Transference - what to do

Mo O, modified 12 Years ago at 2/22/10 6:52 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 2/22/10 6:51 PM

Transference - what to do

Post: 1 Join Date: 2/22/10 Recent Posts
MCTB advises yogis to focus on technique vs content. If one has trauma from childhood which routinely come up in meditation, does the advise to focus on technique vs content still apply ? I have been experiencing transference in my sittings, I practice regularly at a meditation center with resident monks, all the feelings(anger/rage, lust and etc) that I have from childhood is transfered to this monk who has the capability to read mind, it is extremely embarassing to be experiencing all these emotions knowing full well that the monk reads mind. The obsessive emotions are very strong and as much as possible, I have been trying to overcome them with effort, sometimes this works and sometimes not. Does one need to deal with issues from childhood eventually while walking this path ? What is the recommended way of dealing with it ? Seeing the help of a psychologist ? Is it possible to overcome the trauma from the past on one's own through sitting meditation ?

Any advise is deeply appreciated.
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boeuf f, modified 12 Years ago at 2/22/10 7:41 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 2/22/10 7:41 PM

RE: Transference - what to do

Posts: 60 Join Date: 2/4/10 Recent Posts
I don't think meditation alone is so great for dealing with trauma. Its better to separate out some of this work. Let therapy clear the space for better meditation and meditation clear the space for better therapy.

In the words of Jack Kornfield:

There are many areas of growth (grief and other unfinished business, communication and maturing of relationships, sexuality and intimacy, career and work issues, certain fears and phobias, early wounds, and more) where good Western therapy is on the whole much quicker and more successful than meditation. These crucial aspects of our being can’t just be written off as "personality stuff." Freud said he wanted to help people to love and work. If we can’t love well and give meaningful work to the Earth, then what is our spiritual practice for ? Meditation can help in these areas. But if, after sitting for a while, you discover that you still have work to do, find a good therapist or some other way to effectively address these issues.


The rest of this article is here: http://www.buddhanet.net/psymed1.htm
Greg G, modified 12 Years ago at 2/23/10 12:26 AM
Created 12 Years ago at 2/23/10 12:25 AM

RE: Transference - what to do

Posts: 5 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Mo,

During retreats or practice, IMO its better to just note whatever comes up as "seeing", "feeling"," lust", "anger", "embarassed", "guilt" etc. Don't attach values to them one way or another, but if you do note it.

One problem I have seen in retreats is that meditators may have good insights into problems and their origins, but it's not the point of the practice. During meditation, notice what arises first regarding these childhood incidents. Did you visualize some event from the past? Then "Seeing, Seeing, Seeing". If we are not mindful, or we get into the content, then a series of things happen very quickly and we miss them. For me it may be seeing a picture of an event first, then anger at the event, then replaying it visually again and it goes over and over. Just "seeing", "anger" or whatever. See if you can take everything at arms length and watch it. Sometimes the repetitive cycles get frustrating and sometimes you can laugh at the process also. Note everything you can. I would advise not to try to overcome anything through effort just note it. if you start analyzing then note "analyzing". This is easier said then done though. We attach to the traumatic incidents and they are difficult to not get caught up in the content over and over and over.

I do know its possible to overcome traumas through practice, but I would never recommend it as a way to deal with trauma. Doing both practice and therapy will probably get you there faster.,
Susan Law, modified 12 Years ago at 2/23/10 12:20 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 2/23/10 12:20 PM

RE: Transference - what to do

Posts: 25 Join Date: 9/27/09 Recent Posts
Mo O:
MCTB advises yogis to focus on technique vs content. If one has trauma from childhood which routinely come up in meditation, does the advise to focus on technique vs content still apply ? I have been experiencing transference in my sittings, I practice regularly at a meditation center with resident monks, all the feelings(anger/rage, lust and etc) that I have from childhood is transfered to this monk who has the capability to read mind, it is extremely embarassing to be experiencing all these emotions knowing full well that the monk reads mind. The obsessive emotions are very strong and as much as possible, I have been trying to overcome them with effort, sometimes this works and sometimes not. Does one need to deal with issues from childhood eventually while walking this path ? What is the recommended way of dealing with it ? Seeing the help of a psychologist ? Is it possible to overcome the trauma from the past on one's own through sitting meditation ?

Any advise is deeply appreciated.


I think the previous replies are very good. I'll just add my two cents. My own childhood was quite traumatic, and I still have the effects of it to deal with, though I've freed myself from a lot of it. I do believe that it's very important to deal with these issues. As long as they are there, they can work like filters to color/distort all one's experience and perceptions. When you know about them you can at least factor them into your understanding, but even better is to find ways to really deal with them and get rid of them.

Whether all this can be handled just using meditation, I don't know - I have friends that think so, and maybe with a really good guide it would be possible. But especially regarding the effects of trauma, therapists can very helpful, and are probably the quickest way to deal with this. What is essential is to find a therapist who is both competent and respectful of your spiritual work. On the other side, you need to be working with a spiritual guide who understands that a therapist might help and also wouldn't interfere with your practice. This is a balance that is not so easy to find.

As for your own situation - during meditation it's natural for memories to come up, and all sorts of disturbing emotions. One aspect of practice is that it is purifying - so it tends to bring this stuff up - in a way, that's what should happen. It's a great opportunity to eventually work to some sort of healing and resolution of the underlying causes, but that's not quick, and it's often painful. And you need the right help and support.

Many western Dharma students that I know have a tendency to make their spiritual guide into a father (or mother) figure, a symbol of authority, and a pseudo-therapist in addition to their spiritual role. This creates problems and doesn't really work. The students are too inexperienced to know that such projections are inaccurate and sometimes the teacher doesn't recognize it either - and may accept a role and power that he or she is not equipped to handle.
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boeuf f, modified 12 Years ago at 2/23/10 12:21 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 2/23/10 12:21 PM

RE: Transference - what to do

Posts: 60 Join Date: 2/4/10 Recent Posts
One therapy tip: for healing trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD--it's very real!), look for a therapist who practices EMDR therapy--EMDR is not unlike a guided meditation practice. It's very effective. It shouldn't be too hard to find an EMDR therapist who also understands/practices meditation.
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Daniel M Ingram, modified 12 Years ago at 2/24/10 3:18 AM
Created 12 Years ago at 2/24/10 3:18 AM

RE: Transference - what to do

Posts: 3231 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
I agree with the comments above also.

If your psychological stuff is swamping your mediation practice, go deal with it in contexts that are designed for that, i.e. the psychotherapeutic modalities. Good therapy is a good thing.

When you have dealt with enough of that to practice well, go back to your insight practice.
J Adam G, modified 12 Years ago at 2/25/10 3:28 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 2/25/10 3:28 PM

RE: Transference - what to do

Posts: 286 Join Date: 9/15/09 Recent Posts
Just one more addition here: the standard "just keep observing the bare experience instead of content" advice most definitely applies to your experience. However, the idea behind that advice is that effective, non-content-based insight practice is the only cure for suffering related to lack of insight. If the aversive feelings become too strong for you to effectively practice, or if it seems like you're frying your brain with too much negativity, metta practice is one of the most commonly used techniques to calm the aversion and allow you to resume effective vipassana practice. You could actually use any of the 4 brahma viharas, but metta is the one used most commonly, especially for aversion.

Note that by "effective practice," I don't mean that you can't effectively observe painful things, of course. It's just that pain can become so strong that you can't even get the moment-to-moment concentration which is the bare minimum for insight practice, and/or it can make you want to give up on the meditation session or retreat. If that's happening, it's far better to displace the pain and strengthen your concentration with metta than to either give up, or sit and run your brain through a meat processor.

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