Treating the cause or the symptoms
I like what Karen Kissel Wegela says in her piece in the Lion’s Roar about basic sanity and neurosis; You’re Basically Good – The Benefits of Contemplative Psychotherapy. I was taught that given the right conditions we as human beings move towards health. There is so much talk about sickness and treating the symptoms that the causes seem to be forgotten about.
Using Brilliant Sanity
In her presentation of what she calls “contemplative counselling and psychotherapy” there is a focus on the inherent sanity which she also refers to as Brilliant Sanity. The contemplative therapist uses their capacity to hold clarity, compassion, mindfulness and awareness. Karen says Thich Nhat Hanh says that we are “inter-are” when in relationship and explains that there is an exchange between the present experience of the therapist and the client. Our “ego” tries to hold onto a separate abiding sense of self, this is doomed to failure as we are always changing. Brilliant Sanity does not always stay with the therapist, this is where the challenge is for the therapist to be vulnerable and let the client hold the brilliant sanity sometimes.
Easing the pain through loving kindness
Of course the past has an importance in the therapy work but the emphasis once again is on enquiry – why is the past that happened in the past manifesting in the present? Karen talks about the Buddhist teaching of that there is pain in life, but we add unnecessary suffering by trying to hold onto our sense of who we are. What eases the pain is loving kindness which can be towards ourselves and others. Repressing emotions only gives rise to them bursting out inappropriately. The therapeutic relationship needs to be robust and have enough trust within it to allow the repressed emotions to be processed. Karen also champions the value of the therapist having a mindfulness based meditation practice. The practice develops the ability for the therapist to be more friendly with their own issues, and once again the shared experience of this with the client promotes the clients’ ability to hold their issues with non-judgemental mindfulness, awareness, curiosity and compassion.