The Drama Queen

Reflections on Chapter 77 of the Tao Te Ching:

The Stretching of the Bow

The way of Tao is like stretching a bow,
the high end comes down,
and the low end rises.

When it is too long,
it is shortened.
When it is too short,
it is lengthened.

The way of Tao
is to reduce the excessive
and increase the deficient.

The way of man
is to increase the excessive
and decrease the deficient.

Who is able to take her surplus
and offer it to the world?

Only the woman of Tao.
She acts and yet does not claim credit.
She does not wish to be viewed superior.

Life is like a sine wave.

It goes up and it goes down. If things are really good, use that time to prepare for things going the other direction. When things are bad, be prepared for things to get better. Understand that the waves are there, that there are waves in time and that is how life works.

You are not going to be going up all the time.

If you’ve had a really good wave of things going up, know that things may go down and it is OK and normal. I think as we get used to things going up, if we get used to one end – we are not expecting and are not prepared for the other end. It goes both ways.

If you are really struggling, it can feel hopeless.

Sometimes we forget to remember that things get better eventually. Things can get better. Both understandings can be helpful. If you are in a really positive place and things are really up, if you are not prepared for things to go negative – if they go negative from a really up place, it can be somewhat devastating. It can be unsettling. If you understand this principle and you “stretch the bow” and allow the opposite to interplay, allow the worst case scenarios to surface.

Ask yourself, “What am I going to do if this [insert catastrophic results here] happens?”

Just be prepared for that scenario and the wave will be less of a wave for you. The thing that happens with this kind of pattern is that people get on a high and they think that it is just going to be like this forever and when it does come down, they crash. They crash hard because they haven’t really prepared for it at all.

In the other case, if something is really negative, if things start going well, they don’t trust it. They wait for the other shoe to drop. If you are in a bad place and things start improving, if you go to the negative space and you are making it worse for yourself instead of allowing the natural patterns to come about. The same goes with the positive.

What you are doing is you are trying to pull in the opposite, so you have a more stable experience. So your experience is not so up and down with extreme swings. You want to lessen the extremes so that it is a smaller wave and not such high ups and downs.

High waves are called drama.

Many people really play up things. When things go bad, they play up the bad. They cry and they moan a lot. (I do this sometimes.) If things are really good, it is just SO WONDERFUL! (I do this too sometimes.) When you increase that wonderfulness by being very expressive and emotional, you are creating a larger wave.  This is NOT to say that you should not be happy or excited.  I am just saying that, when you express fully, the natural wave pattern is that it comes up higher and goes down higher. There is a way to be joyous and not be jumping all over the place. There is a deep settled form of happiness that can be here in the present moment and be OK with whatever way it is.

This form of happiness transcends the wave.

The wave can be up or down but the type of deep happiness with what IS lies just outside of that. Your life could be falling apart around your feet on one level, and on another level you can be deeply happy because you are looking at the wave.

The key to riding the waves is counterbalance.

Recognize where you are and counterbalance yourself. Allow yourself to explore the opposite side while you are in one half of the wave. Let it be OK to explore the other side without your internal critic coming up and shutting you down.


So what do you think? Do you get caught up in the drama sometimes? Do you ever recognize it while you are in it? Let us know in the comments below. If you enjoy this post, please share it! If you haven’t done so already, please join our mailing list. Currently, I am mailing out a chapter a day to whomever wants it. (You can join my list without this as well – just don’t check the box to be included in the chapter mailings.)


  1. Excellent piece. You show an understanding of the tao. Remember to the tao, all men are like straw dogs…they mean nothing…what this means is, the more we control our emotions, the smoother life becomes. Avoid the highs and the lows and just accept what life provides. The less emotion that we show, the greater the insight provided by our natural intuitive selves. Everything in life works more smoothly, when we leave our egos out of everything…That is not an easy task…Many of us use our emotions as security blankets. By feeling and emoting our feelings, it reinforces that we are alive…Totally unncessary. Trust the tao and learn to go with its flow..

    • I am still on the fence on this part. I love emotions. I would not want to hide them but I think a little less outward expression is probably helpful in the long run. I think what is meant here is to be more subtle with our emotions. Perhaps that is the key.

      • I understand your hesitancy in relinquishing your emotional ties. Expressions of joy, pleasure, passion etc..are what we think make us human or at least link us to other humans. But joy and sorrow ride our bus through life together. Love and hatred are on the same emotional line. Passion and jealousy can share the same stop. The tao is aware of our human frailities. However to the tao, what do those frailities matter. They are like the weather during a severe thunderstorm. Temporarily a thunderstorm interrupts the flow, however as soon as it passes, its memory soon follows. And then think about the aftermath of a thunderstorm, if there is one. The longer the time, following a thunderstorm, the less the impact.
        I have a daughter, who is in many regards a genius at what she does. Her early years, she spent as a musical genius. Now she has allowed her mathmatical genius to rise to the surface. (they are linked in a mysterious way) She has become an essential part of the corporation that employs her. Her single weakness is her reliance on her emotions. I have introduced her to the Tao and she has taken to it. She has come to recognize her reliance on her emotions as a crutch that she leans upon. She has come to realize that her emotions often block her path. As long as she leans upon her emotions, her thinking has a tendency to remain linear. Her intuitive nature remains in the background. If the key to the tao te ching is to become more like the Tao, then we must develop our intuitive nature. But how can we totally trust our intuition if our emotions get in the way. The key to the “Art of War” is “to win without fighting is best”. The only way we can always know how to accomplish that is by knowing whats coming before it arrives. The only way to trust our intuition is to get out of our own way.

  2. Hi Amy, I am far too emotional I know but not as drama led as I was in my younger days thank god. Thought I am still working on the controlling the emotions rather than letting them control me. A great post, I agree with the Guru bit, it takes away others power.
    Athena Brady recently posted…Giving Something Back 11My Profile

    • I have settled considerably in the past decade or so. So many parts of my life have settled. I like it,actually. I think of emotions as waves. There is nothing wrong with big waves, they just leave things more unsettled and less peaceful in the long run.

  3. This is a great post Amy. The middle road of balance is the path. This I’m certain.

  4. I once heard that if you’re going to experience anything, experience it all the way and then move onward. It’s the “moving onward” part I have difficulty with. It’s only human to experience emotions and it’s the spiritual side to move beyond those emotions. It’s work to balance both dimensions, experiencing both dimensions then moving on to the next experience. I like what Pat had to say about the middle road is the balance.

    Thank you for your participation in your interpretation of the Tao, Amy

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