Continuing with our discussion of world religions and proposed antidotes for depression today we will again focus on Buddhism. This is the second in a series.
“Buddhist teachings provide very good antidote for people suffering from depression. “Morita Therapy” is a well known example of applying Buddhism, especially Zen Buddhism, to psychotherapy. Morita Therapy is a therapeutic technique developed by the Japanese Psychologist Shoma Morita (1874-1938).
One of the main concepts of Morita psychotherapy is the following:
Desire for life, according to Morita, the basic force of human being is the strong desire for life. The converse of this is the fear of death, both being aspects of the same force. The efforts of human beings to lead a fulfilled life are all manifestations of the desire for life. At the same time a manifestation of desire for life is the tendency to fear curtailments and threat’s to one’s well being; Morita calls this tendency “hypochrondical basic tone”. This tendency is common to all human beings, but in introverted and very sensitive persons, this can be a starting point of a process which finally ends in depression and neurosis.
Psychic interaction: if attention is paid to some sensation, the sensation becomes very sharp, and by mutual interaction of sensation and attention, the sensation will become more and more excessive. This is kind of vicious circle which grows out of being prepossessed with one’s over sensitiveness, for example, sad feelings, hopelessness, fear, distraction, insomnia and so on.
Self: suggestion: self suggestion helps to fix a problem in the form of a symptom through formation of a conviction that, for example, blushing is abnormal, and endless repetition of this conviction, so that rational reflection is excluded. This free-floating attention, a main characteristic of health and productive person, is lost, and attention is always fixed on the same ideas.
Contradiction of thought: sensations and feelings are an integral part of human life; they arise, reach their climax and vanish. The inclination to contrast a present feeling or sensation with the ideal state, and trying hard to realize this ideal state instead of pursuing the task at hand, is called contradiction of thought by Morita. Contradiction of thought, aided by self-suggestion, works together in the formation of neurosis and depression.
To be as one is: “this means that if he feels depressed, he accepts his feeling of depression. If he feels anxious, he accepts the feelings of anxiety. Rather than direct his attention to his feeling state, he instead directs his efforts toward living his life well.”
SOURCE: The Proceedings of the XVIII International Conference, organized by the Pontifical Council for Health pastoral Care. DEPRESSION, (2003) Pages 113-119. The Perspective of Buddhism.