psychotherapy rejects linear, abstract, logi-
cal analysis in favor of empathic affect in the flow of immediately given experi-
ence. Another foundational consideration is that Tao psychotherapy is pro-
foundly culturally sensitive, that is, deeply rooted in the values and customs of
Korean culture and, beyond this, Chinese philosophy, especially Confucianism.
This cultural backdrop influences everything from the attitudes to authority and
manner of relating to others to the way one thinks and comports oneself every-
day life, including such mundane behaviors as how one sits, sleeps, and eats.
Naturally, this also influences the process of psychotherapy which emphasizes
one’s way of being over the mastery of technique.
Although the conundrums that Tao psychotherapy will likely present to West-
erners cannot possibly be addressed thoughtfully in a single article, I will at least
touch on what are for me the most salient attitudes and values. I will begin with a brief
historical and philosophical overview of the Tao and then introduce Tao psychother-
5Naturally, the emergence of Tao psychotherapy in Korea is not the first sign of interest in inte-
grating Western psychotherapy and psychoanalysis with Eastern thought. Carl Gustav Jung (1958)
must be credited with the most significant early contributions to the field, publishing as he did a
number of works on the subject as early the thirties and forties. In 1960, Suzuki, Fromm, and De
Martino published the first classic in the field entitled Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis.Morere
cently, interest in the integration of Eastern meditative traditions and Western psychotherapy and
psychoanalysis has begun to blossom and the last decade or so has witnessed the appearance of a
number of very fine works in the field (e.g., Epstein, 1995, 2001; Molino, 1998; Mruk & Hartzell,
2003; Rubin, 1996; Safran, 2003, Suler, 1993). Nevertheless, to my knowledge, Tao psychotherapy
is the first attempt to programatically integrate Eastern and Western approaches into a single coher-
ent approach to theory, training, and practice.
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apy, its founder Rhee Dongshick, the Korean Academy of Psychotherapists, and the
distinctive character of the approach itself. I will then introduce the venerable ten ox
herder pictures, discussing them from Taoist and Heideggerian perspectives, espe-
cially as they are relevant to the process of psychotherapy.
Tao ism i s on e of t he great re li gious tra di ti ons arisi ng f rom the Far E as t. Philo-
sophical Taoism, as opposed to religious Taoism, d raws on the thi nk in g ge ner-
ally attributed to Lao Tzu, especially as it is found in the Tao Te Ching,andthe
philosophy and anecdotes of Chuang Tzu, especially as these are found in what
are called “The Inner Chapters.” The idea of the Tao as such goes back at least
2,500 years to pre-Confucian times. Recent archeological finds, in 1973 and
1993, make it clear that written versions of the Tao Te Ching deriving from re-
lated but independent intellectual traditions appear to have existed as early as the
fourth century B.C.E.
The Ancient Taoist Philosophers
Since Western psychologists generally know very little about the ancient philoso-
phers who are credited with the intellectual foundations of philosophical Taoism,
at least a scanty introduction seems worthwhile.
Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching. Although Lao Tzu (pronounced laodza
and meaning, literally, “Old Master,”) is widely accepted as the author of the Tao
Te Ching (pronounced, daodayjing or daodaycheong) there is no concrete histor-
ical evidence to support this conclusion. Indeed, most contemporary scholars be-
lieve that Lao Tzu is a legendary cultural composite rather than an actual histori-
cal figure. In spite of this problematic historicity, there are a number of famous
legends about the Old Master that are recited widely and with unexamined au-
thority even today. Chief among these are, first, that Lao Tzu was born under a
plum tree, already old with a full head of white hair; second, that in provocative
encounter with Confucius,6he (Lao Tzu) left the honored Chinese philosopher
muttering that he had just met a dragon; and, third, that when he was an old man
and leaving the region, he was asked by the guardian of a mountain pass to write
down his thoughts, which the Old Master promptly did in a single immortal vol-
6Confucius, originally known in China as K’ung-Tzu (551-479, B.C.E.), founded the first school of
wisdom in that country. When visiting China in 2002, I learned that, even today, Confucian history and
philosophy is one of the very first classes Chinese children take in elementary school.
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ume of approximately five thousand words, the volume we today call the Tao Te
However, in spite of the question of authorship, thanks to the discoveries of an-
cient texts in 1973,8we now have recovered authentic original manuscripts written
on silk, bamboo, or wood dating well into the second century B.C.E. After the Bi-
ble and the Bhagavad-Gîtâ the Tao Te Ching is the third most widely translated
work in history.9However, to my mind, more important than such historical and
textual significances is the fact that, even after two and a half millennia, the Tao Te
Ching continues to touch, inspire, and guide human beings around the world, and
to do so in spiritual and philosophical as well as practical ways. Who has not been
moved to wonder by its ethereal first chapter?10
The Tao that can be told
Is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
Is not the eternal name.
The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
Of particular things.
7Complicating historical study even further is the fact that one often finds Lao Tzu spelled Lao-Tzu
(i.e., sometimes with a hyphen and sometime not), Lao Tsu, Lao Tse, Lao Tsi, or Laozi and, further, re-
ferred to as Lao Dan, Lao Laizi, Lao Lai Tzu, Lao Dan, and Historical Dan and Dan (See, for example,
Chan, 1963, pp. 35-59; Fu, 1999, p. 36; Sih, 1989, p.xiii). A number of Eastern scholars claim Lao-Tzu
was actually a man known as Li Erh (literally, “plum ear”) while still others suggest he was a man origi-
nally known as Lao P’eng (see Chan, 1963, pp. 35-59). Reading all these legends and historical dis-
putes, one begins to imagine, as Confucius did, thattheoldmasterLaoTzuisonly parthumanandthat
today he may well still be somewhere mischievously laughing over his own millennia-long vocation as
the trickster, that dissembler who we in the Southwest fancy we see in the eyes of the Coyote.
8Two c om pl et e ma nu scripts o f th e Tao Te Ching were discovered in the grave of a the son of a mar-
quis who lived near the Hunan province in south-central China and who was buried in the Spring of 168
B.C.E. The grave was located in a little village known as Ma-wang-tui and, therefore the texts are also
known by that name (Henricks, 1989, pp. xi-xiv).
9Ipersonally own about twenty different translations with my scholarly favorites being those by
Ames and Hall (2003), Chan (1963), Chen (1989) Henricks (1989), Ivanhoe (2002), and Star (2001)
primarily because of the rich linguistic, historical,orphilosophicalcontextstheyvariouslyprovide.
However, for simplicity and poetic richness I have most enjoyed Bynner (1944), Ivanhoe (2002), Lau
(1963), Le Guin (1997), Mair (1990), Mitchell (1988), and Wu (1961). Being a Daseinsanalyst I have
also especially appreciated the translation by the philosopher and Heideggerian scholar, Chang
Chung-yuan (1975).
10In most subsequent presentations of quotations from the Tao Te Ching and the Chuang Tzu,inkeep
ing with the spirit of Eastern philosophy,I will leave the passages themselves largely unanalyzed, prefer-
ring to save their contemplation and evolving meaning for the reader to experience for him or herself.
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Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only manifestations.
Ye t my s t e r y a n d m a n if e s t a t io n s
Arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.
(S. Mitchell, 1988)
While I have often been impressed by this first chapter as an exceptionally lucid
description both of certain foundationalHeideggerianideasandoftheontological
grounds for depth psychology and psychotherapy, it is not as though the Tao Te
Ching is lacking in practical guidance. Consider, for example, these quotations as
counsel for the presence of the psychotherapist:
Lingering like gossamer, it has only a hint of existence; and yet when you draw upon
it, it is inexhaustible. (Chapter 6, Wu, 1961)
Practice non-doing, and everything will fall in place. (Chapter 3, S. Mitchell, 1988)
Less and less is done
Until non-action is achieved.
When nothing is done, nothing is left undone. (Chapter 48, Feng and English, 1972)
The sage is self-effacing and scanty of words. When his task is accomplished and
things have been completed, all the people say, “We ourselves have achieved it!”
(Chapter 17, Wu, 1961)
It may be of some interest to humanistic psychologists that Carl Rogers carried
a hand written copy of the whole of Bynner’s (1944) translation of this Chapter 17
in his wallet wherever he went.11 Further, Rogers did not hesitate later in his life, to
11I had often heard it rumored that this was Rogers’s habit but I am grateful to several generous
members of APA Division 32 listserv, especially Valerie Bowley-Claudel, for providing both literary
and anecdotal testimony that this was in fact the case. Chuck Stuart was kind enough to send me a de-
scription of a moment in a 1977 workshop when Carl pulled this verse out of his wallet and read it to the
group. Art Bohart suggested that I write to Natalie Rogers, Carl’s daughter, to see what she might know.
Just today I received an e-mail from Natalie telling me that he did indeed carry this verse, from Chapter
17 of the Tao Te Ching,onalittlepieceofpaperinhiswallet.Infact,sheaddedthatshecarriedthat
same piece of paper in her own wallet for many years after he died in February of 1987. Although the
original, written in Carl’s own handwriting, became so creased and worn overthe years that she decided
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testify of his appreciation of the Tao Te Ching (see Rogers, 1961, p. 164; 1973, pp.
Chuang Tzu and The Inner Chapters. Although, like Rogers, many
American psychologists are familiar with the text of Tao Te Ching,notsomanyare
familiar with the work of the allegorist Chuang Tzu,12 an iconoclastic
anti-rationalist, who rejected any form of categorical, demonstrative, or even para-
doxical logic, replacing it with an enigmatic form of intuitive apprehension, appre-
hension that requires the individual’s own immediate personal engagement and voli-
tion with respect to the matter at hand. Here, for example, is a story from Chuang Tzu
describing a discussion between himself and his best friend, Hui Tzu, a contempo-
rary rationalist philosopher, whom Chuang Tzu taunts about the sterility of categori-
cal and analytical thinking:13
“Can a person really have no nature?” asked Hui Tzu of Chuang Tzu.
“Yes,” replied Chuang Tzu.
“But if you have no nature, how can you be called human?”
“Way gives you shape and heaven gives you form, so why can’t you be called
“But if you’re called human, how can you have no nature?
Yes th is and no that—that’s what I call human nature,” replied Chuang Tzu. “Not
mangling yourself with good and bad—that’s what I call no nature. Instead of strug-
gling to improve life, you simply abide in occurrence appearing of itself.
to preserve it, she still now carries her own copy of these same lines. Both Carl and Natalie thought this
Chapter 17 described the essential nature of the effective group facilitator. In its entirety it reads:
A leader is best
When people barely know that he exists,
Not so good when people obey and acclaim him,
Wor s t w he n t he y de s pi se hi m.
‘Fail to honor people,
They fail to honor you,
But of a good leader, who talks little,
When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
They will say, ‘We did this ourselves.
(Bynner, Trans., 1944, p. 46)
12Chuang Tzu (pronounced Chwongdza,369-286B.C.E),alsoknownasChuangChou,builthis
own philosophy on the teachings of the Tao Te Ching and, like the legendary figure Lao Tzu, was also a
trenchant critic of Confucianism. His classical work called Chuang Tzu or The Divine Classic of
Nan-hua is made up of 33 chapters, at least the first seven of which, called The Inner Chapters can be at-
tributed to Chuang Tzu himself with the remainder apparently being contributed by his disciples.
13Of the many available translations of Chuang Tzu’s work, here I use Thomas Merton’s (2004)
translation of this tale. Though, as Merton himself acknowledges, it may not be the most linguistically
correct, I find it among the most intuitive and poetic. Other informative and lucid translations include
those by Giles (1926), Graham (1981), Hamill & Seaton (1999), Hinton (1997), Palmer & Breuilly
(1996), and Watson (1964).
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“If you don’t try to improve on life, how do you stay alive?”
“Way gives you shape and heaven gives you form, so why mangle yourself with good
and bad? But you
Make an exile of your mind
And wear your spirit away.
Yo u b ro od , l e a ni n g o n a t r ee ,
Or doze, slumped over a desk.
Heaven made this your form,
And you waste it twittering
Away in the darkness of arcane
Distinctions and quibbling.”
(Hinton, 1997, pp. 77-78)
Such enigmatic, intuitive apprehension defies our Western attachment to dem-
onstrative or analytical logic and yet it is the former that serves as the foundation
for mental training in the East, most notably through the fascinating vehicle of Zen
pedagogy known as the kôan, a problem that cannot be solved by logical and con-
ceptual thought but requires a spontaneous perspicacity, a radical aperçu. Quite of-
ten, this kind of teaching is presented in the form of stories such as this one from
chapter twelve of Chuang Tzu:
The Yellow Emperor went wandering
To th e No rt h o f th e Re d Wa te r
To th e Ku an Lu n Mo untain. He looked a ro un d
Over the edge of the world. On the way home
He lost his night colored pearl.
He sent out Science to seek his pearl, and got nothing.
He sent Analysis to look for his pearl, and got nothing.
He sent out Logic to seek his pearl, and got nothing.
Then he asked Nothingness, and Nothingness had it!
The Yellow Emperor said:
“Strange, indeed: Nothingness
Who was not sent
Who did no work to find it
Had the night-colored pearl!”
(Merton, 2004, p. 83)
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Following Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu also emphasized, among other teachings, the
importance of the Tao and of non-interfering action (Wu Wei), as well as the unity
and transformation of beings. Indeed, with respect to this last notion, perhaps the
most famous passage in the entire history of dream literature is found at the end of
the second of The Inner Chapters:
Long ago, a certain Chuang Tzu dreamt he was a butterfly – a butterfly fluttering here
and there on a whim, happy and carefree, knowing nothing of Chuang Tzu. Then all
of a sudden he woke to find that he was, beyond all doubt, Chuang Tzu. Who knows if
it was Chuang Tzu dreaming a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming Chuang Tzu, Chuang
Tzu and butterfly: clearly there’s a difference. This is called the transformation of
things. (Hinton, 1997, pp. 34-35).
The Tao Itself
Speaking the word Tao, one refers both literally and primarily, to the “Way,” not only
to the Way of all that is, to the Way of Being itself, but also to Wayof all the particular
beings that comprise the totality of what is. The Wayof the Tao is not some static con-
dition but, rather, the ever unfolding becoming of all that is, the very immediately
present, fundamentally mysterious destining of Being itself.Thus the entire cosmos,
the entire universe of Being has its own Way, or, better, its own “Waying,” its own
coming-into-presence even as we speak. Further, you and I each, as manifestations
of Tao, have our very own distinctive “waying,” our very own inimitable com-
ing-into-presence, our very own Tao or “Taoing,” which is also unfolding evenas we
speak. So the first signification of the Tao today is not just the comprehensive Way of
all Being, but also the distinctive way of each and every particular being in the uni-
verse, including each of us here as we meet one another now in this text.14
14Those of you who are familiar with Heidegger’s Daseinsanalytik might, for good reason, find
yourselves thinking about some of the philosopher’sontologicaltermssuchasbeing,beingness,Being,
Beingness-as-such, Way (Weg), or, perhaps even Logos.Unfortunately,theproblemsandpossibilities
of a thoughtful comparative analysis of Eastern and Heideggerian would be impossible even to begin to
address here. For now, perhaps it is enough to notice that such associations seem to occur so naturally.
What these associations might ultimately reveal is another matter entirely.
For readers interested in Daseinsanalysis, it might be worth mentioning that when I was studying
with Medard Boss he, too, commented on what he saw as the similarity between Eastern and
Heideggerian thought. In fact, in his favorite book,APsychiatristDiscoversIndia(1965), where he de-
scribes his own “apprenticeship” with Swami Govinda Kaul, he wrote: “I could hardly believe my ears,
for I heard him [his Indian master] say things which often corresponded exactly, word for word, with
phrases I had heard in the West from the lips of the philosopher Martin Heidegger (p. 128, brackets
mine)….Could it be that in quite another part of our earth, in the Black Forest of Germany, the same
deepest insight into that which is is trying to well forth?” (p. 129).
Although Boss was quite, as he put it, “dumbfounded” by these similarities between Heideggerian
and Indian thought, it is puzzling to me that he remained convinced that he was telling Heidegger about
these great Eastern philosophies for the first time. However, we now know Heidegger had already been
studying Eastern thought for nearly thirty years. Notonlyhadhehadanumberoflengthyconversations
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As it happens the Tao has one other kind of meaning, which, historically, actu-
ally preceded the ontological significations noted above. This second meaning of
the Tao refers to the teaching and practice of the Tao, the carrying out of Tao in ev-
eryday human affairs, and is concretely manifested in the little Chinese word Te,15
which is most often translated as “virtue,” thus speaking to the way we as human
beings find our own alignment or correspondence with the Tao. So this second
meaning of the Tao does not have to do with how things are but with how we are
with how things are. Although, to my knowledge, James Bugental, one of the
founders of humanistic psychology, never spoke of the Tao as such, he quite aptly
articulated this second significance of Tao, the teaching and practicing of Tao,
when he described the challenge of authenticity as follows: “A person is authentic
in the degree to which his being in the world is in accord with the givenness of his
own nature and of the world” (Bugental, 1965, pp. 31-32).
In both the Tao Te Ching and the Chuang Tzu aspecificmannerofbeingisrec
ommended in the practice of the Tao or Taoist virtue or, as Bugental puts it, being
“in accord with the givenness of the world and of our own nature.” That manner of
being is known as wu wei. Wu wei means, basically, not meddling or interfering
with things, letting oneself and the world be: letting oneself be who and what one
is, and is on one’s way to becoming; letting others be who and what they are, and
are on their way to becoming; and letting the world be what it is, and what it is on
it’s wayto becoming. In essence wu wei means to allow oneself to be in a relational
flow with the Tao,withonesownTao,withtheTaoofothers,withtheTaoofall
that is. This was one of the principles that Carl Rogers most admired in the teach-
ings of Lao Tzu. In fact, he mentioned wu wei in a 1973 article and went on to
quote the following passage, indicating it was perhaps his very favorite from Lao
If I keep from meddling with people, they take care of themselves,
If I keep from commanding people, they behave themselves,
If I keep from preaching at people, they improve themselves,
with Eastern religious scholars but he also had even attempted a translation of the Tao Te Ching with a
Japanese scholar (Hsiao, 1987). Why Heidegger never seemed to have confessed and discussed these
interests with Boss and why Heidegger was, in general, so secretive about his apparently sophisticated
knowledge of Eastern and, specifically, Zen and Taoist thought remains unexplained to this day. Two
thoughtful philosophical works, Heidegger’s Hidden Sources (May, 1989) and Heidegger and Asian
Thought (Parkes, 1987) would be excellent places to begin for those interested in further inquiry.
15The relationship of Tao with Te is so inseparable in Taoism that the book attributed to Lao Tzu is
often written Tao -t e ch in g.Indeed,itisgenerallyunderstoodthatthefirstthirty-sevenchaptersareelu
cidations of the Tao as such and the last forty-four elucidations of Te,theteachingandvirtueoflivingin
accord with the Tao. As mentioned above, the very earliest use of the term Tao actually referred exclu-
sively to human behavior. As the original Chinese pictogram looks like a man walking, one could fairly
say that the Tao first referred to the human beings manner of “walking-in-the-world” or “being on one’s
own way.” It was only with the Tao Te Ching or, as it is often called, the Lao Tzu that Tao came to have
the more metaphysical or ontological meaning that it is often first associated with today
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If I keep from imposing on people, they become themselves.
(Chapter 57, W. Bynner, Trans.)
Naturally, there is much more to the Tao than these brief comments can cover.
Crucially omitted are the inextricable relationship of Beingness and Nothingness
and the importance of Nothingness as such. For example, in the Tao Te Ching we
find references to “the mutual production of being and non-being” (Henricks,
1989, p. 54) repeatedly appearing in a number of contexts. For example, Lau
(1963) translates a famous line from chapter two as “Thus Something and Nothing
produce each other” (p. 58) and S. Mitchell (1988) translates the same line as “Be-
ing and non-being create each other.” Indeed, the encounter with the Nothing ap-
pears throughout Taoist poetry and literature. For instance, on his way to a cruel
political exile, the early 9th Century poet Po Chü-I wrote this poem entitled,
“Reading Chuang Tzu:”
Leaving homeland, parted from kin, banished to a strange place,
I wonder my heart feels so little anguish and pain.
Consulting Chuang Tzu, I find where I belong:
Surely my home is there in Not-Even-Anything land.
(Watson, 1964, p. vii)
My hope with this admittedly inadequate introduction to the Tao, is first to pro-
vide something of the philosophical and cultural context for understanding Tao
psychotherapy. In addition, I hope that readers might be drawn to the possibility of
contemplating the some of the paths of thought found in the Tao Te Ching and the
Chuang Tzu.Whynotreadtheirpassagesbeforegoingtosleepormemorizinga
story or a single line before going for a walk and contemplating it while on your
way? I have found such meditations enormously enriching in my own life and I can
think of few better ways to prepare oneself for the challenges of intensive
psychotherapeutic work.
The following is a brief summary of Tao psychotherapy. First, I introduce its
founder, Dr. Rhee Dongshick, then the Korean Academy of Psychotherapists
(KAP), and, finally, something of the distinctive character of Tao psychotherapy
Who is Rhee Dongshick?
Born on July 26, 1921, in the little village of Waegwan, near the city of Daegu, Ko-
rea, Rhee Dongshick was never a child of privilege. His father, who was only fif-
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teen years old at the time, simply could not conceive of himself as a parent, leaving
his little son with lifelong memories of his father running away from him to play
with his friends. Furthermore, when little Dong Shick was only five his younger
sister, whom he dearly loved, suddenly died, a loss that has never been forgotten.
Hardship was thus no stranger in the home of this child who grew up to be a re-
vered psychiatrist, teacher, and author in his own country. Yet, like the little Aus-
trian boy, Sigisimund Freud, this Korean child (Rhee) from a disadvantaged fam-
ily was also seen very early in his life as blessed with unusual gifts, an
exceptionally able intellect and an unusual sensitivity to human situations.
Determined to make something of himself, after high school Rhee enrolled in
Daegu Medical School in 1938 and, a year after graduating in 1941, he began psy-
chiatric training in what is now Seoul University. He served as a psychiatrist in the
last years of the Japanese occupation and in the first years of an independent Ko-
rea. After the Korean War, in 1954, he traveled to the United States to undertake a
residency at the New York University Bellevue Medical Center and to study psy-
choanalysis at the William Alanson White Institute. There, personally encouraged
and supported by Dr. Clara Thompson, he entered psychoanalytic courses and en-
gaged in a twice weekly psychoanalytic psychotherapy. It was through this experi-
ence of depth psychotherapy that Rhee discovered what he came to call a “nuclear
feeling” that originated in the first three years of his life and that has occupied his
own on-going self-analysis ever since. Since he returned to Korea in 1958, he has
held a variety of clinical and teaching positions to this day.
Having learned English and German as a teenager, Dr. Rhee devoured literature
in both languages. He still remembers the powerful influence of two particular
ideas from the German speaking psychiatrists, Eugen Bleuler and Ernest
Kretchmer. Among the writings of Bleuler,16 the Chair of Psychiatry at the
Burghölzli Sanatorium in Zurich and the first clinical supervisor of C. G. Jung and
Ludwig Binswanger, the young Dr. Rhee was deeply impressed by the emphasis
Bleuler (1927/1916) placed on the doctor’s empathic understanding of the pa-
tient’s total situation (Gesamtbild). From the work of the German psychiatrist, Er-
nest Kretchmer, Rhee was especially taken by the notion that effective psychother-
apy depended on the development of the therapist’s own personality.Thesetwo
ideas along with Karl Jaspers’s emphasis on verstehende Psychologie came to
form the core of the mature Rhee Dongshick’s own approach to psychotherapy.
While studying psychoanalysis, Rhee was introduced to European philosophy,
particularly phenomenology and existentialism. Therefore, like the European exis-
16Bleuler was one of the most influential European psychiatrists in the early part of the twentieth
century. He coined the terms “depth psychology” and “schizophrenia,” was a leading figure, (following
Freud and Jung) in the development of psychoanalysis (in spite of his deep ambivalences), and super-
vised and trained a whole generation of European psychiatrists. What is less well known is his deeply
humanistic feeling for patients whose well being he thought best served by productive activity and gen-
uine, caring, human relationships.
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tential psychiatrists with whom we are more familiar, Ludwig Binswanger and
Medard Boss, Dr. Rhee, too, was doubly influenced: first, by the thinking of
prominent psychoanalysts (e.g., Freud, Bleuler, Fromm, Sullivan, Horney, and
Jung) and, second, by existential and phenomenological philosophers (e.g., Buber,
Jaspers, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Scheler, and, especially, Husserl, and
Heidegger). Rhee was also profoundly touched by many works from German liter-
ature, especially the novels of Herman Hesse. In the sixties, Rhee read with great
interest the works of American humanistic psychologists, particularly valuing the
thought of Maslow and Rogers. Indeed it was some of Rogers’s case studies that
were originally published in the late 1950’s (Rogers, 1958, 1959; Lewis, Rogers &
Shlein, 1959) that confirmed some of Rhee’s own independent clinical discover-
ies. In the 70’s and 80’s Dr. Rhee also became an international colleague of Profes-
sor Medard Boss, founder of daseinsanalytic psychotherapy, and collaborated
with him on several occasions.
What is particularly distinctive about Rhee Dongshick’s work, however, is that,
in the mid 1960’s, he also began studying his own cultural and religious traditions.
Realizing that in order to help his own Korean people he must develop an approach
to psychotherapy that honored and drew from their own historical heritage, he
studied Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Zen. In fact, in 1972, he was
awarded a Ph.D. from Kyungpook University for his thesis on “Research on Psy-
chotherapy in Korean Patients.” It was during this period that Dr. Rhee began de-
cades-long personal tutorials with a number of Confucian scholars and Zen Bud-
dhist masters and, ever since then, he hasmaintainedaserious,devotedstudyof
Taoist and Buddhist thought. In fact, on several occasions in the last two years I
have witnessed Dr. Rhee’s earnest and silent attention to the lectures of Zen Bud-
dhist monks. As I have known him, Dr. Rhee is rarely silent in any group but with
these spiritual Masters he listens and takes notes with the diligence of a first year
graduate student.
As serious as Rhee is about the study of Taoism and Buddhism, he is essentially
“ecumenical.” For him, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Zen all show the way to the
Tao as does evenChristianity, at least to the extent that it leads to the purificationof
mind. Indeed, as he sees it, anything that seeks the purification of mind and the re-
alization of truth is, in actuality, on the path to the Tao.
Dr. Rhee founded Tao Psychotherapy in 1974 and, under his theoretical, clini-
cal, and educational leadership, it has been developing steadily ever since that
time. Today, the now 86 year old psychiatrist17 still maintains a sixty hour per week
practice in Seoul as well as a heavy teaching and supervisory schedule. Although
he has published several books in Korean, unfortunately, not one has been trans-
lated into English.
17Readers doing the math will notice that the difference between 1921 and 2006 does not come to
86. However, in Korea, age is counted from conception so when we consider children one year old, in
Korea they are two.
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Though physically diminutive, short and wiry, Dr. Rhee has an impressive, en-
ergetic presence and works seven days a week. He typically rises at 5:30 in the
morning, goes to the gym for his daily three hour workout, and is in the office see-
ing patients by ten. I have seen him after aworkoutat7:30inthemorningandafter
still sparkling as bright and alert as they were in the morning. He has endured two
bouts with cancer, a serious episode of adult-onset hydrocephalus, and, not so
many years ago, the loss of his only son, also a psychiatrist, in an automobile acci-
dent, and, yet, to the astonishment of everyone who knows him, Dr. Rhee keeps re-
covering, returning as bright and eager as ever. Sometimes I see in the eyes of his
students the question, “How many lives can this remarkable man possibly have?”
As a man, Dr. Rhee seems almost characterologically allergic to what Hellmuth
Kaiser (1965) called the universal symptom of duplicity. Whether in the consulting
room, the lecture hall, the teahouse, or the university, Rhee is invariably quick to
respond when individuals, to use Kaiser’s words, do not “talk straight,” when they
are not “completely, … wholeheartedly behind their words” (p. 36). Indeed, his re-
fusal to brook duplicity on his own part led to his being thrown in prison for nine
months in 1962 under the Martial Law of Chunghee Park, chief of the military
junta, because he (Rhee), with full awareness of the possible consequences, dis-
closed the foul play of the Korean C.I.A. and the Committee of Investigation and
Control about the university’s affairs.
As one gets to know Dr. Rhee, one increasingly has the sense of a light hearted
but formidable character who is thoroughly comfortable with his own being. He is,
on the one hand, a long married man18 and deeply loyal Korean patriot and, on the
other hand, a heretic, firebrand, outlaw, and tease. He can be extraordinarily gentle
and tender, then suddenly aggressive and forceful, and even, at times, socially in-
delicate. One finds him sometimes intense, sometimes light hearted; sometimes
still, sometimes restless; sometimes kind, sometimes mischievous; sometimes
soft, sometimes irascible; but always, always alert, present, and full of élan. It has
been quite striking to me the number of people who spontaneously and independ-
ently describe him as interchangeably a child and a bodhisattva. Though he can be
both loved and hated, simple and enigmatic, it is still for good reason he is called,
with profound and unqualified fondness, “Teacher” and “Master.19
18In 1950, Dr. Rhee married another psychiatrist, Dr, Kim Dongsoon and they have been together
ever since, raising two children and working together in their common vocation.
19Iamsuremanyhumanisticpsychologistswouldbalk at these terms. But one cannot forget, we
are in Korea. Such reverent titles fly in the face of American individualism, but in Korea where, in the
new year, even adult children still get down on their hands and knees and bow fully to the floor before
their parents, the words “Teacher” and “Master” are not spoken (usually) out of obedience but, rather,
with gratitude and love. Whether we Americans should be suspicious or envious is a question worth
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What is the Korean Academy of Psychotherapists?
When Dr. Rhee founded Tao Psychotherapy in 1974, he also gathered a group of
dedicated, gifted, and promising clinicians who eventually comprised the core of
what came to be known as the Korean Academy of Psychotherapists (KAP). From
its early modest beginnings involving weekly psychotherapy case studies, by 1979
this working group of serious and gentle clinicians had evolved into a thriving
academy which just two years ago celebrated its 30th anniversary with the interna-
tional forum on “Taopsychotherapy and Western Psychotherapy” mentioned
above. Although Dr. Rhee is the founding father of Tao psychotherapy and still its
chief intellectual, clinical, and spiritual luminary, today the KAP is also fortunate
to be sustained and reinforced by the efforts of a three other actively involved se-
nior clinicians, most notably, Dr. Kang Suk-Hun (2004), but, in addition, quite
substantially by, Dr. Huh Chan-Hee (2004), and Dr. Lee Jung-Kug. There are also
though not involved in planning and organizational matters, participate in many of
the academy’s activities adding both depth and wisdom. Moreover, there are a
number of young, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, and trainees who actively serve
in the academy, performing many menial but necessary tasks with impressive de-
votion, sacrificing both time and energy for the larger purpose. Many of the 300
clinician members of the KAP maintain an active practice of some form of Eastern
meditation and integrate this into their personal and professional lives. Finally, it
should be added that a number of Buddhist andHeideggerianscholarsalsopartici-
pate in the activities of the Academy.
The Academy has developed a rigorous training program for therapists at every
level of education. In addition to weekly Wednesday evening seminars that alter-
nate between psychological and spiritual studies,20 there are monthly Friday eve-
ning case studies as well as classes and case studies on the weekends. Psychologi-
cal studies include, among other areas, developmental, cross-cultural, and
abnormal psychologies as well as psychodynamic, client-centered, existential,
transpersonal, and Eastern psychotherapies.21 The Academy is constantly reevalu-
ating the program of study and training to insure the highest level of preparation
for the practice of psychotherapy. There arethreebasicgroups,beginners,juniors,
and seniors with responsibility and trainingappropriatelygraduatedalongtheway.
But now, what about the kind of psychotherapy Dr. Rhee has developed, Tao
20KThese “spiritual studies” are lectures and discussions with Zen Buddhist masters from Seoul
and the surrounding areas.
21KAP students read a wide range of psychological literature including psychoanalytic literature
(especially neo-Freudian approaches), existential (especially Daseinsanalysis), humanistic (especially
Rogerian), and transpersonal (for example, Sylvia Boorstein, Alan Watts, and John Wellwood) per-
spectives in the practice of psychotherapy.
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What is Tao Psychotherapy?
Tao p sychotherapy (Chung , 19 95 ; Hu h, 2004; Kang , 20 04 ; Rhee, 1995, 2 00 2a ,
2002b, 2004; Shim, Lee, & Ahn, 2002), offers a fundamentally humanistic ap-
proach to depth psychology and psychotherapy. It is at once psychodynamic and
concerned with human suffering and conflict, and at the same time essentially tran-
scendental, transpersonal, or spiritual. Like Daseinsanalysis in the West, Tao psy-
chotherapy primarily offers a philosophical (i.e., ethical, epistemological, and on-
tological) foundation for psychology and psychotherapy. However, instead of
following the hermeneutic ontology of Martin Heidegger’s Daseinsanalytik, Tao
psychotherapy draws its philosophical foundations from ancient Eastern thought
and practice. More specifically, Korean Buddhists, and therefore KAP members
as well, follow the teachings of the “Northern” branch of Buddhism, known as
Mahayana Buddhism and called the “Great Vehicle” because of its emphasis, be-
yond individual enlightenment, on the liberation and welfare of all beings, particu-
larly as this ideal is embodied in the presence of the bodhisattva.
More concretely, Tao psychotherapy centers around four basic emphases. The
first emphasis is on the development of the personality of the therapist through, on
the one hand, Western depth psychotherapy and, on the other hand, Eastern
thought and practice focusing on emptying or purifying the mind, the latter being
roughly akin to Husserl’s practice of phenomenological reduction. The second
core emphasis is on the therapist’s empathic attunement with and compassion for
the patient, the latter practice being explicated in the “Four Sublime States” or
Brahma-viharâs: namely, loving kindness (mettâ), compassion (karunâ), joyous
sympathy (muditâ), and equanimity (upekkhâ). The third basic emphasis is on
what Dr. Rhee has calls “nuclear feelings,” by which he means, roughly speaking,
tional influence throughout one’s life. This particular emphasis is, perhaps, Rhee
Dongshick’s most distinctive and important contribution to the practice of depth
psychotherapy whether that therapy is conducted in the East or the West. The
fourth emphasis is on the irreplaceable value of lived experience (Erlebnis), with-
out which none of the above can be appropriately grasped and carried out with gen-
uineness and grace. This emphasis on lived experience implies that the therapist
eschews intellectual interpretations in favor of the creation of an atmosphere of au-
thenticity and compassion, in which much of what is given to the patient is embod-
ied more in a kind of lambent presence than in clever verbal interpretations and ex-
With res pect to s pecific therapeuti c methods, like Das einsanalysis, Tao psycho-
therapy basically follows the spirit and practice of standard Western depth psycho-
logical technique. To put this in everyday rather than technical language, the thera-
pist establishes rapport, a sense of genuine concerned relatedness with the patients;
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the therapist abstains from personal gain and, rather, inquires, listens, and engages
the other with honesty and commitment to the person and to the therapeutic com-
mission; patients say whatever it is that is alive and true for them in the moment;
together, the therapeutic partners seek the meanings, limitations, and possibilities
that present themselves directly in the patient’s life. However, unlike
Daseinsanalysis, Tao psychotherapy does add other specific methods: among
these being a plainly manifest sustainedempathicinquiryandadeliberate,skill
fully directed focus on the patient’s nuclear feeling. In addition, in keeping with
Korean culture, Tao psychotherapy can be decidedly active, especially in the em-
ployment of cultural myths and allegories. However, it should be added, that Rhee
is not the kind of teacher to go about touting technique. It is being, not doing, that
lies at the heart of his form of therapy. Thus one is most likely to hear from him
pithy, evocative phrases such as this koân-like therapeutic axiom: “The therapist
brings Spring to the frozen land of the patient.”
Although Dr. Rhee and his colleagues have conducted a number of interesting
outcome studies using traditional statistical methods, what most inspiresthese ther-
apists and their everyday work with patients is not the demonstrative power of
proofs, but the evocative power of livedhum an experienceand of ancient metaphors
to free up the wellsprings of that experience. Thus in the literature on Tao psycho-
therapy we findreferences to the finger pointing to the moon, the three veils, the three
profound gates, the 360 degrees of transformation, and the ten ox herding pictures.
Each of these metaphors is used to evoke experience and awareness that lead, hope-
fully, to freedom from psychological suffering and constriction.
What initially drew me as a humanistic psychologist to Tao Psychotherapy was its
grounding in the Tao and, by implication, The Tao Te Ching,abookIhadlong
owned and admired but could only barely understand until I began studying
Heidegger both alone and with Medard Boss and his colleagues in Zurich. But per-
haps my most compelling interest came upon first seeing pictures portraying the
ancient allegory of the ox herder that Dr. Rhee uses to evoke the essence of his ap-
proach to psychotherapy and its difference from Western psychotherapies. These
ten pictures have been foundational for the practice of Zen Buddhism for centuries,
showing, as they do, the path to enlightenment and the Mahayana Buddhist ideal of
becoming a Bodhisattva. When I first saw them I was immediately struck by their
astonishing correspondence to the progress of Martin Heidegger’s philosophical
thought, essentially combining the early Heidegger, with his philosophy of exis-
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tence or Dasein,(Heidegger,1927/1962)andthelaterHeidegger,withhisunder
standing of Ereignis (Heidegger, 1989/1999) and Gelassenheit (1959/1966).22
Here is the entire series of ten figures depicting the allegory of the ox herder.23 I
invite you to spend some time contemplating for yourself these ten pictures as a
whole, especially with respect to your own understanding of psychotherapy and
enlightenment, before going on to the subsequent discussion.
On an entirely manifest or phenomenal level, these pictures trace the journey of
an ox herder who sets off in search of hisox(pictures1-3).Theoxherderthen
catches, struggles with, and eventually tames the ox (pictures 3-6), and then, at
last, returns home with the ox so the ox is no longer a concern (picture 7). As Dr.
Rhee points out, however, seen as metaphor, these first seven pictures may be un-
derstood as portraying the journey of patients in Western depth psychotherapy, es-
sentially, the journey from being alienated from ourselves to coming home to our-
selves. Although in Buddhist thought the oxisunderstoodasourhumanorBuddha
nature, for Dr. Rhee, the ox represents the patient’s “nuclear feeling,” the central,
affect driven dynamic that lies at the heart of many of his or her most intractable
difficulties in living. Dr. Rhee also repeatedly insists out that dealing with such hu-
man difficulties and coming to a place of graceful self control and equanimity, the
palpable sense of self realization one finds in figure 7, is as far as Western psycho-
therapy can lead the individual patient or seeker.
With res pect to H eidegger’s thought, w e find in thes e first seven figures a sur-
prisingly homologous correspondence to the philosopher’s thought as it is found in
Being and Time (1927/1962), beginning with the questioning of Being (figures
1-2), the discovery of human existing/Dasein (figure 3), the struggle with the fun-
damental conditions of human existence (figures 4-6), and the realization of a gen-
uine, calm acceptance of the everydayness of one’s very own human existence (fig-
ure 7). Now, you may ask, what could there be beyond such a graceful acceptance
of being-in-the-world we see portrayed in figure 7?
In answer to this question, in figure 8, we see a great empty circle, an enso,in
other words, the encounter with the Nothing we find so often in Taoist and Zen
Buddhist thought as well as in Heidegger’s What is Metaphysics? (1929/1977b)
which he ends with his great question, “Why are there beings at all, and why not
22Although in the following reflection I continually make reference to the correspondence between
these ancient pictures and aspects of Heidegger’sthought,Idonotintendtoassertanobjective,apodic
tic correspondence but, rather, only my own heuristic reflections intended primarily to invite readers to
consider their own and to evoke fresh perspectives for understanding the process of psychotherapy and
human transformation.
(Haein-sa) where the entire collection of Buddhist scriptures is preserved on 80,000 hand carved
wooden blocks. Every temple in Korea has one building on which the great legends of Buddhism are
painted. Although thematically identical in every temple, the pictures themselves are rendered uniquely
according to each painter’s own vision.
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rather nothing?” (p. 112). Here is Heidegger’s “openness” (Offenheit)orclearing
(Lichtung),24 especially his “openness to mystery” (1959/1966, pp. 55-56). In
Eastern terms, this picture embodies the experienced recognition of the
Not-Even-Anything Land mentioned by the exiled Chinese poet, Po Chü-I, cited
above. According to the Tao Te Ching (Chen, 1989), “The Tao is a whirling empti-
ness” (p. 60), ”everlasting Non-being” (p.51).However,inTaoist,Buddhist,and
Heideggerian thought, this Nothingness is far from anything like philosophical ni-
hilism. To the contrary, this emptiness or No-thing, is that central, profoundly
pregnant experience in Buddhism known as Sunyata often captured, as it is here,
by the enso,whichalsorepresentstheperfectmeditativestateknownasSatori (en-
In figure 9 the emptiness or nothing of figure 8 has given rise to the world of
particular beings, for as we learnfrombothTaopsychotherapyand
Daseinsanalysis, “being and non-being give rise to each other” (Chen, p. 60). In
both Eastern and existential thought the No-thingness or Emptiness is the very
wellspring of being, the Mother of “the ten thousand beings,” the womb of all that
is. Any doubts as to whether this understanding of the Nothing is meant to encour-
age nihilism are dispelled by this picture 9 which shows the “co-arising” (to use a
term from Thich Nhat Hanh) of this Emptiness along with the world of beings as a
whole. Remarkably, this very interdependence of non-being or no-thing with Be-
ing was precisely what Heidegger (1998/1999) sought to express with his thought
of Ereignis,theeventoroccurrenceoftheco-emergenceoftheopennessofhuman
existing with the coming into being of all that is, with Beingness-as such. As
Heidegger expressed this, “man necessarily belongs and has his place in the open-
ness...of being. But being needs man as the there of its openness in order to open
itself”(As quoted in Stambaugh, 1992).25 Also implicit in picture 9 is Heidegger’s
understanding of Gelassenheit (1959/1966) by which he meant “the releasement
toward things” (pp. 54-56).
Finally, in figure 10, we see a picture of the Bodhisattva, the individual, who,
having achieved a sense of enlightenment, purity of mind, or, in Heidegger’s terms,
radical openness, goes into the world to take on the suffering of others and to live a
compassionate and altruistic life. For those familiar with Heidegger’s thought, you
24Throughout his life Heidegger used the German terms das Offene (the Open) and das Offenheit
(the Openness) to designate ontological openness, a fundamental characteristic of both Beingness as
Such (Seyn)aswellasofDasein,humanbeing.Overtheyearshegraduallycametopreferthemore
sublime die Lichtung,meaningaclearingorgladeintheforest,topointtothefundamentalOpeningof
being, to the circumstance that only by virtue of such a Clearing or Opening can anything be at all.
25According to Medard Boss (1988), “A human openness is required for anything to become pres-
ent, or to be, but also the openness of Dasein itself, in turn requires Being in order for it [Dasein] to be.
The ‘light-of-human-existence’ and ‘everything-else-that-is’ require one another and ‘call on’ one an-
other in a unified inseparable ‘e-vent’[Ereignis]. Ereignis is the indivisible unity of the appeal of Being
to Dasein and of Dasein’s response to this appeal (P.61, brackets mine).
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Searching for the ox.
Finding the tracks of the
Glimpsing the ox.
Catching the ox.
Tam in g th e ox .
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Riding the ox home.
Forgetting the ox, self
Forgetting both ox
and self.
Returning to the Source.
Entering the World with
open hands.
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will perhaps recognize the kinship of theEasternidealofthebodhisattvawiththat
of Heidegger’s understanding of Dasein as the shepherd of Being (See, e.g.,
Heidegger, 1977a/1947, p.210; Boss, cited in Craig, 1988, p. 42; Craig, in press).
Again, for the Tao psychotherapist, Western psychotherapy can only take the
individual as far as figure 7 where there is still a focus on personal existence or
self. Rhee is emphatic that some kind of philosophical, spiritual, or meditative
practice is required to go beyond this purely individualistic position to the reali-
ties portrayed in figures 8-10. Thus, Tao psychotherapists are fond of quoting
Medard Boss’s comment that “Western psychoanalysis and psychotherapy are
only an introductory course” for the fulfillment of what it really means to be hu-
In Tao psychotherapy one finds much that is in common with today’s contemporary
practice of relational and intersubjectiveapproaches to psychoanalysis (Atwood and
Stolorow,1984; S. A. Mitchell, 1988; Stolorow and Atwood, 1992) as well as with
certain kinds of humanistic and transpersonal psychotherapies, and, certainly, with
Daseinsanalysis. Although the last decade or so has yielded several important Eng-
lish works integrating Western psychoanalysis and psychotherapy with Buddhism
(e.g., Epstein, 1995, 2001; Molino, 1998; Mruk & Hartzell, 2003; Rubin, 1996;
Safran, 2003, Suler, 1993), unfortunately most of the publicationsabout the philoso-
phy and practice of Tao psychotherapy are available only in the Korean language,
with just a very few dispersed articles and conference proceedings having been
translated into English. It is hoped that thisbriefintroductiontothisrelativelynew,
profoundly humanistic approach to depth psychotherapy, will begin to remedy this
unfortunate circumstance and open the way to future exchange and collaboration be-
tween interested American and Korean psychotherapists.
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Dr. Erik Craig is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Santa Fe, New Mex-
ico. He received his doctoral degree from Boston University in 1978 and has
mentored with such humanistic psychologists as Clark Moustakas, Paul Stern,
Charles McArthur, and Medard Boss. He has been teaching and practicing human-
istic-existential psychology for nearly forty years while holding full time positions
at Assumption College, University of New Mexico, and Pacifica Graduate Insti-
tute. For the last two years he has been studying with the Korean psychiatrist, Rhee
Dongshick. Over the past twenty five years he has been developing daseinsanalytic
perspectives for understanding critical issues in psychological theory and practice;
has been active in the development of heuristic, phenomenological, and hermeneu-
tic approaches to human science research; and has has served as the research coor-
dinator in clinical and depth psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute. He is on the
editorial board of six psychological journals and was the editor of the 1988 special
issue of The Humanistic Psychologist entitled, Psychotherapy for Freedom: The
Daseinsanalytic Way in Psychology and Psychoanalysis (1988). Dr. Craig is a past
president of APAs Division for Humanistic Psychology and of the International
Association for the Study of Dreams.
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... 19 The first line may also be translated as "The eternal Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao" (in Craig, 2007). 20 Examples of false to fact or imaginary objects include the square root of -1, the result of dividing by zero. ...
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The Western idea of "religion" is that of something that one does, aside from what one believes. This paper the examines the Abrahamic ideas of belief and requirement for historicity and compares this to the Taoist belief in Lao Tzu and the lack of need for a historical founder in terms of practice and belief.
... The aim of Tao Psychotherapy is to focus on the therapist's personal cultivation; to foster a therapeutic relationship based on metta (loving kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (joyous sympathy), and upekkha (equanimity); to elicit the client's 'nuclear feeling' (a psychological resource originating in childhood); and to approach client's issues with compassion and genuineness rather than with intellectual interpretations (Craig 2007). The theory of Tao Psychotherapy is derived from a combination of the Western depth psychotherapy, and Taoist and Buddhist teaching. ...
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This chapter explores the contemporary movement for developing indigenous approaches to mental health and well-being in East Asia, which are an integral part of indigenous psychologies. The East Asian explanatory model of well-being perceives mind and body as mutually constituted, which are in turn parts of a larger whole consisting of physical and sociocultural environments. This holistic approach is based on an implicit model of relational self in East Asian cultures, in which the self is inseparable from other people, nonhuman agencies, physical environments, and the cosmic order. Many East Asian indigenous approaches to mental health and wellbeing reflect this model of relational self, for example, ethical care, onmeum counseling, Morita therapy, Naikan therapy, Chinese Taoist Cognitive Psychotherapy, and Tao psychotherapy.
... The aim of Tao Psychotherapy is to focus on the therapist's personal cultivation; to foster a therapeutic relationship based on metta (loving kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (joyous sympathy), and upekkha (equanimity); to elicit the client's 'nuclear feeling' (a psychological resource originating in childhood); and to approach client's issues with compassion and genuineness rather than with intellectual interpretations (Craig 2007). The theory of Tao Psychotherapy is derived from a combination of the Western depth psychotherapy, and Taoist and Buddhist teaching. ...
This chapter provides a theoretical analysis of Frantz Fanon’s psychiatric, philosophical, and revolutionary thought as a clinical practitioner, polemicist, and soldier dedicated to nurturing, individual and collective self-emancipatory praxis among the colonized peoples of the Global South. Fanon’s, Black Skin, White Masks refutes Euromodern psychiatric formulations of the Black as innately diseased and, instead, reveals the socially generated phenomenon of anti-black racism as the root of the Black’s perceived mental illness. This sociogenic analysis and decolonial method provides a critical foundation for Fanon’s clinical and theoretical innovations. For Fanon, Black consciousness is the psychological manifestation of liberatory self-actualization; the psychic movement away from the reductive, racial designation of ‘the black,’ to the self-affirming identification of ‘the Black,’ an actional agent catalyzing revolutionary socio-political change.
... As we value our work with respect for uniqueness of each person and each family and we embed it in a contextual and existentially grounded way, our work is infused with spiritual purpose and depth. Therapeutic models that blend Eastern and Western perspectives enlighten us to the nuances of the existential experience in general (Craig, 2007;Schneider, 2011;Yang & Hoffman, 2011), and particularly when growing up with a sibling who resides on the outskirts of "normal" appearance and behavior. A truly multiculturally competent psychotherapy holds that we are all unique beings, yet our encounters with those people we grow up with and with whom we meet along the way, color our identity by their own idiosyncratic ways. ...
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Experiences of interpersonal trauma are not uncommon in families where there is a child with a brain injury, as are escape mechanisms that are used for the purposes of fleeing from unbearable suffering and traumatic memories. Through the courageous path of Zhi Mian, there is an opportunity for siblings to resist the temptation to flee and to choose an alternate path toward perceiving identity and finding meaning. Zhi Mian, facing life courageously and authentically, expands the horizons of consciousness, and opens the way to receive what the "wounded" child may offer a family and to how "relationship" may be understood in various ways. This article was part of the authors' submission for their presentation at the Second International Conference on Existential Psychology in Shanghai, China.
... (Bynner, 1944, p. 46) 1 With the exception of the part about "talking little," I feel I can identify with Lao Tzu's sentiment. As Erik Craig (2007) has related in his article on "Tao Psychotherapy," Carl Rogers carried this verse in his wallet for many years, as he believed it "described the essential nature of the effective group facilitator" (pp. 114-115 ftn). ...
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This editorial discusses some of the challenges that we face in striving toward being shepherds of our discipline, as well as toward “being original.” The question is how to make an original contribution to the field while following in the footsteps of one's forbearers. Many researchers (and even research mentors) have a desire to carve out their own place in the field, and doing so often means emphasizing what is new and different about their approach. Shepherding, however, means bearing the weight together, participating in the spirit of a “we phenomenon,” or more simply, being a team player. As psychologists climbing our individual career ladders while working together toward a common goal, the challenge is being true to yourself and to your “school” of fellow researchers. This means being faithful and acknowledging toward the community, including one's peers, one's former mentors, and the seminal thinkers whose work inspires one's own. When writing up research, we therefore should to be attuned to the possibility of communicating our pedigree more faithfully—a challenge that calls upon us to remember the ground from which we, ourselves, spring forth.
Positive psychology, as a subdiscipline oriented to promoting human well-being, has grown significantly as a field over the past thirty years. To date, clinical applications in positive psychology have tended to advance more generalized, universal understandings of what constitutes well-being. We assert in this article that greater attention ought to be paid to more particular understandings of well-being, especially those emerging from religious traditions. We summarize visions of well-being from four different religious traditions, while highlighting possibilities for integrating understandings of these with clinical approaches in psychotherapeutic contexts. For each religious tradition, we also describe case examples to elucidate therapeutic possibilities when working with clients from diverse religious contexts. The article concludes with an extended discussion concerning points of divergence among religious traditions’ conceptions of well-being, along with commentary on the merits and practical demands of integrating universal and particular understandings of well-being in positive psychology interventions.
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When ancient Chinese literatus suffered political frustration, they generally experienced tremendous emotional and psychological traumas. These traumas are entangled with disappointment, anger, fear, grief, desolation, and other emotions. In most cases, the literatus would turn to nature for relaxation and freedom, composing a lot of literatures in an attempt to reflect on the meaning of life. In this paper, I will analyze the written works of Qu Yuan, the Seven Sages in the Bamboo Grove (竹林七賢), Liu Zongyuan, and Su Shi after they suffered political frustration to: (1) describe how their emotions changed; (2) illustrate how they built relationships between nature and self to relieve their frustrations; (3) clarify during these reflecting processes how they actually experienced the transformation and pursued the meaning of life; and (4) illuminate the significance of these pursuits, not only in spurring the boom of literal naturalism, but also in passing on the message for the current era with the joint crises of humans and the environment, to heal the earth and free themselves.
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Through the formation of positive psychology, the study of happiness has moved into the scientific domain. Positive psychology’s assertion is that with the proper adjustments, everyone can achieve happiness. The problem, however, is that “happiness” is never defined, causing scientific testing to construct new parameters for each study, inevitably altering the object being examined (“happiness”). Rather than pursuing amorphous happiness, I argue that the Zhuangzi 莊子 provides a more adequate and responsible process or method for living well. After exploring Aristotle’s position on happiness, I investigate the terminological and methodological issues with the scientific study of happiness. For an alternative, I propose Zhuangzian contentment that reorients individuals toward dynamic existence rather than false notions of control, which the scientific method suggests is possible.
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This chapter explores the contemporary movement for developing indigenous approaches to mental health and well-being in East Asia, which are an integral part of indigenous psychologies. The East Asian explanatory model of well-being perceives mind and body as mutually constituted, which are in turn parts of a larger whole consisting of physical and sociocultural environments. This holistic approach is based on an implicit model of relational self in East Asian cultures, in which the self is inseparable from other people, nonhuman agencies, physical environments, and the cosmic order. Many East Asian indigenous approaches to mental health and well-being reflect this model of relational self, for example, ethical care, onmeum counseling, Morita therapy, Naikan therapy, Chinese Taoist Cognitive Psychotherapy, and Tao psychotherapy.
Full-text available
Condemned by Mencius as an extreme selfishness, Yangzhu’s yangsheng philosophy is traditionally depicted as a philosophy of Egoism and hedonism in traditional China; whereas, in Western discussion of Chinese philosophy, Yangzhu is described as a hero—‘an early liberal or individualist’. Yangzhu may not be an early liberal or individualist hero as the West described, he definitely is also not egoism as Mencius depicted; as A.C. Graham has observed, Egoism and hedonism is ‘something that Confucians justly or unjustly read into his teaching’ but not the real feature of Yangzhu’s original thought. Underneath the appearance of hedonism and egoism, Yang Zhu’s philosophy has directly addressed many essential philosophical questions that being important through history until contemporary time. Although Yang Zhu’s Yangsheng philosophy was not entirely practiced by Chinese society because of the dominance of Confucianism, many discussions initiated or developed by Yang Zhu did have profound influence on both Confucianism and Daoism; among them, Xunzi’s idea of human nature and Zhuangzi’s idea of freedom and live in a natural life, are convenient examples. After Western individualism introduced to China and shown it heavy influence on modern Chinese society, Yang zhu’s Yangsheng philosophy becomes more and more relevance to modern Chinese society. Based on materials provided by Yang Chu’s Garden of Pleasure, a translation from ‘Yangzhu’ of Liezi by Anton Forke, this paper will explore what is the essence of Yangzhu yangsheng philosophy and how it is relevant to modern Chinese society.
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This book explores the convergence of psychoanalysis and Asian thought. It explores key theoretical issues. What role does paradox play in psychological transformations? How can the oriental emphasis on attaining "no-self" be reconciled with the western emphasis on achieving an integrated self? The book also inquires into pragmatic questions concerning the nature of psychological change and the practice of psychotherapy. The Taoist I Ching is explored as a framework for understanding the therapeutic process. Principles from martial arts philosophy and strategy are applied to clinical work. Combining theoretical analyses, case studies, empirical data, literary references, and anecdotes, this book is intended for researchers as well as clinicians, and beginning students as well as scholars.
The following encounter with Professor Dr. Medard Boss,1 was recorded in two parts on the sixth and tenth of August in 1986 at his home in Zollikon, Switzerland. Hoping Dr. Boss would be willing to offer personal, historical and philosophical perspectives which were not readily available to American psychologists, I had written him from the States some weeks previously to ask if he would consent to an interview for an article on daseinsanalysis. However, it was not until I was already in Zurich for a European Congress on Humanistic Psychology that I received his answer directly over the phone. Dr. Boss had just returned from his vacation a mere two hours previously and had barely had a chance to open my letter of the previous month.