As the Buddha is known to have said,’I teach suffering and the end of suffering’. If so, then there is hope for all of us who have incarnated in this physical realm. To end suffering is to become one with peace and happiness. Why not seek it?
A relatively new branch of psychology, Positive Psychology seeks to do just that. It has its roots in the Cognitive Psychology movement, promoted by Ellis and Beck in the 1960’s and 70’s. It was seen as a radical departure from Freudian analysis as well as the strict determinism of behaviorism.
Cognitive Therapy offered the possibility of healing depression and anxiety without resorting to drugs or electroshock therapy. It’s premise was based on the notion that our thoughts or cognition could influence our emotions. Again, this was disputed by many. But more than a quarter century of practice and research has demonstrated its efficacy.
There have always been individuals who innately knew how to ‘talk’ themselves through trying times. Positive self-talk is the basis of changing one’s outlook on one’s life. And it is our mind’s interpretation of the events of our lives which may very well determine our suffering or happiness.
Researchers in Positive Psychology such as Seligman, Peterson, Haight, Csikszentmihalyi and others have ‘proven’ through extensive interviewing and compilation of data what spiritual teaching have always promoted, the benefit of positive thinking and attitudes. More significantly, they offer ways to actually alter our levels of happiness through cognitive awareness, change our interpretation of our experiences and create a positive self-image which leads not only to happiness and contentment but physical health and longevity.
I believe it is possible to more fully integrate the spiritual teachings of the past with the scientific studies of Positive Psychology in order to evolve a Meta-cognitive healing method.
Kabbalisitc notions of reality offer us an image of mankind as a healer of the imperfections within himself and of the universe around us. Tikkun offers us the opportunity to co-create and continue to create a more spiritual universe. Mankind is challenged to find the holy sparks which reside within all of creation. We are not useless, insignificant sinners awaiting the maw of hell. We are capable of realizing our inner divinity through our actions.
This is an empowering and ultimately healing notion which can bring us satisfaction and happiness.
Buddhism offers us a path to end suffering as well. Recognize the illusions to which mankind is attached: materialism, power, ego gratification, success and competition. Releasing these attachments brings inner peace and happiness. Extending compassion to all beings heals us as well as the world as well. It teaches meditative practices which allow us to witness the dark emotions of fear, grief and despair. This is a process which allows us to face their reality and to grow from such experiences. This awareness is key to finding joy.
Other spiritual approaches such as that of Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin recognize that we are ‘spiritual beings having a human experience’. This, too, imbues us with a deeper understanding of the difficulties of human existence. It allows us to transcend the suffering which surrounds us by recognizing our true nature. Having a metaphysical understanding of the nature of the universe is crucial in order to transcend sadness and suffering.
Positive psychology energizes us to recognize that adversity, suffering is universal but that our mind holds the key to transcending it. How we interpret our life experiences, whether we are pessimists or optimists, makes all the difference in terms of our suffering. If we regard failure as temporary, if we see circumstances as not totally our doing, if we can rationalize that we are capable, intelligent and worthwhile individuals despite failure, we can summon the energy to move on. If can regard setbacks as opportunities for learning, we can find success as well as happiness.
Whether we are paralyzed or energized by fear is strictly the consequence of our mind’s interpretation of adversity. Fear is the most powerful emotion we can and do experience. We can learn to manipulate to our advantage–once we realize that we can do so!
A powerful method is to actively argue with ourselves over our negative self-beliefs. Imagine what a good friend would say to you if you failed at work, a relationship, an examination. They would emphasize your strong points, your good character, your honorable approach to life, perhaps. They would defend you against those who ‘hurt’ you and encourage you to learn from the experience and move on. They would predict future success as well, regardless of the disappointment and hurt.
Well, we should remember this. We should be our own best friends. Self-love does not have to be obnoxious or delusional.
The best way to analyze this Meta-Cognitive Healing is to try it and observe how our lives evolve. If we are too reluctant to recognize our inner worth, unable to talk ourselves through our fears, we will not progress and become content and at peace. Likewise, if we exaggerate our self-worth and fail to learn from our adversity, we will also fail to progress towards ultimate success and happiness.
At any rate, it is worth a try.