Psychology, as a discipline and as a healing profession, has become a grab bag of inchoate and often incoherent theories, philosophies, and treatments. It is fair and necessary to ask: Is the psychological industry doing more harm than good?
It’s not surprising that psychiatrists and psychologists, not to mention therapists, have increasingly turned to drug therapies. That’s an easy way to treat patients, as well as a more remunerative one. Plus it gives most sufferers the quick fixes they’re seeking.
Of course no one knows how much the efficacy of anti-depressants is due to placebo effect, but it doesn’t seem to matter that people and society have grown much sicker since psychoactive drugs began being prescribed like antibiotics.
In the chaotic galaxy of the psychiatric industry, there are a minority of psychiatrists, psychologists, and even therapists that at least practice the Hippocratic oath, and do no harm. But it’s a small minority, probably no more than 20%.
The very fact that so many therapists (who only need to have a Masters degree to hang up a shingle) have adopted New Age ‘remedies,’ is evidence of how parlous the profession has become.
Recently I encountered a psychiatrist that “integrates meditation, Reiki healing, and other spiritual practices with psychotherapy.” This is not your run-of-the-mill therapist or ‘life coach,’ but an MD with an advanced degree in psychiatry. She advertises a “New Meditation Lecture” once a month at $35 dollars a pop, where students “learn how all meditations are good and how your thoughts are an essential part of the process.”
Psychological thought is the root of all evil and much illness. Therefore one’s thoughts are an integral part of meditation inasmuch as attentively observing their movement ends the domination of thought in the brain, and deeply quiets thought altogether.
A psychiatrist without a deep insight into thought, ending its domination in his or her own brain on a daily basis, especially one who purports to teach meditation, is engaging in malpractice.
All meditation systems try to control and quell the noise of thought–the ‘monkey mind.’ But since methods and control are functions of thought, there is an inherent contradiction in using any technique to bring about a silent mind. One may be able to hypnotize the mind, but that certainly isn’t meditation.
Paradoxes can be appreciated, but contradictions have to be resolved. The basic intent of meditation is the quieting of thought, and the paradox is that one cannot make a goal and effort toward quieting mind, without contradicting the basic intent of meditation.
Systems and methods have nothing to do with meditation; indeed, they are antithetical to it. There is no method, no technique, system, ritual or practice that can awaken a true meditative state. Initiating the movement of negation is the only action necessary.
But what initiates the movement of negation? If one listens and watches for its own sake, having deeply learned the art of passive observation of the movement of thought/emotion, then attention gathers without effort or will. Attention alone then acts on the movement of the mind-as-thought, negating each thought and emotion as they arise. That unwilled action initiates the spontaneous movement of negation, which in turn quiets thought at all levels, to the great benefit of the brain and body.
Taking a half hour every day to sit quietly, letting the senses open and the body relax, and undividedly observing the movement of thought/emotion, has become essential to mental and emotional health.
Minimal order in the mind is essential for meditation to occur. I find that jotting problems and plans down as they come to mind, and setting them aside for the duration of the sitting, orders the mind, opens the senses, and increases the spaces between thoughts.
Meditation is never willed; it spontaneously ignites when one learns and applies daily the art of passive, undivided observation. Conflict and violence can be directly observed within oneself, without the screen of judgment, knowledge, and words. And in such seeing, there is insight and understanding.
Negating the observer is the sine qua non of meditation, since meditation simply can’t begin until the deeply habitual mechanism of the observer lets go of its illusory separateness and control. The observer is an infinite regression—the more you pursue it, the further it recedes. That’s because the pursuer is the pursued.
Therefore one simply lets the entire movement of thought/emotion flow into inclusive, undirected awareness, unimpeded by judgment, goal, and effort. That’s why passive watchfulness is essential, because it allows awareness to grow quicker than thought and catch the mind-as-thought in the act of splitting off from itself.
Psychology doesn’t deal with the cultural sources of much of the mental and emotional illness in modern society, but is obsessively individualistic in its orientation and approach. But being well adapted to a sick society is no sign of health.
The question, it seems to me, is not the premise the psychiatric industry presently operates under—how can we help the individual adapt to and function in society? But rather, how can we help the individual become mindful of themselves and the cultural influences upon them, and attain health and wholeness, and thereby no longer contribute to an increasingly toxic culture?