New Perspectives In A Troubled World

In India we are exposed to the writings of Western authors, doctors, scientists and others, but rarely do we get exposure to Japanese and Chinese authors. I recently came across a book on psychotherapy developed by a Japanese, Dr. Shoma Morita, a contemporary of Dr. Sigmud Freud and would like to share the same with you.

Dr. Morita wants all people to travel with a sense of participation with the world around them, “with the sidewalk, with the shops, with the railroads, with the geranium. It is me as part of the scene…”. This attitude contracts with the notion that the world out there is performing for me. “The traffic signals don’t change for my frustration or joy and my favourite team doesn’t win for my elation.” We tend towards the perspective which divides the world into `out there’ and `me in here’. We then feel alienated.

The Moritist view sees another’s joy as part of the moment and setting, and therefore as part of my joy and yours, as we participate in the moment. In Moritist thinking, you become one with the environment; you fit yourself into reality. Morita therapy emphasises, rather than self-analysis, it’s goal is not to understand the distant childhood source of troubling emotions but rather to make changes in behaviour that are necessary to produce changed feelings and an improved concept of yourself.

When life seems too unfair and the world fails to respond with goodness, you may become disillusioned, passive and emotionally paralysed. A Morita assignment given to a woman who similarly felt totally helpless and victimised was to “reflect upon the ways in which she is the one who destroyed. That is, she has killed others’ dreams, she has killed their time and hers and so forth”.

It is difficult to see ways in which you’re an active agent of harm in everyday life and not solely a victim. By gaining this more complete view of yourself in relation to the world, you can restore your sense of power and perspective. You have taken the first step towards changing, toward establishing a purpose so you can `do what needs to be done’, as Morita urges.

You may find a valuable perspective in another Japanese philosophy called Naikan. It asks you to evaluate what you have returned to it. “I have come to realise how continually I’m being given to” says the author. “People define for me and who I am by listening to me and talking with me, and looking in my direction while I speak”.

When you do `Naikan’, you meditate on your debts (psychic, social, physical) to parents, spouse, friends, employer, employees and all the others who have helped you over the years. Often, you’ll feel a liberating sense of gratitude welling up; a comforting consciousness of being cared for. At the same time, since the balance usually favours how much others have given you, you may feel some guilt. The author suggests that this is a valuable emotion because it motivates you to start working towards righting the balance. And once you act in ways that serve others, you feel better about yourself.

Doing Naikan has proved its practical value in Japan, where juvenile delinquents may be given Naikan assignments if they want to return to school, and where Naikan is used in some penal institutions. Closer to home, you sometimes can change feelings of resentment on the spot if you do Naikan about a parent you are visiting, or about anyone who seems unreasonably demanding and difficult suggests Dr. Reynolds, leading Western authority on Naikan and Dr.Morita, the author of  `Naikan Psychotherapy’.

“In Naikan, we are aware of how much we receive even from objects that keep serving us, like cars”, says Dr. Reynolds. “I worked with a businessman who came in feeling lonely and isolated. He was a one man office and felt nobody cared or helped him. One of the things I asked him to do was to bow to his type-writer in the morning, and apologise to the paper before cutting it. Of course he felt foolish at first, but your actions influence your feelings. In time, he was able to see that he was surrounded by a support system of equipment, supplies and people, cooperating with him and his business venture and he felt less isolated and alone”.

Ruby Lilaowala
Ruby Lilaowala

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