Buddhism and psychotherapy. Berlin, 1993

Buddhism and Psychotherapy
Weekend Semonar in Berlin, June 1993
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The problem of finding a guru is very similar to the problem of finding a psychotherapist. Psycho­therapists will tell you all about the training they have done and the diplomas they have. Gurus will be presented, wrapped in all sorts of titles, with stories about the lineages they hold, and which masters they trained under, and whose incarna­tion they are.
On the general level these things are obviously important. Set against that, one has one’s own subjective experience. One meets the person, and one has some thoughts about whether this person is reasonable or not.
One of the helpful things that Sigmund Freud spelled out was the nature of the idealizing and the negative transference. That is to say that we project, we identify in the world around us certain qualities that we percei­ve as belonging to the particular people we are engaged with, and we’re sure that these quali­ties belong to this person, when in fact they belong to some internal image which has been deve­loped in our own childhood. Thus we transfer from our past experience an image that we are sure exists now in/as the external object. Usually we don’t recognize that we are doing this. It’s an unconscious pheno­me­non. So we get caught up in something.
One wants to believe that somebody has got it made, somebody has under­stood something. Like this we fall prey to the stupidi­ty of projecting the ideali­zing fantasy. But we are doing that, and we are respon­sible if we do that. We can’t blame the guru afterwards, because we have openly entered into that relationship. Therefo­re I think it’s extremely important to become aware of the nature of projec­tion, the idealizing fantasy, the nature of the phenomenon generally known in psychoanalysis as trans­ference.   We should challenge again and again whatever hopes we start to develop about another.

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