Out of the vaults. Here are some thoughts about mindfulness and psychotherapy:
A new vantage point. Why is mindfulness, as it has been conceived by Westerners, useful in psychotherapy? One compelling reason may be that it represents a new mode or vantage point, for most Western psychologists, from which to view their experience and the experience of their clients. Deikman (1982) addresses a clinically relevant point:
The distinction between awareness and the content of awareness tends to be ignored in Western psychology; its implications for our everyday life are not appreciated. Indeed most people have trouble recognizing the difference between awareness and content, which are part of everyday life…. Awareness is the ground of conscious life, the background or field in which all elements exist, different from thoughts, sensations, or images (p. 10).
Therapeutic application. Research seems to suggest that such views may be passed on to clients to good effect –- whether explicitly or implicitly, experientially or insightfully. Such a vantage point, which views thoughts, sensations, emotions as fleeting events having no inherent existence – makes room for acceptance. This acceptance may be directed toward unacceptable thoughts, impulses, or emotions.
Depressives and compulsives. Mindfulness, as presented here, emphasizes the present moment. From this perspective, the past and future are illusions. Dwelling in the past, as depressives often do, robs us of the present moment. Worrying about the future, as anxious, compulsive, and many other people in our hurried culture do, robs us of the present moment.
Applying a Buddhist point of view. Those caught up in repetitive ruminative thinking, or that dissociate, are barely aware of the present moment. They are, from this perspective, living in a world of delusions. They are incapacitating themselves from taking effective action in the present, where all problems are solved, if they are to be solved at all.
Language: Bane or boon? Hayes & Shenk (2004), developers of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), have written about both the immense power of human language and its ability to trap us in a world of abstractions that does not have any inherent existence, an idea that is not dissimilar from some Buddhist philosophy.
FAQ on mindfulness and psychotherapy here at KC Mindfulness.
Kalea Chapman, Psy.D.