Existential and Buddhist Psychology

 

WHAT IS PSYCHOTHERAPY?

Psychotherapy is about relationship – a professional relationship with the intention to be helpful. At the core of good therapy is a good client-therapist relationship. It’s all about positive encouragement. When therapy is rooted in trust, safety, and understanding, clients are better able to discern choices, discover new insights, and take actions toward creating healthier, happier lives. Psychotherapy helps clients feel more connected – connected to their experiences of self, to others, and to the community around them.

Successful psychotherapy increases our capacity for awareness, acceptance, and self-appreciation.

Psychotherapy however is actually a rather broad term. It encompasses many techniques of therapeutic intervention and their respective underlying ideologies about the nature of change. I think there are officially 450 forms of psychotherapy. The most simplistic explanation of psychotherapy is that it incorporates meaningful dialogue and active listening. Early on, it was coined the “talking cure.”

Today our approaches have evolved beyond only focusing on talking. When therapy focuses on the quality of relating between the client and the therapist, therapy becomes a powerful practice environment for intimacy, positive attachment, and self-discovery. Relationship-focused psychotherapy asks clients, “How do you create meaningful, quality relationships in your life?”

WHAT IS EXISTENTIAL PSYCHOLOGY?

We all experience some form of suffering in life; in fact, there exists identifiable truths upholding the universality of suffering. These existential givens create fears and anxieties when not fully embraced. The more we avoid experiencing our existential suffering the more anxiety haunts us.

Confronting the givens of existence, helps us to discover personal meaning in what otherwise might feel meaningless. When we take responsibility for working with the realities of suffering, our anxieties decrease. Despite the pain of existence, we human beings are capable of asserting our will and making intelligent choices that invite change. We have options.

  • Accepting existential givens means recognizing that…

  • life is at times unfair and unjust

  • ultimately there is no escape from some of life’s pain or from death

  • no matter how close I get to other people, I must still face life alone

  • ultimate responsibility for how I live life is my choice no matter how much guidance or support I get from others

  • living honestly requires being less caught up in trivialities and facing the basic truths of life and death

WHAT IS BUDDHIST PSYCHOLOGY?

Buddhist Psychology is a 2500 year old secular study of the mind and the science of suffering. Through self-examination, Buddhism shows us how a mind turned inward is capable of observing its own workings, conditions, and psychological states-of-being. In this way, Buddhist Psychology is experiential.

Buddhist meditation teaches us precisely how to cultivate mindful awareness. Mindfulness is a subtle internal language that allows communication with one’s own mind through watching and being watched.

Mindfulness is about paying attention on purpose to this very moment; or we might say it’s about paying attention to paying attention.

Psychotherapy from a Buddhist perspective offers us the framework to observe habitual patterns-of-mind and bring compassion to our deepest misconceptions about self and others. This practice of contemplation allows us to witness with laser-precision both the creation and cessation of suffering within our own lives.

Mindful attention becomes a powerful tool, inviting the art and practice of perception adjustment. Mindfulness-based psychotherapy supports clients staying connected and engaged with their present moment experience.

 

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