The Human Mind

November 18, 2009 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

I had lunch the other day with a fellow who held a rather dim view of the process of psychotherapy. He referred to its methodology as “hideously inefficient”, while granting that it actually served some valid purpose. A severe case of damning with faint praise. My somewhat defensive response ( I am currently in therapy myself, and there was also a friend present who is a therapist herself ) was that the hideous inefficiency of the process lies mostly within the human mind itself. I thought I was just trying to come up a clever response (which I was ), but it also strikes me that there is something to the idea. After all, the problems that plague the mind don’t lend themselves to fixes that are both quick and lasting. The quick ones, such as mind-altering substances, don’t last, whereas the array of options that hold out the possibility for real growth and transformation are invariably arduous and plodding in nature.

We were on a lunch break from a daylong Buddhist meditation retreat and the comment got me thinking about the innumerable lifetimes the Buddhists speak of in describing the journey toward enlightenment. I wonder whether this fellow has gauged the efficiency of a path that measures progress not in years but in lifetimes. Whether one takes this terminology literally or figuratively it does point to the laborious, lengthy and difficult task of reconfiguring the human mind in a way that accords consistently with a happy state.

The persistence of any of these algorithms or systems – the numerous forms of modern psychotherapy, as well as the variety of ancient spiritual disciplines – that are aimed at the problems of the human mind, points to the fact that human existence is plagued by a set of stubborn problems that simply won’t fade quietly away. The mind seems to be very good at solving an almost unlimited array of worldly problems with great efficiency. However, when it comes to resolving the thorny problems that beset its own nature, it keeps falling down on the job. Which isn’t really a problem at all, so long as we keep on getting up.

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