History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Buddhism and therapy?

January 19th, 2012 · No Comments

http://www.alternet.org/story/153651/how_is_the_popular_mix_of_meditation_and_psychotherapy_changing_the_way_we_see_the_world/?page=entire: How Is the Popular Mix of Meditation and Psychotherapy Changing the Way We See the World?
There’s been an explosion of interest in the influence of Buddhist teachings on psychotherapeutic practice.

On one level this is an intriguing hybridization of two traditions in a recombination that seems to be a no-brainer as a step forward.
But a closer look suggests a bit of caution, and at least a reminder to buddhists to be wary of the way in which their subject will be frittered away, and then turned into a business by these ‘shrinks’. Theraphy is Big Money, and the attempt to muscle in on the buddhist freebie is ominous, and spells the beginning of the end.

I don’t wish to waste energy preaching to the world’s recombinant innovations. But let me note my puzzlement this month over the attempts to naturalize buddhism (e.g. my review of Flanagan’s book on that). Reading this article I am less puzzled. The effort to destroy buddhism has been going on for a generation, and the ‘shrinks’ are the best assassins. I recall the early New Age movement period in the seventies (early for me, at least): the therapy community was very threatened by buddhism and meditation, because its proponents correctly pointed out that it made therapy superflous. But now we see both parties have cracked a deal and the result will be good for the therapy biz, but poisonous for buddhism. I don’t wish to be alarmist: this inititative could do a lot of good, but will it? I have a suspicion that the effort to erase the core of buddhism is unconsiously a power struggle by various groups, not only therapists, to emasculate the threatening depth of buddhism by making it harmless. And I am sure that naturalizing buddhism will be essential to the business of mixing therapy, and, well, not buddhism, but that cropola substitute, ‘mindfulness’, ‘stress reduction’, and the rest of it.
Meditation can be tremendously stressful. It is not a form of tranquilizer. CRAP!
Let us be tolerate of the world’s idiocies, but not succumb ourselves: I recommend that those who want to do therapy, by all means do so. And those who want to do buddhism be wary of therapeutic confusions, a number of notable exceptions being possible. Note that you will soon have to abandon buddhist organizations, and work alone.

Let me hasten to say that no generalization is possible here, but in general buddhism is not a form of therapy, nor is it a cure for neurotics, nor does it charge for its services. The latter point is important, since the ‘open source’ character of religion was always fundamental. The precedent from scumbags like Gurdjieff and Sigmund Freud to make their services not just monetary, but very very high priced, is a bad one, and it is all too obviously a relative of current obsessions to privatize social functions. To privatize religion and make it an outrageously expensive form of by the hour therapy was the dishonest invention of Freud et al. and they got away with it. What exactly is the knowledge used to justify this cost? Not much. Freud’s theory amounts to nothing much at all, and most therapists are really second-rate people who just bluff their way through the whole game.
But I think it is too late already. Buddhism is essentially dead, and the attempts to mix it with expensive therapies is the last stage symptom of its decline. I should be wary here: the combination of buddhism and therapy in certain situations could be fruitful. But I suspect we won’t get a break here. Therapists can’t really acknowledge as ‘guru’ substitutes, that the ‘path of enlightenment’ is real. Their stock remains low as long as they cede the mystique.

Meanwhile, I think a protest should be sounded against the whole field of therapy. This racket is outrageous: a therapeutic idiot with some kind of non-training sits for an hour saying nothing, for a hundred dollars, while some nervous other kind of idiot is conned by his neurotic nervousness into submitting to this. Bullshit.
I onced worked as an orderly in a psychiatric ward, and discovered that training psychiatrists were basically medical students (with an acknowledged knowledge of the biochemistry of drugs) abducted into an artificial specialty. Their cynicism, and sophmoric hijinks were untouched, and the racker they entered was to lucrative to rock the boat.
The alternate brands, e.g. phd’s in pscyhology, etc, are equally arbitrary, and in general I fail to see what methodology really exists for such a lucrative form of enterprise.
Let me note again that all real help comes free, in the sense of religion. Many will deny that, and the New Age movement has been almost more mercernary than the realm of the therapists. You can hire sufi sharks like the mephisto Gurdjieff to sell your soul for some expensive ‘training’ in consciousness, or you can sit through the jargon spiels of the Freuds, but in the end the only therapy is a meditative exploration of self-consciousness. It was Rajneesh who noted that meditation made therapy superflous, but of course his ashram indulged in all sorts of therapeutic businesses. But his injunction was that with the knack of ‘meditation’, like learning to swim, neuroses would begin to spontaneously right themselves. But the knack to ‘swim’ has been lost even to buddhism in the west, so it is not as simple as Rajneesh said.

I throw that out, I may be wrong, or overreacting, and should be wary of sermonizing. But in the end the confusion caused by therapists can hurt your attempt to make do with the real method, meditation, which itself is a crystallized form, like therapy, and a stand-in for what it stands for, the cultivation of self-consciousness, man’s natural state.
In any case, I remind the current genration that a switch has been played. I recall gurus warning that therapy and meditation don’t mix. Now the rules of the game are being changed.
Not to be too alarmist: if you wish to be a buddhist you must learn to be alone, disjoint from social groups and institutions, and, as here, with efforts to turn religion into shit. That’s all that religion is at this point, shit. The legacy of Freud won’t do much to help. It is more shit.
This is already a minority view that will subject me to still more discredit, but, c’est la vie.

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