I’ve worked on myself in so many different ways; through art, dream work, various kinds of yoga, meditation; presently, vipassana meditation, but never have I gone to therapy. I’m now seriously considering therapy as a future line of work, and I want to be sure I understand the value of the service, and how it can really help others.
Recently, I decided to use my school benefit plan to see a psychologist (for a consultation). I found one who seemed a good fit for me; a female elder, previously a professor, and also a meditator; however, just picking up phone was a hard choice to make because part of me was saying no. In the past 18 months I’d become very accustom to receiving perceptual changes through the safety of dhamma. Letting someone else in to help would mean running the risk of suggestibility. Not that a therapist would intentionally lead me astray but I am not immune to influence, it could happen.
The consultation certainly made my head spin. She probed me with just the right medley of questions to extract my life story in a single hour, and for the next few days I found my mind was filled with more chatter than it had been after my first year of academic studies. Such an experience indicates that meditation time would be optimal right after therapy sessions or the end of a therapist’s workday.
The Psychologist I saw advised me:
“To work with people, you do your own work, and everyone has blind spots, even meditators.”
Buddhist teacher and Psychologist Jack Kornfield holds a similar point of view:
“For most people meditation practice doesn’t do it all. At best, it’s one important piece of a complex path of opening and awakening.”
He explains that blind spots could be due to…
“A lack of parental role modeling, communication practice and maturing of relationships, sexuality and intimacy, career and work issues..ect. Meditation can help in these areas, but if, after sitting for a while, you discover that you still have work to do, find a good therapist or some other way to effectively address these issues.”
…and also states:
“…the best therapy, like the best meditation practice, uses awareness to heal the heart and is concerned not so much with our stories, as with fear and attachment and their release, and with bringing mindfulness to areas of delusion, grasping and unnecessary suffering. One can, at times, find the deepest realizations of selflessness and non-attachment through some of the methods of transpersonal psychology.”
I agree with Kornfield, as does this excerpt from my first impression of vipassana:
“There’s a big difference between intellectually knowing all suffering starts internally, and actually feeling it. Being more based in the heart, I really value authenticity. So feeling different, then analyzing why, is a welcome change. I have always found it hard to conjure up the feelings to match a new mentality. Of course often, a new philosophy will cause me to resonate, but if not, I feel absolutely creepy and dishonest about trying to fake the body language, or vocal tone.”
I won’t be in one location long enough to start therapy sessions immediately, but when I am I plan to seek therapy that includes the feeling/sensation component as described above. I still have a long time to refine on my career direction so I may try more than one kind, as I’m also drawn to expressive, as well as group therapy. If anyone reading has done self-work through both Vipassana and therapy, would like to share about the type of therapy, the areas it helped you in, or how it compliments your practice. Your opinions and experiences would be much appreciated!