A ‘New’ Psychology Blog; A Piece on Mindfulness

I removed the long dormant Psychology News Blog from the list of ‘Psychology Blogs’ and replaced it with the intriguing Brain Blogger: Topics from Multidimensional BioPsychoSocial Perspectives. (How’s that for mission statement?)

One posts at Brain Blogger includes:

Meditation for Troubled Minds: Can the Mind Heal the Mind?

Can the mind cure the mind, working on itself? Well, although the entire self-help psychology industry survives on an assumption that it does — with various techniques, young and old, aimed at self-therapy, scientific research on the subject is still in its early stage…

The author goes on to cite a 2007 15-study analysis on the effectiveness of one mindfulness-based treatment, Mindfulness Based Stress Relief (MBSR). The results, she study concluded, were “equivocal”. In other words, inconclusive — “at best considered an adjunctive therapy when it comes to treating anxiety and mood disorders — most studies failed to demonstrate it as a reliable primary method of treating these conditions” (It turns out the study was roundly criticized as being flawed.)

He then takes up the interesting argument that ‘mindfulness’ based treatments are possibly hampered by their lack of a cultural context.

Although the results may appear disappointing for meditation enthusiasts, a historical perspective may be illuminating. Meditation routines were first developed in ancient cultures, particularly Eastern, solely as a spiritual practice. Mindfulness meditation, as defined by the eminent mind-body researcher Prof. Jon Kabat-Zinn of the University of Massachusetts Medical School Center for Mindfulness, is “the awareness that emerges through paying attention to purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the experience of unfolding, moment by moment.” Awareness, in eastern cultures is the process of shifting your world-view, from earthly mundane matters, through progressive levels of detachment to gain a supra-ordinal view, where we see the wholeness and inter-connectedness of things.

Expecting it to work for curing psycho-social disorders, in my view, is detracting from the very basis of meditation — transcendence. If you meditated solely with the aim to get rid of depression or anxiety, it represents a desire to ‘escape’ from the problem, rather than work at the roots which give rise to it in first place — a biochemical imbalance in the brain, or social stressors as a causative or contributing factor. In the end it’s a ‘troubled’ mind trying to grapple with its own problems, looking for a technique not designed for a cure.

While these are slippery problems, they’re not entirely convincing arguments for dismissing mindfulness-based interventions. Though it’s hard to quantify in a research setting, it appears that mindfulness practices have benefits in a clinical setting. That said, the cultural context of that practice remains important.

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One thought on “A ‘New’ Psychology Blog; A Piece on Mindfulness

  1. jonathan

    I believe it was carl Jung who stressed the cultural context of so called Eastern practices and my own experience/feel, is that they can sometimes be a bit of a cop out from looking at ones situation and beliefs. That said, the Zen everyday approach of avoiding transcendent states and “getting on with the everyday”, like (in my case, washing the pots before they get too much and I put it off), is a way of dropping into the here and now. Zen Koans are full of baloon popping mind twisters which have no answers. I have practiced meditation for some time and my turning point was the reference to meditation as a need to remove the dust from one’s inner mirror and the leap into the belief that ther4 was no mirror to “dust”.

    One only has to start delving into the buddhist literature to become aware of its cultural contextualism and concommitant changes in practice. trying to still the mind by being still, only poses a problem of movement, for that becomes a distraction – the world is not still. Jung again – on the one who seeks a world where nothing changes.

    The connectedness of all things is ok for those who have time and composure for such “thoughts”. yet they do seem to be transcendental justifications for more practical issues of what to do when you can sleep or cannot stop thinking (about everything and its connection – which in heightened manic type states becomes exhausting and non productive, or rather productive of anything and everything)

    Yet mindfulness is, if we regard the mind as the body, connected with touch and breathing and physical states, such as warmth and cold. Emptying the mind via such immediate non cognitive experiences can help ameliorate this overwhelming tendency to simply, halt the mind (for a while), which is what mindfulness therapies seem to do: though to justify that is more than there is space for here.
    Where do i meditate, walking, running, swimming – mindfull of my breathing (especially the out breath!), and my contact with what i touch

    Like

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