Stabilise me, by changing me

When asked a question, Zen Buddhism considers "unasking the question" to be a valid and important consideration.

I find it especially useful for rather dangerous questions. Questions that have this underlying ask: "Stabilise me. By changing me."[1]

That is an unstable dichotomy.

It is dressed up as:

  • "Tell me what I must do."
  • "Give me your advice on what I must do."
  • "I need an intervention in this group."

If you answer that question as asked, if you accept that request to change another, you take on their task. Taking on their task, removes their power and will lead to future resentment.

Listen out for this: This request to take on another's task. Gently, and firmly, un-ask that question.

Ask instead: How can I support you in your task?


  1. A phrase I got from the thought provoking book Completing Distinctions ↩︎