Psychotherapy without the ego
Author: M. Epstein
The spread of Buddhist spiritual traditions in the Western world has awakened in psychotherapeutic circles a profound interest in Eastern meditation practices that seem to share their same goal: liberation from psychic suffering through self-awareness. But simply adopting meditation as yet another therapeutic technique poses many problems, especially when one encounters the disconcerting notion of the non-existence of the ego, which is precisely the central assumption of Buddhist philosophy. For this reason, despite their curiosity, Buddhists and psychotherapists have mostly kept a cautious distance. Mark Epstein, meditator and psychotherapist, intends to facilitate the dialogue between the two disciplines, first of all clarifying the serious misunderstandings that prevent them from collaborating in a fruitful way. His considerations dispel many misconceptions about Buddhism (whether it is an escape from the world in search of a nihilistic annihilation into nothingness, or a regression to a childhood narcissistic state), but they also offer interesting parallels with psychoanalytic concepts such as Winnicott's false self and the fluctuating attention, advised by Freud to analysts, is very similar to the mindfulness of Buddhists.