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.
There is a profound common purpose shared between psychoanalytic exploration of the self and the self-discovery that occurs in mindfulness practice. Both are pursuits of aliveness, though “aliveness” may be conceived of differently. Both pursuits address the pain that comes from clinging too tightly to either outmoded or false ideas about the self. Both are, or can be, fearless and relentless in their examination of what it actually means to be “oneself.”
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.
How does mindfulness work? Thousands of therapists utilize mindfulness-based treatments and have witnessed firsthand the effectiveness of these approaches on clients suffering from anxiety, depression, and other common mental health issues. But for many clinicians, the psychological processes and brain functions that explain these changes remain a mystery, and effective methodologies for measuring each client's progress are elusive.
In today's western psychotherapy community, the ancient Buddhist technique of mindfulness is widely accepted as a powerful tool to help alleviate stress, anxiety and panic, chronic pain, depression, obsessive thinking, out-of-control emotions, and many other physical and mental health conditions.
It is widely accepted that language plays tricks on people, both those who suffer from psychological difficulties and people in general. Therapists are called to reconnect clients to those elements of these experiences which may hold value and use in the therapeutic process. In their chapter in The Big Book of ACT Metaphors, Matthieu Villatte, Jennifer L.
Whether you are a novice or advanced practitioner in acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), you know that metaphors and exercises play a crucial role in its successful delivery. These powerful tools go far in helping clients connect with their values, and give them the motivation needed to make a real, conscious commitment to change.