Suffering and the Relationship with the Problem
in Postmodern Therapies
Curiously, the therapy community speaks seldom of “suffering,” yet one might argue that suffering is precisely what people come to therapists for: to alleviate suffering. Over the past 100 years in the West, we have developed psychological constructs and methods attempting to alleviate suffering, and yet we largely ignore numerous traditions from culture and others that have been devoted to the alleviation of suffering for millennia. In recent years, psychotherapists have begun to tap the potentials of Buddhist psychology to glean new approaches to alleviating suffering. Buddhism is viewed primarily as a religion in the West, yet as an atheistic religion it has many and perhaps more parallels with Western psychology than it does with Judeo-Christian religions.
Essentially, Buddhism is about how to engage and alleviate human suffering. Some experiences that give rise to suffering are inevitable: birth, sickness, loss, and death. In other cases, our suffering can be understood as products of the way we construct the world, our expectation, and attachment. Buddhism offers long established practices for the first. We will explore how these ideas compare and contrast with certain family therapy traditions, specifically postmodern therapies, and how Buddhist ideas can be brought to enrich therapeutic practice.
... teachings and fully express Buddhism as a living religious tradition. With Buddhist ethical teachings aiming to reduce suffering from desire, society ... fourth Noble Truth which is, “the way to overcome suffering is through eightfold path” also relates to ethical teachings and ... in India, the land of its beginnings (Living a Religion Third Edition). This can be attributed to Buddhist ethical teachings ...
Viewing suffering as central to the human experience me seem similar to existentialism, but Buddhist thinking adopts a more optimistic response based on a unique form of empirical psychological research, an insight-oriented “contemplative science”. The findings of this empirical study, systematically duplicated and documented over the course two and a half millennia, are that suffering is perpetuated by grasping or attachment and can be alleviated b the practice of non-attachment . Non-attachment does not involve ignoring what are ultimately inescapable and ineradicable phenomenon such as loss, sickness, and death; nor does it call for emotionally removing or numbing oneself from these phenomena. Instead, it advocates a specific relationship with them, namely, a compassionate and non-judgmental presence in relation to problematic experience.
This presence bears fruit in insight or wisdom. We all heard folk sayings that claim wisdom is gained by experiencing life’s travails. Buddhist psychology provides a fine-grained analysis of how this occurs. A compassionate and non-attachment presence to all experience, including that which we view as “problematic,” cultivates a kind of wisdom that allows us to develop a rewarding relationship with life’s inevitable challenges that come with being human. We suggest that these ideas and practices have useful implication for postmodern therapy, which can be understood as conversations with people who are having relationship difficulties with the “problems” in their lives.
Buddhism’s empirical investigations have produced a convincing portrait of the pervasive inclination of persons to pursue pleasure and avoid suffering a tendency exploited with unprecedented success in capitalist cultures. Western economies are founded on the escape from the suffering that comes with living; from aging, to loss and inevitable death. Pharmaceuticals, cosmetic surgery, and endless gadgetry are designed to shield us from suffering. If we make sense of our experience in relational terms, this is like roommates who avoid each other at all costs, leaving the room at the slightest hint of the of the other’s footfall. The result, of course, is what we do not know each other and, over time, become increasingly uncomfortable in each other’s presence. When we confront each other, as we inevitably will in a house with finite floor space, we are not prepared for the meeting; we have no history of relating to each other and no foundation to draw from in repairing our relationship. And so for our time on this planet: it is a place where we will inevitably experience suffering, and without a similar foundation we are not equipped for the meeting. It is worth wondering whether in our work as therapists we are helping people to strengthen that (inescapable) relationship or whether we are mostly supporting people in avoiding it. In this easy we will share ideas about engaging persons around their relationship with suffering, within the context of postmodern approaches to therapy.
... factors that should be considered. Termination and Post Therapy Relationships: Ethical, Legal, and Personally Pertinent The American ... I plan to discuss socializing outside the therapeutic relationship with clients during the initial intake session, explaining ... most commonly encountered issues are termination and sexual relationships. This paper discusses the defining factors therapists consider ...
In recent years, the postmodern therapies have offered a refreshing perspective in their position that therapists’ primary attention does not need to be devoted to identifying, naming, and engaging with problem. As solution-focused therapists point out, we can address a problem without “fixing” or “solution” the problem. Instead, attention turns to be constructive potential of conversation. Rather than resolving or working through problems, therapists direct their energy to creating preferred experience. This taken various forms: in collaborative language system, the “dis-solving” of problems through conversation, in narrative therapy, re-authoring one’s story about the problem, and in solution-focused therapy, building solution .
We see these arguably related approaches as offering a welcome turns in therapy: clients are situated as agent of their own lives and are not pathologized in their life struggles. However, we are interested in exploring how this welcomed emphasis on constructing experience may, at time, inadvertently divert attention from another vital life process: the task of learning to live in relation to the suffering and “problem,” many of which we believe to be an inescapable feature of living.
... and handle their problems. Another problem is focusing on past experiences rather than the present. During therapy the client will learn how ... in counseling. This therapy will help target the key problems causing issues in the client’s life. These problems stem from not allowing ... p. 174-175). Throughout the beginning of people’s lives they feel fulfilled, and they have self-determination to motivate ...
We are not proposing that it is somehow soul-cleaning to subject ourselves to pain, or that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. “We are not advocating that therapists convince their clients that they are wring-headed in their response to the problems they experience: that would be dishonoring of clients’ experiences and, frankly, bad therapy. We believe there is an important place for teaming up with people to develop resourceful responses to life challenges, to connect with community, to revise self-critical narratives and so on. And we also believe that we are engaged in all these worthy enterprises, there remain ongoing and ubiquitous aspects to life that are unsolvable and difficult.
We believe that postmodern therapies and Buddhist psychology are in the early stage of an enduring romance, each having much to offer the other and the potential to create something greater than either could on its own. This essay has attended to how Buddhist psychology can enhance postmodern therapies, particularly how each relates to problems. The Buddhist approach provides a gentler and more playful approach to relating to the problem that therapists and clients face while at the same time encouraging a more fully engaged experience of those same problems.
Andersen, T . (2006) . Human participating: Human “being” is the step of human “becoming in the next (pp. 81-94).
In H. Andersen & D. Gehart (Eds.) Collaborative Therapy: Conversation and Relationship that Make a Difference. New York, NY: Brunner Routledge .
Andersen, H . (1997) . Conversation, language and possibility.
New York: Basic