Sometimes emotions are seen as a sign of weakness and irrationality, but this perception couldn't be further from the truth. They are essential to being rational (Ciarrochi, Chan, & Bajgar, 2001; Ciarrochi, Chan, & Caputi, 2000; Ciarrochi, Forgas, & Mayer, 2001). They’re a way of seeing how events in the world relate to our values, needs, and desires.
We’ve spent the last few weeks discussing the overlaps between Buddhism and psychodynamic therapy, citing the views of the Buddha and Sigmund Freud. Today we are wrapping up the series with some final comments comparing psychoanalysis and the therapeutic use of mindfulness meditation.
Western society increasingly sees human suffering as grossly abnormal and typically generated from outside sources; it is a state to be eliminated as soon as possible. We vigorously seek external remedies, such as medications, a variety of addictions, and transient external pleasures over and above insight and understanding as cures for our unhappiness. These solutions to suffering are short lived, but we return time and time again to such supposed sources of happiness, as if they could possibly provide us with a stable state of well-being.
Clients who are frequently self-critical view themselves as flawed, so they are quick to highlight what they perceive as their negative aspects and minimize their positive traits and behaviors, and their strengths. They also struggle in their relationships, feeling that they need to perform well in some way in order for others to accept and value them.
In his story “The Three Hermits,” Tolstoy tells of an archbishop, sailing among remote islands to spread the Gospel, who comes upon an island inhabited solely by a trio of hermits who have never known other society, much less the word of God. He teaches these men to recite the Lord’s Prayer and sets sail, quite pleased with himself at the great gift he has just bestowed. Soon after, he observes a glow on the horizon in the direction from whence he’d come, drawing steadily nearer to his ship. It is the three hermits, walking on water.
Relational psychodynamic psychotherapy emphasizes interpersonal relationships as central to the development of personality, psychopathology, and therapeutic growth. The approach is holistic in that it also considers biological drives and intrapsychic conflicts (Aron, 1996). Recently, there has been emphasis on the role of compassion as mutative in psychodynamic psychotherapy (e.g., Young-Eisendrath, 2003). Acceptance- and mindfulness-based approaches to psychotherapy emphasize acceptance, compassion, and overt behavioral change as means for developing well-being and life satisfaction.
Editor’s Note: In our last post about multicultural competency, we explored the pitfalls that currently detract from our ability to deliver culturally salient, non-ethnocentric psychological services to clients, and how overcoming these pitfalls to provide such services can improve mental health in a broader sense.