Earlier this year I took a Psychology class at Antioch University as a personal interest alongside our MA.
For a few years I’ve been meeting psychotherapists and psychiatrists who are starting to recognise somatic practices – particularly yoga and meditation – as powerful tools in their therapeutic toolbox. Many of them are training to become yoga teachers so that they can offer their clients something beyond talking therapy, medication or any of the other healing modalities found in the clinical setting. I’m trying to do things the other way round, and to bring what I know about the healing properties of somatic practices into my understanding of psychotherapy.
Part of our research in the psychology course was learning about the work and advancements of the western world’s most prominent psychoanalysts and therapists. Each week we surveyed the contributions of maybe 20 key (white, male) theorists and their personality theories, the acceptance of which have been largely responsible for our private, clinical-based treatment of the self in western culture.
What struck me, as I was reading up on Albert Ellis – an American psychoanalyst of the 1940s who developed Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy as a way to engage his client’s sense of responsibility for their thoughts, deeds and actions – is that his theories on positive psychology and thinking, of reframing negative thoughts and cultivating deep self awareness all stem from early Indian yoga philosophies, namely those of the late Hatha and early Buddhist period.
In fact, not only did Ellis seemingly appropriate early spiritual psychology’s understanding of the observer and the observed but he also understood just what yoga philosophy at a later date developed: namely that our world, our reality, is shaped by our thoughts and that the world ‘out there’ is a pure reflection of the world within. He understood too what neurosis and mental affliction are caused by: namely an inability to separate one’s self from one’s thought processes; an over-reliance on the idea that we are separate and independent from others rather than part of an interconnected whole; and attachment to the pain of the past as correlative proof of a doomed future. Drawing directly, it seems, from the lessons of the Bhagavad Gita, Ellis asserts that the key to happiness is to act, to be involved and driven in one’s life and to relinquish the idea of having absolute control over everything.
Ellis’ Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy (REBT) has an ABC of procedures that are viewed in successive order when working with a client: Continue reading