The psychological models

Kenny Whitman, modified 7 Years ago.

The psychological models

Posts: 17 Join Date: 5/23/13 Recent Posts
I am reading MCBT for the first time, I haven't achieved stream entry and have no in depth knowledge of any of the models.

That said, I have just read the section on the psychological models and wonder if the experiences I have had suggest that there could be more to the psychological models than this section suggests. Of course it is possible that the beneficial effects have been somewhat down played to balance the over playing in some of the traditional sources?

In my experience, at times when I have been all caught up with content and my image of self I have been prone to the most selfish and unpleasant behavior. This has had a tendency to cause so much suffering as to force me back to my Buddhist practices and a letting go of this self image somewhat. At times when I can see to some degree, the behavioral patterns that stem from conditioning and my self image I seem to be far more capable of not being caught up in them and choosing far more moral actions.

That said I am easily as capable of stupid as anyone else, at the best of times! And I am also aware that at these times of clarity, where the old patterns can be side stepped, a new infinite potential of actions becomes possible, these obviously including actions far worse than the initial conditioning would have dictated. In honesty the first time I experienced this my actions did indeed end up getting worse due to naivety, which resulted in another trip to the dark night. For me though this was like a real time lesson in karma and why the recommended morality instructions are what they are (8 fold path / precepts).

My gut feeling is that Buddhism is about more than just seeing things as they truly are, but that morality and peace of mind are also fundamentally important, also in gaining the stillness to be able to grow concentration skill and witness insights. At times when I have started to get somewhere with this stillness my stuff has significantly lessened in that it has not gone anywhere, but it is the stuff of me as an individual but I don't see an individual upon which to pin it, if that makes sense? And the worsening behavior that I mentioned above was actually linked to a growing boredom within this stillness and a growing sense of an individual who was bored and so someone upon which to pin the stuff.

All that waffle boils down to the fact that my gut is telling me that there are benefits to be had emotionally from Buddhist practice, although obviously we don't stop being human. What do people think? Have I misunderstood the section?
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Ian And, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: The psychological models

Posts: 782 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hello Kenneth,

For the sake of clarity, are we to assume that the section you are referring to here (since it has not been specifically indicated) is the one beginning on page 234 titled: The Limited Emotional Range And Limited Possible Action Models?

If so, my commentary to follow.

Kenny Whitman:

That said, I have just read the section on the psychological models and wonder if the experiences I have had suggest that there could be more to the psychological models than this section suggests. Of course it is possible that the beneficial effects have been somewhat down played to balance the over playing in some of the traditional sources?

In my experience, at times when I have been all caught up with content and my image of self I have been prone to the most selfish and unpleasant behavior. This has had a tendency to cause so much suffering as to force me back to my Buddhist practices and a letting go of this self image somewhat.

At times when I can see to some degree, the behavioral patterns that stem from conditioning and my self image I seem to be far more capable of not being caught up in them and choosing far more moral actions.

That said I am easily as capable of stupid as anyone else, at the best of times! And I am also aware that at these times of clarity, where the old patterns can be side stepped, a new infinite potential of actions becomes possible, these obviously including actions far worse than the initial conditioning would have dictated. In honesty the first time I experienced this my actions did indeed end up getting worse due to naivety, which resulted in another trip to the dark night. For me though this was like a real time lesson in karma and why the recommended morality instructions are what they are (8 fold path / precepts).

My gut feeling is that Buddhism is about more than just seeing things as they truly are, but that morality and peace of mind are also fundamentally important, also in gaining the stillness to be able to grow concentration skill and witness insights.

At times when I have started to get somewhere with this stillness my stuff has significantly lessened in that it has not gone anywhere, but it is the stuff of me as an individual but I don't see an individual upon which to pin it, if that makes sense? And the worsening behavior that I mentioned above was actually linked to a growing boredom within this stillness and a growing sense of an individual who was bored and so someone upon which to pin the stuff.

All that waffle boils down to the fact that my gut is telling me that there are benefits to be had emotionally from Buddhist practice, although obviously we don't stop being human. What do people think? Have I misunderstood the section?

First, a clarification of terms from my standpoint. It may seem like a trivial point for some, and therefore not worth pointing out, yet for me there is a distinction between referring to "Buddhist" practices on the one hand and referring to the practice of the Dhamma as proposed by the discourses of Gotama on the other. Some may wish to conflate the two (unable to see the distinction), however, I do not! Yet, for the sake of consistency, I will concede the fact that when referring superficially to "Buddhist practices" you also mean to refer to what Gotama taught in the discourses, even though these two understandings may diverge in various places.

There is a distinct difference in what the various schools (Theravada Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, and Tibetan Buddhism or Vajrayana being the main schools) which developed after the death of Gotama propose and teach as opposed to the teachings that Gotama originally proposed and provided in his discourses available in the Pali translations. Although there are many parallels to be found within these two distinctions (lumping together the three main Buddhist schools into one distinction, even though there are obvious differences within each of these schools themselves) which none of the schools will deny and all will agree upon in conjunction with the original presentation, the difference in interpretation is what strikes one between the Buddhist schools and what I refer to as Gotama's Dhamma.

The fact that you have expressed the following:

[indent]" wonder if the experiences I have had suggest that there could be more to the psychological models than this section suggests."[/indent]
...suggests that you have stopped to take a closer look at these issues from the standpoint of your personal experience and have discovered some discrepancies. If so, that is, in my opinion, proof of a more mature interpretation and realization of the material itself, and one which is to be congratulated.

The reason I can make that statement is because of the following admission:

[indent]"At times when I can see to some degree, the behavioral patterns that stem from conditioning and my self image I seem to be far more capable of not being caught up in them and choosing far more moral actions."[/indent]
This is exactly what needs to occur if one is to mature into the practice that was originally recommended by Gotama in the discourses. It also evidences, to my way of thinking at least, the truth in the statement that "seeing things as they actually are" is the first step on the road to alleviating dukkha in one's life. Being able to see this conditioning of the mind "for what it is" and "choosing far more moral actions" is key to the cessation of dukkha. This brings about a fundamental change in the individual's self perception which can have a lasting effect as long as mindfulness is maintained.

Further proof of psychological and spiritual maturity of view is found in the following statement:

[indent]"My gut feeling is. . .that morality and peace of mind are also fundamentally important, also in gaining the stillness to be able to grow concentration skill and witness insights."[/indent]
Rather than being caught up in focusing on the attainment of this or that stage or level of enlightenment (stream entry, sakadagami, anagami, or arahant), it demonstrates an interest in the discovery of the very nuts and bolts of the process behind the cessation of dukkha. When you can keep your eye on the prize, that is when things become interesting, and real progress is being made.

The following insight evidences that the deeper you take this, the more it will become your prevailing viewpoint:

[indent]"At times when I have started to get somewhere with this stillness my stuff has significantly lessened in that it has not gone anywhere, but it is the stuff of me as an individual but I don't see an individual upon which to pin it..."[/indent]
For this points toward the main insight that Gotama preached about: anatta or the "without self" nature of our perception of reality. Once you have arrived here, there is nowhere else to go beyond. As Gotama said: "What I make known is just suffering and the cessation of suffering."

So, from the point of view being expressed here, I would have to agree "that there are benefits to be had emotionally from Buddhist practice...." And more than initially meets the casual observer's eye!

In peace,
Ian
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: The psychological models

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
I, for one, agree totally that there are many significant emotional benefits to be had from the various practices, Buddhist, Buddha's, or whatever: most of them if not all of them are likely to produce various benefits regarding emotions, some of which are mentioned in MCTB, if you read it carefully, and include:

1) Temporary surpression of the emotions in the concentration states, with a nice, lingering afterglow even once they end that can cause the mind to be much more clear, quiet, peaceful, etc.

2) A great increase in the ability to see thoughts as thoughts, pains as pains, and to see things in their proper perspective both in terms of intensity and the amount of the wide field of reality that they actually occupy and for how long, leading to an increased ability for the mind to keep its keel straight and true while sailing those waters rather than capsizing at the lightest zephyr, as is so common in the untrained and unclear mind.

3) A great increase in meta-cognitive abilities, meaning those that recognize mind states and emotions and the like as being what they are as they arise, such that even when they do, there can be more and more of the mental faculty that is not caught up in them, leading to further chances of things going much better.

4) A true re-routing of some of the hardwiring of consciousness and the way emotions work, such that, when some stimuli arise that might in the past have gone down one channel that was unskillfully emotive, they now simply, harmlessly and automatically dive down another, which can be just like grounding out a lightening bolt: just drops to earth and is gone. This is one of the most fun things to feel as a result of dharma practice, I think, and there are a whole lot of fun things to feel in the world of dharma practice.

5) An appreciation of something that might be termed a certain sweetness or wondrousness even in unpleasant aspects of reality, such that, while they might be unpleasant and even very strong, there is yet something that is not bad about them. The limits of this may vary in regards to how heavy-duty a set of sensations it can handle, but nonetheless, the effect can be real past a certain point, and it helps a lot.

6) Even the standard training in Morality, in which we cultivate wholesome states of mind consciously and wholesome actions, this itself, both before and beyond things related to meditative attainments, can really help change the mind's conditioning and increase psychological and emotional well-being, as well as personal and interpersonal outcomes.

This is not a complete list, but it is a good start, anyway. I suspect Ian would agree with it, even if we don't always agree on everything, but perhaps he will chime in with commentary on it. ;)

You are right in some ways about the tactic that is behind that chapter, it being to counterbalance some strains of "Buddhism" that are so heavily influenced and basically dedicated to Western Pop Psychology rather than careful sensate investigation and traditional attainments.

Practically, so many people practice with aversion to their emotions rather than simple, brave, careful, inquisitive investigation of those processes as sensate processes, noticing their causes, effects, impersonality, transience, suffering, and the like. Thus, by not promising total emotional sanitization, people hopefully will practice with a model that is less about denial, suppression and imitating some imagined emotionally perfected state, and instead go for something that is much more about clarity, honesty and recognition of basic sensate truths, as it is those that lead to some of the best emotional outcomes from the above list.

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