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Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Eastern Thought

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This book explores the convergence of psychoanalysis and Asian thought. It explores key theoretical issues. What role does paradox play in psychological transformations? How can the oriental emphasis on attaining "no-self" be reconciled with the western emphasis on achieving an integrated self? The book also inquires into pragmatic questions concerning the nature of psychological change and the practice of psychotherapy. The Taoist I Ching is explored as a framework for understanding the therapeutic process. Principles from martial arts philosophy and strategy are applied to clinical work. Combining theoretical analyses, case studies, empirical data, literary references, and anecdotes, this book is intended for researchers as well as clinicians, and beginning students as well as scholars.
Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Eastern Thought
John Suler (SUNY Press, 1993)
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This book explores the convergence of psychoanalysis and Asian thought. It explores key theoretical
issues. What role does paradox play in psychological transformations? How can the oriental emphasis on
attaining "no-self" be reconciled with the western emphasis on achieving an integrated self? The book also
inquires into pragmatic questions concerning the nature of psychological change and the practice of
psychotherapy. The Taoist I Ching is explored as a framework for understanding the therapeutic process.
Principles from martial arts philosophy and strategy are applied to clinical work. Combining theoretical
analyses, case studies, empirical data, literary references, and anecdotes, this book is intended for
researchers as well as clinicians, and beginning students as well as scholars.
1. Introduction: Chasing Two Rabbits?
- how contemporary psychoanalysis (object relations theory, self
psychology) compares to Zen and Taoism - defining
"psychoanalysis" and "eastern thought" - methods for integrating
eastern and western ideas - obstacles to this pursuit - the need for
this pursuit
2. East Meets West
- the history of how psychoanalysis converged with eastern
thought - the selfobject relationships between these eastern and
western disciplines - common historical themes concerning
psychoanalysis and eastern thought
3. Self and No-Self
- the western emphasis on attaining "self" - the eastern emphasis
on attaining "no-self" - various models for resolving this apparent
disparity between east and west - facets of selfhood and no-self -
the interpenetration of self and no-self
4. Paradox
-the role of paradox in psychological and spiritual transformations
- the Zen koan - paradoxes within the intrapsychic world - the
self/other paradox - paradox as pointers - the paradox of the
willing self - beyond the realm of paradox
5. Words, Images, Things
- the role of representational systems (verbal, imagistic, enactive) in spiritual growth - the limitations of
language and concepts - mental imagery as transitional space in spiritual growth - the dynamics of form and
formlessness - grasping the ungraspable
6. Meditative Consciousness
- the intrapsychic mechanisms and types of meditation - the liabilities and therapeutics of meditation - the
clinician's contemplative experience - meditation in life context - the relationships and complementarity
between psychotherapy and meditation
7. Students, Teachers, and Their Relationship
- strengths and pathology in spiritual students - strengths and pathology in spiritual teachers - crazy wisdom
- the psychodynamics of the student/teacher relationship
8. The Therapist as Warrior
- comparing psychotherapy to the martial arts - the warrior philosophy - basic martial art concepts applied
to psychotherapy - the dynamics of hard and soft techniques - the clinician's and warrior's selfobject
connection to a transcendent realm
9. Tai Chi Images: The Tao of Psychotherapy
- relating the I Ching imagery system to psychotherapy - the meanings of the yin/yang symbol applied to
psychotherapy - the eight trigrams and psychotherapy - Taoist qualities of psychological transformations
10. Vision Quest
- the roots of the vision quest practice in eastern spirituality - the vision quest as a model of psychic
transformation - the psychodynamics of wandering, signs, and visions
Conclusion: The Future of East Meeting West
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... Relational psychoanalysts in particular tend to quote neuro-psychological research, in substantiating their claim to preverbal and non-verbal relational paradigms (see knoblauch, 1999, 2005, 2011, 2014). Furthermore, the unitary potential of their hypotheses has been gratuitously adopted and melded with mystical-religious propositions, and particularly with Buddhist propositions of intra-personal, interpersonal and unitive inter-connected reality (see Varela et al, 1993;Suler, 1993;Molino,1998;Magid, 2002;Epstein, 2001, andmost particularly -Alfano, 2006, for examples). ...
... In Elaborating on this theme and pursuing a similar theoretical thread, contemporary psychologist and inter-disciplinary scholar John Suler (1993) proposes that a " […] close look at the psychoanalytic view of how the mind works, at its deepest level, can parallel the Oriental view" (ibid, p. 6). He then goes on to quote Loewald's (1976) definition of primary processes, primary "[…] insofar as they are unitary […] undifferentiating and non-differentiating, unhampered by laws of contradiction […] and by the differentiation of […] subject and object. ...
... Concurring with ) Suler (1993 Psychotherapeutic effect and compassion is therefore enhancedrather than compromised -when cross-coded, utilizing verbal concepts, images and enactments. ...
... Principle five is centeredness;this means that the importance of the inner center (which may act as an anchor) may be seen as particularly critical in view of the constant change and uncertainty faced by managers. However it requires the manager to be flexible in her or his functioning but also have a strong center to which to gravitate (Suler, 1993). Principle six is the power of softness. ...
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