Principle of Charity
Meditation vs Psychoanalysis: Which Offers the Best Path to Reduce Suffering?
What do we do with our mental suffering? From everyday anger and disappointments, to life defining moments of grief and pain, we are all dealing with our emotional life, much of which can be challenging. In this episode we are going to explore two great models - meditation and psychoanalysis, to look at what they have in common and how they differ.
Meditation, particularly mindfulness meditation, has made its way into the west and permeates so much of society these days. The catchphrase mindfulness has become a mantra for how we’re meant to approach everything, from how we eat to what we wear. But meditation itself asks us to do what many find unbearable. To simply sit and to become aware of our thoughts and feelings. In creating this little gap, their grip on us loosens.
This is generally where meditation stops. At a calmer, more peaceful, more ‘in control’ place. But Buddhism, the spiritual tradition we most associate with meditation, sees meditation as a key stone on the path to no less than spiritual enlightenment itself. A journey into the dissolution of the ego (in a traditional sense) and a return to a pure state of awareness.
Psychoanalysis comes from an entirely different tradition but strangely shares much overlap with meditation. It too asks us to stop, to listen to our inner voices, and to create a gap of analysis between ourselves and the forces that move and shake us so vigorously. It sees humans as a bundle of contradictory impulses with much of our deep self hidden within our subconscious, out of view of our conscious minds. It sees our suffering coming from adaptations we had to form in childhood which kept us safe and still keep us safe from painful feelings. We can see them in our patterns of behavior and we can only break their spell if we’re prepared to open ourselves up to the repressed and often painful moments that we hide from. All of this plays out in the very live dynamic between patient and the analyst in the room. Psychoanalysis doesn’t promise happiness. It recognises that suffering is a part of life, and it helps us to a life of greater depth, meaning and growth.
Both meditation and psychoanalysis ask us to sit with ourselves, often uncomfortably. But where meditation turns us finally towards the pure space of awareness, psychoanalysis sees healing in unravelling the knot of our selves.
To help us through this, we have Buddhist nun and teacher Samaneri Jayasara and psychoanalyst Sonia Wechsler.
Samaneri Jayasara has studied and practised Buddhism and meditation for over 35 years.
She has a PhD and Master’s Degree in education, focusing on comparative spiritual traditions, Buddhism and psychotherapy. She has taught at secondary, undergraduate and post-graduate levels in psychology and counselling, and also worked as a trainer in mental health and crisis intervention in the welfare sector.
Sonia Wechsler is a Clinical Psychologist and Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychoanalyst with over 20 years of clinical experience. She completed her psychoanalytic training with the Sydney Institute of Psychoanalysis and has presented clinical papers on psychoanalysis at national and international conferences. She consults to a number of non-government organisations and Headspace.
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Your hosts are Lloyd Vogelman and Emile Sherman.
Produced by Jonah Primo and Bronwen Reid.