An Investigation into the Compatibility of Existential-Humanistic Psychotherapy and Buddhist Meditation
The purpose of this theoretical study was to investigate the potential compatibility of existential-humanistic psychotherapy and Buddhist meditation as they are practiced in the contemporary Western world. The fundamental philosophies and practices of Buddhist meditation, drawn from Tibetan, Zen, and Vipassana sources in Western publication, were presented. The principles and practices of existential-humanistic psychotherapy, represented by the works of May, Rogers, and Maslow, were next brought forth. After these presentations, the major ideologies and techniques of each discipline were compared and contrasted, with a view toward examining their essential similarities and significant points of departure. Following this examination, contemporary practices in the synthesis of existential-humanistic psychotherapy and Buddhist meditation were discussed as they exist in current usage in therapeutic situations. The voices of persons expressing opposition to a synthesis of Buddhist meditation and existential-humanistic psychotherapy were also brought forth for consideration. It was found that a sequential approach, wherein psychotherapy precedes meditation, is of overall greater benefit to the client and to both the disciplines of psychotherapy and meditation, than a blended approach. Among the reasons cited for the favoring of a linear progression from psychotherapy to meditation is a respect for the developmental tasks of each individual. In this regard, it was noted that the existential-humanistic therapy tasks of self-identification, emotional contact and expression, ego-development, and increase in self-esteem are necessary before the individual can undertake, in a serious way, the Buddhist meditational tasks of dis-identification for emotional and egoic concerns. In this light, another advantage of the sequential approach is the opportunity provided for the individual to be sufficiently prepared and matured for the discipline of meditation, which is a journey toward higher realms of consciousness not generally obtainable in existential-humanistic psychotherapy. Additionally, it was shown that although Buddhist meditation and existential-humanistic psychotherapy perform corollary functions in the enhancement of individual well-being, the intensification of present awareness, and the lifting of repressedness, there are philosophical differences that are of such sufficient degree that a separation is deemed advisable. It was further seen that a clear distinction between the two disciplines maintains the full integrity and power of each to best accomplish its stated aims. It was noted that meditative practice offers the student specific skills that facilitate the attainment of a still mind, a state of inner harmony, and a transformation and transcendence of the concerns of the pyschotherapeutic level of development.