A succinct look at the junction point of psychotherapy and Buddhism.
In this how-to self-help guide, psychiatrist Epstein (The Trauma of Everyday Life, 2013, etc.) attempts to find similarities between Buddhism and psychotherapy, though he never tries to equate them, and, in doing so, qualify them as the same practices. “The ego needs our help,” he writes, “If we want a more satisfying existence, we have to teach it to loosen its grip.” So begins the author’s efforts to understand what practical measures exist in both practices to help us cope with the weight of our selves. In undertaking such a complex question, Epstein makes it clear that there is only one way to comprehend this exercise: “Awakening does not make the ego disappear; it changes one’s relationship to it.” To reach such states of wellness, the author explains that we must reposition our attitudes toward the vicissitudes of life, opting for a series of approaches: Right View (be present in the now), Right Motivation (“we do not have to be at the mercy of our neuroses”), Right Speech (how we talk to ourselves), Right Action (“not acting destructively”), Right Livelihood (“avoiding…deceit or exploitation”), Right Effort (do not allow the ego to “sabotage its goal”), Right Mindfulness (“a dispassionate knowing of thoughts…as they come and go”), and, finally, Right Concentration (“temporarily dispelling the repetitive thoughts of the everyday mind”). To illustrate these mindsets, Epstein sprinkles the text with personal anecdotes, which are alternately pedantic and useful in visualizing his arguments. The author often refers to his patients and his friends to demonstrate how one mindset can quickly change to a healthier one, though it is clear he has taken himself as the primary example, with Freud and Donald Winnicott as theoretical foundations.
A moderately intriguing book that may cause readers to think twice about their actions—but that may also leave them largely unchanged.