Digging Deeper

[...] sometimes I feel that clients' complaints are similar to koans, at least for the therapist. One of the famous koans is: "Bringing both hands together quickly produces a clap. What is the sound with one hand?" It is obvious to anyone that you don't get the answer by rational thinking.

It seems as though a koan is given to create an opportunity to allow the whole person to relate to deeper consciousness, instead of relying on the superficial consciousness.

Let's think about this, using the example of a symptom that a client complains about. It is not possible to resolve this by rational thinking. Then the therapist asks for the client's free associations or for the client to focus on dreams. This means giving up looking for resolution from superficial consciousness and searching for the answer from one's depths. Both koan and symptom function similarly here.

However, in some mild case of hysteria, the client's complex or conflict in the unconscious becomes readily conscious and thus comes to resolution. If we look at this according to the koan and the Buddhist ideas, the client was given the koan (the symptom) and abandoned it in the middle, not reaching the depths of the psyche but turning back to the other direction, helped by the therapist.

That is to say, the therapist's effort actually took away the rare opportunity for a satori experience.

I like to think this way at times: when a client suffers a symptom, it's meaningful to resolve it - but also not to resolve it. It all depends on following the person's process of individuation. I cannot help but become very cautious in a psychotherapy session.

Of course, the conscious appeal at the beginning is to resolve the symptom quickly, so we cannot forget about that. But I am facing the total being of the client and need to be cautious. My attitude needs to be flexible. Otherwise, I don't see the way the individuation process wants to go.

One's consciousness has to be as mobile as possible in order to move freely between the surface and the depths. Then one can see direction to go [...]

[Hayao Kawai]
Buddhism and the Art of Psychotherapy, p.131-2

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