Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Engler on the ego, psychodynamics and Buddhism

Engler from Psychoanalysis and Buddhism:

"The first point I wanted to make [...] was that it takes certain ego capacities just to practice meditation or any spiritual practice. [...] Psychologically, this kind of practice [vipassana] strengthens fundamental ego capacities, particularly the capacities for self-observation and affect tolerance. It also increases the synthetic capacity of the ego. [...] 'Transcending the ego' [...] has no meaning to a psychodynamically oriented therapist for whom 'ego' is a collective term designating the regulatory and integrative functions" (36).

Engler goes on to note that some forms of meditation uncover psychodynamic processes but that in itself doesn't facilitate insight into them. The meditative traditions often discourage working with such contents, instead seeing them as manifestations of delusion (43-4). It seems the same is thought of the 'ego' when see as just an illusion (bathwater), hence little effort was put into its other and non-illusory aspects (baby) necessary for  healthy functioning.

"Traditional Buddhist meditation manuals don't mention these [psychodynamic] issues. Systematic Buddhist psychology (Abhidhamma) lists fifty-two mental factors defining discrete states of consciousness [....] But there is no mention of [...] depression, no mention of mental illness as we understand it or of psychiatric disorders. No mention of personality, family or relationship issues as such" (45).

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