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On avoiding and embracing our pain Buddhist psychological and Western psychotherapeutical approaches to defensive conditioning Adeline Van Waning Stirling,

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Presentation on theme: "On avoiding and embracing our pain Buddhist psychological and Western psychotherapeutical approaches to defensive conditioning Adeline Van Waning Stirling,"— Presentation transcript:

1 On avoiding and embracing our pain Buddhist psychological and Western psychotherapeutical approaches to defensive conditioning Adeline Van Waning Stirling, June 2004

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3 Buddhism and psychotherapy, avenues of connecting: 1 Buddhist practice: non- judgemental awareness, mindfulness, meditation 1 Buddhist practice: non- judgemental awareness, mindfulness, meditation 2 understanding the workings of the mind: Five skandha model 2 understanding the workings of the mind: Five skandha model 3 ethics and values: the Three characteristics, suffering-unease, impermanence, non-self 3 ethics and values: the Three characteristics, suffering-unease, impermanence, non-self

4 Four questions: 1 How do we see and name these defenses and avoidances? 1 How do we see and name these defenses and avoidances? 2 How do we evaluate their existence? 2 How do we evaluate their existence? 3 What is our overall perspective and purpose in mental functioning? 3 What is our overall perspective and purpose in mental functioning? 4 How do we handle these defensive conditionings, from our intention to realise this perspective, this purpose? 4 How do we handle these defensive conditionings, from our intention to realise this perspective, this purpose?

5 Buddhist psychology views `Basic suffering-unease’ (dukkha): illness, loss, impermanence, absence of a core `self’ or personality, as an independent entity; `having nothing to stand on’ `Extra-suffering’ : attachment, originating in ignorance, connected with the illusion of a separate independent personality (that is `protected’ by the defenses…)

6 The Three Roots of Suffering (B-2.1.1) Greed, possessiveness, addiction, attraction (lobha) Greed, possessiveness, addiction, attraction (lobha) Hate, ill will, anger, aversion (dosa) Hate, ill will, anger, aversion (dosa) Delusion, ignorance (moha) Delusion, ignorance (moha) They can be seen a) as driving forces, and also b) in the the ways we handle these forces defensively

7 The Four Mara’s (B-2.1.2) 1 Devaputra mara (pleasure-avoidance) 1 Devaputra mara (pleasure-avoidance) 2 Skandha mara (back to `old self’) 2 Skandha mara (back to `old self’) 3 Klesha mara (emotional heat) 3 Klesha mara (emotional heat) 4 Yama mara (life-death anxiety) 4 Yama mara (life-death anxiety)

8 The Five Skandha’s (B-2.1.3) 1 Form, physical body, input 1 Form, physical body, input 2 Feeling-tone (pleasant, unpleasant, neutral) 2 Feeling-tone (pleasant, unpleasant, neutral) 3 Perception, recognition 3 Perception, recognition 4 Conditioning, mental formation, output 4 Conditioning, mental formation, output 5 Consciousness, mentality 5 Consciousness, mentality

9 Five skandha’s: meeting a dog… 1 form: a dog 1 form: a dog 2 feeling: unpleasant 2 feeling: unpleasant 3 perception: my eyes see a big dog; physical startle 3 perception: my eyes see a big dog; physical startle 4 conditioning: I wanna get out! 4 conditioning: I wanna get out! 5 consciousness: I may be harmed, I’m a person that doesn’t like big dogs… 5 consciousness: I may be harmed, I’m a person that doesn’t like big dogs…

10 Five skandha’s: therapy with Ann 1 form: fantasy of her friend with another woman 1 form: fantasy of her friend with another woman 2 feeling: unpleasant 2 feeling: unpleasant 3 perception: she `sees’ him in the situation, goes on automatic pilot 3 perception: she `sees’ him in the situation, goes on automatic pilot 4 conditioning: anxiety of being left out, abandoned, which makes her act 4 conditioning: anxiety of being left out, abandoned, which makes her act 5 consciousness: on guard if there is anything pointing to that… and up to `form’: yes, he was late this night, he may have been… 5 consciousness: on guard if there is anything pointing to that… and up to `form’: yes, he was late this night, he may have been…

11 Evaluating: Three roots of suffering, Four mara’s and Five skandha’s (B-2.2) … are all connected with the illusion of a personality that needs to be defended (cf non- self); The defenses are also used against the realising of the reality of our suffering, interdependence, impermanence Defending against (irrealistic) anxiety, and also against what is reality

12 Buddhist perspective in mental functioning (B-2.3) A clear, clean state of mind; perceiving the world without distortion, selective perception and preconception, as maintained by the defenses. Accepting and embracing what is. In Enlightenment defenses have evaporated, are non-existent.

13 How to handle the defensive conditionings (B-2.4) Defenses need not be seen as obstacles, rather opportunities to observe what we do in the face of pain. Embracing the pain, not identifying with and not indulging in - ; perceiving and not escaping Transformation with mindfulness.

14 Psychotherapy Centrality of the personality, cherished as a coherent, continuous and separate, independent entity

15 `Defensive functioning scale’ DSM IV, levels (P-3.1) 1 High adaptive 1 High adaptive 2 Mental inhibition 2 Mental inhibition 3 Minor image-distorting 3 Minor image-distorting 4 Disavowal 4 Disavowal 5 Major image-distorting 5 Major image-distorting 6 Action 6 Action 7 Defensive dysregulation 7 Defensive dysregulation

16 Evaluating the existence of defenses (P-3.2) Defenses are inavoidable, they form our habitual, typical pattern of adaptation, that’s who we are! `Being a character’

17 Psychotherapy perspective in mental functioning (P-3.3) Lessening of mental suffering, promoting psychical adaptation Finding compromises in defensive arrangements that are least (self) destructive, with a good share of high adaptive defenses

18 How to handle the defensive conditionings (P-3.4) Psychotherapy = handling and structuring, in a methodical way, a relationship of client and therapist, with the help of certain interventions. Opening, `uncovering’: seeing how our suffering is not so much because of the underlying condition, but because of outdated defenses.

19 Defenses, avoidances (BP-4.1) Common ground: f.i. the 31 Psychotherapy ways can fit within the Four mara’s Differences: P: ego-personality in a detailed developmental phase-model, more linear B f.i. in skandha’s: more cyclical, self- reinforcing conditioning

20 Evaluating the existence of defenses (BP-4.2) Common: `Humankind cannot bear very much reality’, T.S. Eliot Difference: P: person less flexible and apt to change, defenses more irreversible B: a more positive view of humans: they are ignorant, and not guilty, bad, dumb…

21 Perspective in mental functioning (BP-4.3) Common: making a person more happy Difference: B: practice, in the end, aims at enlightenment P: client must be content with less destructive defensive compromise formations, within a dualistic context…

22 How to handle the defensive conditionings (BP-4.4) Common: defenses ask for attention Difference: P: pain and suffering in general are seen as to be avoided, they are hindering our wished for life B: suffering is unavoidable and essential. Trust in silence, being with what is; selfhealing qualities

23 The Three roots: affective neuroscience A functional neuroanatomy: Approach system facilitates appetitive behavior Withdrawal system facilitates withdrawal from sources of aversive stimulation, connected with both fear and disgust. Prefrontal cortex, amygdala MBSR research Richard Davidson, Jon Kabat-Zinn

24 The Three roots: psychotherapy Psychoanalysis (Klein): introjection, projection, denial Psychoanalysis (Klein): introjection, projection, denial Client centered therapy (Rogers): core conditions and sweet roots: unconditional positive regard- generosity, empathy-loving kindness, congruence-wisdom Client centered therapy (Rogers): core conditions and sweet roots: unconditional positive regard- generosity, empathy-loving kindness, congruence-wisdom

25 The Three roots: society Attraction: greed, need to win, `ours’ Aversion; defenses: denial, projection, splitting, `others’ Ignorance; defenses: rationalization, intellectualization B emphasises the `higher third’: not winning or losing, but transcending ignorance

26 Embracing the pain Basically there are two ways of being in the world: 1 try to control and fixate the world, defensively, at the price of amputating and misleading our senses, ourselves; BEING IN FEAR, with greed and hatred BEING IN FEAR, with greed and hatred 2 open ourselves, with greater acceptance of open-endedness, having nothing to stand on BEING IN LOVE, transcending ignorance BEING IN LOVE, transcending ignorance

27 = Buddhism: religion-philosophy, way of life, blueprint for a civilization, path of personal salvation = Domain of psychotherapy: the dualistic conceptual self-centered personality = No `comparing of apples with pears’… = Psychotherapy can help to transform `ordinary’ (neurotic) suffering into existential suffering; Buddhist psychology aims at embracing, transforming and transcending existential suffering.

28 W psychology, psychotherapy strength: theory formation and research on childdevelopment, forms of defense and resistance, therapeutic interaction W psychology, psychotherapy strength: theory formation and research on childdevelopment, forms of defense and resistance, therapeutic interaction B emphasis: more positive view of human potential, selfhealing qualities; moral stance, more action directed B emphasis: more positive view of human potential, selfhealing qualities; moral stance, more action directed With mindfulness, that illuminates, accepts and transforms…


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