Escaping the ‘Monkey Trap’: How Might Psychotherapists Utilise Buddhist Approaches Towards Cultivating Non-attachment Within Psychotherapeutic Practise?
This literature review explores psychotherapeutic and Buddhist psychological approaches to non-attachment as the means of working with attachment and identification. Although both psychotherapy and Buddhist psychology are united in the view that attachments and identification are central to suffering, differences are evident in the way in which each discipline views the role of attachment and identification in terms of their contribution to suffering, and also in the way in which a release from such suffering might be facilitated. Psychotherapy views identification and attachment as having both positive and negative attributes in their contribution to the development of a healthy sense of self. In contrast, Buddhist psychology views all identification as problematic as a result of its contribution to the creation of fixation with a deluded sense of self. Whilst not dismissing the value of attachment, Buddhist psychology does, however, view the motivations behind an individual’s attachments as the cause of suffering. In this context, particular attention is paid to identifications with the self, with past or with others that harm the client’s health and wellbeing. The writer suggests that helping clients to let go of fixed identifications (or attachments) will help them to create space for a new, freer and healthier experience of self and other within the psychotherapeutic relationship and beyond. This process of letting go (non-attachment) may have particular relevance in regard to how psychotherapists might work toward the alleviation of client’s suffering through the alteration of their mental experience of self, other, and objects (identification), and the reduction of their fixation with or ”clinging” to emotional content (attachment). It is in this way that Buddhist psychology offers the possibility of augmenting psychotherapy in the resolution of client suffering (Dockett, Dudley-Grant & Bankart, 2003) through assisting the individual to move beyond their notion of self, into the freedom of selflessness, encounter with the other, and non-attachment.