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Psychotherapy Without the Self: A Buddhist Perspective | [Mark Epstein]

Psychotherapy Without the Self: A Buddhist Perspective

Immersed in Buddhist psychology prior to studying Western psychiatry, Dr. Mark Epstein first viewed Western therapeutic approaches through the lens of the East. This posed something of a challenge. Although both systems promise liberation through self-awareness, the central tenet of Buddha's wisdom is the notion of no-self, while the central focus of Western psychotherapy is the self. This book wrestles with the complex relationship between Buddhism and psychotherapy.
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Publisher's Summary

Immersed in Buddhist psychology prior to studying Western psychiatry, Dr. Mark Epstein first viewed Western therapeutic approaches through the lens of the East. This posed something of a challenge. Although both systems promise liberation through self-awareness, the central tenet of Buddha's wisdom is the notion of no-self, while the central focus of Western psychotherapy is the self. This book, which includes writings from the past 25 years, wrestles with the complex relationship between Buddhism and psychotherapy and offers nuanced reflections on therapy, meditation, and psychological and spiritual development.

A best-selling author and popular speaker, Epstein has long been at the forefront of the effort to introduce Buddhist psychology to the West. His unique background enables him to serve as a bridge between the two traditions, which he has found to be more compatible than at first thought. Engaging with the teachings of the Buddha as well as those of Freud and Winnicott, he offers a compelling look at desire, anger, and insight and helps reinterpret the Buddha's Four Noble Truths and central concepts such as egolessness and emptiness in the psychoanalytic language of our time.

The book is published by Yale University Press.

©2007 Mark Epstein (P)2012 Redwood Audiobooks

What the Critics Say

"Required reading for anyone interested in understanding concepts like narcissism, integration, unintegration, and liberation. . . . Highly recommended." (Choice)

"One of the most rewarding books I have read in some time." (The Bloomsbury Review)

"Psychotherapy without the Self has the odd effect of lightness: Burdens long carried seem to drop away as you read." (Los Angeles Times)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Constant reader New Jersey 10-07-12
    Constant reader New Jersey 10-07-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Challenging and Enlightening"

    True, this is not light listening. Often intellectually dense, it's a collection of articles and essays written over several years, arranged chronologically, and unfortunately the earliest pieces, right at the beginning of the book, are the ones with the most technical language, written for an academic audience before Epstein's writing style had gotten past the doctoral dissertation stage. ***But hang in there!*** As the book progresses, the style lightens up and the concepts get easier to understand.

    And what concepts! Epstein is the point man in the investigation of the intersection of Freudian psychotherapy and Buddhist meditative practice. There's just no one else who has thought about the subject so deeply and personally explored it so extensively. And he does it with a deep respect for both perspectives, knocking down many of the myths about both that prevent people from taking advantage of them.

    Some highlights:

    • Freud recommended a specific listening method for therapists, "evenly suspended attention" … essentially the same wide-open, non-judging, non-interpreting approach as mindfulness meditation. But the instruction was too steep for his disciples to follow, and they immediately dumbed it down, even distorting the English translation of his phrasing.

    • Epstein goes deep into the Buddhist concept of "emptiness" and incisively describes the many ways it's misunderstood — in particular, how the narcissist, the depressive, etc., each tend to distort the concept to shore up their neurosis instead of letting it go.

    • Epstein also introduces the work of the child psychologist Winnicott, who was new to me, and who brings in very exciting stuff about the playful, open mind of the child and its equivalence to the playful, open mind of the artist, and the "beginner's mind" of Zen.

    Much credit goes to the narrator. Sluyter does an outstanding job of vocally breaking down what could otherwise sound like forbiddingly abstract concepts, infusing the material with clarity and energy.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jill Zimmer 12-30-12
    Jill Zimmer 12-30-12

    MFT Intern, Indiana I enjoy the perks of technology and Audible as a daily commuter!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not for the Road"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Different narrator


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    I didn't get to that part. I was very disappointed. I am a MAMFT atudent at a seminary. I am not a Christian, and wanted a sense of providing clinical therapy from a buddhist perspective. I would read this book to give it a second chance, but i would return the audible book. The hour in which i listened to the book sounded like a dissertation. Not something I need to listen to on the interstate at 6am. I know, from listening to Brain Rules, and Aging as a Spiritual Practice (see reviews) that a narrator can make or break a book, and the best books are those that 'teach' well about difficult subjects. In other words, you can't wait to hear the next chapter! This audible book appeared to lack both advantages, and I need to emphasize that fact. There is a big difference betweem writing a dissertation and writing a book for a general population, no matter if the topic is interesting. If it is not presented for the audience to understand; re-think the stance.


    What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

    I did not like the performance.


    What character would you cut from Psychotherapy Without the Self: A Buddhist Perspective?

    This is not a work of fiction.


    Any additional comments?

    The historic summary of 'western' Buddhism is interesting, and a good explanation of how Americans often abberate belief systems to fit their own mold of secular 'spirituality' , removing authenticity of a very honorable philosophy and way of life.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. Hoyt Glen Burnie, MD 09-20-12
    C. Hoyt Glen Burnie, MD 09-20-12 Member Since 2011

    Tree-Hugger

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    "Reads like a Medical Journal"

    If you are medical professional, you may enjoy this. I'm not, and did not make it past the first chapter. It's like the authors got paid to use the word narcism and narcissist as many times as they could. You'd think with a history in Buddhism, the author would have found a way to speak simply. I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but this was not written to communicate to the masses. I was constantly asking myself, what the hell is he talking about? This book is meant for print, so you can reread sentences, not an audible book.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
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