We are here to become better therapists. Learning to be a better therapist is lifelong training. It is the same as following spiritual path. Therapy is a spiritual practice. This is basic Mahayana principle. Spiritual advance is to become more of a bodhisattva.
Therapy is learnt as practice, theory, spirit
Practice = method, repertoire, skill
Theory = 3 signs, 4NT, 5 shandhas, 6 paramitas, 7 Factors of Illumination, 8 fold path etc
Spirit = heart-mind
Practice is outer action, skilful means. Spirit is inner truth. Theory links the two together. Our theory is the word of Buddha. £ Signs of Being, 4 Truth for Noble Ones, 5 Skandhas, 6 Paramitas, 7 Factors of Illumination, 8-fold Path, 9 Grades of Entering the Pure Land, 10 Precepts etc.
Heart-mind is most important. therefore it is important to work on oneself. Buddha says that a day without striving is a wasted day. What does this mean? It means work on self. To study Buddhism is to study the self and, thereby, to forget the self. Work on self means to see the dukkha clinging to self. Self is made up of clinging dukkha.
We all encounter dukkha but we do not always handle it well. Each dukkha brings up a painful feeling and this feeling requires an abreaction which is also a form of healing pain or distress. Thus the duke of loss requires the distress of grief. If we do not distress in a healthy way, we stress. Modern society is pervaded by the idea that one should not have to distress and so there is much stress. Many people do not abreact the dukkha they encounter. They do not feel the feelings nor allow the natural process to unfold as it should. Some hurts occur at times when it is inconvenient, embarrassing or socially unacceptable to abreact and the more complex society becomes the more such restraints there are. Children sustain many hurts, small and large, in circumstances in which it is not possible to release the feelings.
Thus, dukkha happens, feelings come up (samudaya) but they are not fully dealt with and the repression or avoidance constitutes a form of inadvertent clinging. The wound does not go away, it goes underground. Someday then results in more dukkha. The dukkha is not lived through, it clings to the person. When the process is lived through the residue is wisdom. When it is not lived through the residue is just clinging dukkha which is a burden and generates symptoms later. These symptoms may bring the person into therapy. The client wants to be free from the symptom but does not know about the clinging dukkha behind the symptom.
Three ideas about how religion makes people healthy and sane:
- 1 Technical Idea: That there are specific consequences of specific procedures such as mindfulness or certain meditations such that the use of the technique ensures a positive outcome.
- 2 Modelling Idea: That what makes the difference is people’s healthy behaviour and having a spiritual model promotes such behaviour. The model has two primary dimensions: models of reality and models in the form of spiritually advanced persons to emulate. Copying a spiritual model one consumes less alcohol, lives a simpler life, learns to be calm and so acts in many ways that promote good health.
- 3 Refuge Idea: That religious faith opens a person to spiritual grace which is the creation of a safe space in their heart, an inner place of refuge wherein healing naturally takes place. The sense of being inwardly blessed directly releases deeply held tensions in the person, with direct and indirect effect. Indirect effects refer to the fact that such inner change also promotes methods 1 and 2 because the person who feels safe inside does not need unhealthy habits and naturally practices wholesome meditations and prayers.
Therapy makes refuge more tangible and believable. Even a non-spiritual person can experience some sense of refuge when in the presence of the therapist. The first task of therapy, therefore, is to create safe space. the safer the space the more serious the clinging dukkha that can be confronted and abreacted. The more work that the therapist has done to go beyond their own clinging dukkha, the safer the space they create and the more confidence they have in the process for self and for client. In the safe space of refuge the person can relive and abreact past hurts and thus clear some clinging dukkha.
Two levels of abreaction:
1. Each hurt (negative karma item) is individually abreacted
2. A "turning round in the seat of consciousness" or "change of heart" may sweep away a whole category of hurts at one go, as when a client suddenly finds great compassion for the person who oppressed them or when the client newly realises that they love somebody or were loved by somebody.
In reality, in therapy, there is much work around particular hurts and some emergence also of greater compassion so that some relative progress is made toward liberation.
Question: Does dukkha cling to us or do we cling to dukkha
Answer: These are just two ways of saying the same thing. Sometimes it works better to say it one way, sometimes the other. If we think we cling to dukkha we still do not know how we are doing it and we may become too rational and cognitive in trying to solve the problem.
Groups of three integrating new people into the larger group. Introductions. Discussion of the lecture.
Question: I suffered from the criticism of my mother-in-law for many years. She criticised me for only producing daughters. This caused much conflict between my husband and myself. My second daughter also suffered from hearing these disputes, thinking it would have been better if she had not been born. Now she is about to give birth to her second daughter, having had no sons, and i feel anxious.
Answer: It is natural for you to feel so. You yourself suffered for many years. You are trying to ensure that your daughter not suffer the way you did, and that is good, but you must also find a space in which to look at your own feelings about your own past. Also, mother in law is trapped in her delusion. She also needs help, even though she has already passed on.
Question: Before I started studying ZT I was able to be objective and maintain professional distance with clients. Since I study ZT I sometimes find that I feel more compassion for the client and it is more difficult to maintain my boundaries.
Answer: It is good to feel compassion, but think of maintaining a boundary as the way that you set the client free to live their own life. The boundary is a restraint upon oneself, but it is also a way of trusting the client to go and live freely. Sometimes we want to do everything for the client, but this is not real compassion. Real compassion means to respect the independence of the client.
Question: What is the difference between empathy and intuition?
Answer: Empathy is a form of intuition in which you feel how it is to be the other person in their life situation. Intuition is a broader concept including all forms of non-rational intelligence. Thus sometimes one sees a new possibility that one had not seen before without having had any rational or logical process to arrive at this insight. For instance, an artist might create a picture by planning and design or by intuitively following an instinct.
In threes: Group discuss rational-cognitive mode and intuitive mode in therapy.
In the same threes we did an exercise with client, listener and observer in which the client explores their relationship with a significant other, using a mala to list points, starting from factual information and going on to more personal things, noting feelings and intuitions that arise.
We can distinguish between "intuitive signs" and "abreaction". By intuitive signs is meant symptoms that something is happening below our awareness that needs investigation.
Intuitive Signs: Lump in throat, hesitation, tensing of muscles, stop in breathing, tremour or shiver.
Abreactions are larger scale bodily responses that effectively discharge energy brought up by primary dukkha.
Abreaction: Weeping, hearty laughter, strong bodily reactions, raging, going cold, yawning
We have ways of inhibiting abraction. These are things that we might not want to do in many social situations. Intuitive signs, however, are more discrete. Intuitive signs may indicate a need to abreact or to understand a situation in a new way.
Resolution comes when a duke has been abreacted. Resolution brings a sense of lightness, a clean feeling, clearer sight, relaxation, ease in breathing.
In same threes, repeat the mala exercise with a new client, this time working more slowly, checking with each bead “Is there a feeling or intuitive sign?”
Intuitive signs are abbreviated forms of abreaction. Shiver is small form of freezing with fear. Giggling is small form of laughing out loud. Lump in throat is strangulated weeping. Another form of strangulated weeping is yawning, but here it is more a matter of diverting the energy of the weeping into some other visceral process. Yawning is how we express tiredness or abreact boredom, but it can also be less appropriately used to avert crying. Unabreacted energy may be diverted into any other strong visceral process, such as having sex or fighting. Thus a person might have sex in order to feel the release of tension, but the tension may be due to some unabreacted hurt that has nothing to do wih the relationship with the sexual partner. Similarly a person might get into a fight in the evening with their spouse or with somebody in a bar, when there really is no basis of quarrel with that person, but there is energy that has not been discharged from other hurt, perhaps a humiliation that happened at work earlier in the day. So we can distinguish between intuitive signs that are indicators of something that needs to be abreacted and diversions which are ways that the person has found to discharge energy inappropriately.
Diversions: Yawning, sex, masturbation, fighting, self-harm, compulsive behaviours (obsessions, over eating, ritualistic behaviour, addictive habits), cynical humour.
Some of the things that are used as diversions do have appropriate uses too. Sometimes we yawn because we are tired, which is natural. Sometimes we yawn because we are bored which is an appropriate abreaction. Sometimes we yawn to suppress tears which is a diversion. Sometimes we fight in a just cause which is natural, sometimes we fight in a situation where we are frightened by a real threat which is an appropriate abreaction, sometimes we fight just to divert energy created by some other hurt that has no connection with the fight.
In same threes, repeating the exercise with third person as client.
The mala exercises can be done in pairs or small groups as counselling exercises or may be done individually alone. The advantage of doing it with a partner is the possibility of being facilitated. The advantage of doing it alone is that one may be less inhibited, especially if one is completely alone somewhere where shouting or loud laughter or wailing will not disturb anybody else.This, therefore, is a valuable thing to do from time to time in one's personal development work.
We revised the ideas about intuitive signs as indicating some overflow of energy that betrays that something needs to be looked at. In social situations these are skipped over, but in therapy one needs to hesitate at such points and look more carefully. Therapist therefore needs (1) the skill to spot the sign and then (2) the skill to hold the client on the point and make space for investigation.
We also looked further at the diversion of unabreacted energy. One form of this is pressure of speech. We looked at how speech has become a means for buying time, as in the story of 1001 Nights where Scheherazade saves her life by story telling. One of the ways of diversion is talking. Especially for women. Where men might laugh or get angry a woman will talk. This is because by talking a woman can hold the man’s attention and is less likely to get hit. Therapist may need the assertiveness to cut through the client’s endless stories and bring them back to the point, to the first bead on their mala, as it were. To be effective this means that the client has to feel safe.
When energy is diverted into activity that has a positive or constructive outcome we call it sublimation. Sublimation is the diversion of energy toward a more sublime object. Civilisation is built out of sublimated energy.
These categories of phenomena all relate to the energy economy in the body. When energy is not abreacted it has to go somewhere. It may be diverted, either usefully or destructively, or one remains full. This is like the image of a bucket full of water. When it is full, if it is wobbled there is spillage. The intuitive signs are spillage. When one is very full the spillage may become so frequent as to interfere with ordinary life.
Therapy may be concerned with tracing the roots of hurt and allowing abreaction or it may be involved with finding a constructive form of sublimation. In either case the therapist needs the skills of noticing the signs and slowing down to create space for them to be explored.
The skills of spotting with sharp attention on the one hand and slowing down on the other are symbolised by the idea of the tiger and the ox. Yesterday’s mala exercise is an exercise in looking at the connection between feelings and facts. It requires training of attention. Also when we had done the basic exercise we slowed it down so as to look more carefully. Tiger is quick and sharp whereas ox is slow and strong. for good therapy we need to combine the two.
In Pairs: group discussed the ideas so far.
Brain science is at an early stage. There is a lot that we do not know. We have information from
1. studies of people with brain injury or hemiplegia
2. experiments in which we measure or stimulate the electrical activity in the brain
3. post-mortem studies of brain tissue
4. experiments with animals
5. observation of animals
but none of these provides full or clear and conclusive information on many matters.
The most basic observation of the brain shows that it has three parts, the primitive basal brain sometimes called the limbic system plus two hemispheres of the “new” brain of higher animals. We do not know for sure why the brain is so divided, but we think that the two sides deal with different things and work against each other so that activities emerge from the relative balance between them. Rather as two opposed fingers are needed to pick up a small object, so most precise activities depend upon opposed forces within the brain achieving some sort of balance.
A simple example is the brain of a small bird. In the bird the left brain looks for the seed on the ground, while the right brain watches out for the cat in the bushes.Left brain knows what it is looking for, right brain is open to possibilities and haunted by past experience. Left brain is concerned with the future, right with the past. Left is over-optimistic, right is depressive/pessimistic.
It is as though the limbic system says “I am hungry”. The left brain then says “I’ll fly down to the lawn and get some seeds”. The right brain then says “Are you so stupid. There might be a cat in the bushes. You'll get us killed.” The bird hesitates on the branch, torn between the voices of the two hemispheres. However, the voice of the limbic system in the background is quite insistent, so it has to do something. If the left brain wins, the bird flies down to the lawn to pick up seed. If there is a movement in the bushes, the right brain perks up and the balance changes. The bird flies back up into the tree. Our brains are more sophisticated but they probably work in a roughly similar fashion. When we say that we are “in two minds” about something this may be more literally true than we think.
In threes: Counselling exercise with client exploring his/her optimistic side and depressive side.
You don’t have a “self” but you do have a body. Thus we can see that there is no head quarters or command centre in the brain, no "self" is to be found, it operates by a balance of forces that are all pressing in different directions, thus there is a process, but there is no unitary self at the centre of it. Nonetheless, the body, which shows us the outcome of the brain activity, can tell you the truth about your “self”. So, you don't have a self but there is a body and the body has a brain and the body, manifesting the process of the brain, can reveal the truth about our "self"
The appearance of a self is created by the emergence of “style” or “temperament”. In a group of sparrows one will take the risk of flying down to the lawn first and the others will follow. After that the others will expect that sparrow to go first. Thus an identity is created and socially reinforced. It may simply originally have been that this was the hungriest bird, but now he becomes the king of the sparrows. The same dynamics happen among ourselves.
Two short demonstration sessions
Client one was struggling with conflict between feelings related to maintaining status and position and feelings related to wanting to be an enthusiastic participant (“free child”). each part wanting attention, but in different ways and in opposition to each other. At one point in the therapy therapist was able to remark upon an intuitive sign and the client was able to go into the feelings on a deeper level, abruptly starting to cry and abreact some of the affect.
Client two had had a recent experience of rejection by a group to which she had given much, sacrificing herself in many ways. However the expected abreaction of grief and anger was not flowing as might have been expected and client was still full of emotion to an incapacitating degree. It became apparent that the recent situation actually echoed an even more serious pattern of events from childhood where the client had been in a vulnerable position and was extensively abused over a period only to be rejected in the end. Thus the recent occurrence was reactivating the earlier one. The therapist was able to articulate the fact that the client “had sacrificed enough” and this produced a loosening of the process of emotional discharge.
In threes, discuss what happened in the counselling sessions, especially what the therapist did and how it related to the theory taught so far in the course.
Student shared her history of childhood timidity and inhibition of sexuality resulting from various incidents of punishment or humiliation and of her adult attempts to reclaim her femininity.
Question & Answer Session
We looked at
- therapy as a process supported by refuge, of life as a spiritual journey toward refuge and therapy as accompanying the person along that journey; how this does not have to be couched in Buddhist language necessarily. Insofar as the therapist has inner refuge, she has confidence that whatever comes up will be held “by the Buddha” and so need have no fear of the process that will unfold between herself and the client. Refuge takes away the panic that might otherwise arise due to the risk in any interpersonal encounter. If the therapist has such a refuge then this provides a refuge for the client too during the therapy and this will also help the clinet to find his own refuge.
- how body language and movement adds a dimension to communication and is, in fact, a more fundamental form of communication than words, seeing that most animals communicate successfully without words, having only the “la-la level”.
- the role of intuition and how “intuitive signs” are a form of unconscious communication dropping a hint as if the person were communicating “I will show you this little bit of what you need to know about me, but I won’t show you any more until I see how you react to this much.”
- the current rapprochement between science and spirituality, especially in the areas of cognitive and neuroscience.