Thursday, January 24, 2019

Meditation and Psychoanalysis

Ruwan M Jayatunge M.D. 

According to Freud meditation is a reaction formation of omnipotence to infantile helplessness. As described by Alexander (1931)   meditation is a "libidinal, narcissistic turning of the urge for knowing inward, a sort of artificial schizophrenia with complete withdrawal of libidinal interest from the outside world.  Kris (1963) viewed meditation as a transitory regressive state that is conducive to the expression of hidden memories, fear love and anger. Shafii (1973) illustrated meditation as a temporary and controlled regression to the preverbal level and meditation returns the individual to the earliest fixation points and permits re-experiencing of traumas of the separation-individuation phase on a non-verbal level.

Carl Gustav Jung was the first major psychologist to explore fully the relation between Buddhist meditation and the Western notion of the unconscious (Welwood, 1977). Jung's fateful meeting with Richard Wilhelm in 1929 has helped to build a bridge of depth psychological understanding between the East and the West (Ma, 2005). Jung believed in the fulfillment of individual wholeness or self-realization (Moacanin, 1986). Jung spoke of active imagination and believed that it can serve as a bridge between the conscious "ego" and the unconscious. In 1939 Jung wrote …. the meditation on the syllables of the mantra leads to identification with the highest Self. Jung claimed that Eastern higher consciousness is characterized by a nebulous state of non‐intentionality (Zhu, 2009). The transcendent function (unification of archetypal opposites) which Jung described could be the end result of the meditative mind. 

Psychoanalysis and meditation compensate for the other's blind spots (Rubin, 2016).  Within psychoanalysis, meditation has traditionally been associated with a search for the resurrection of infantile ‘primary narcissism’ (Epstein, 1990).

Phenomenologically meditation is a practice that could be meant as mind focalization on objects, body feelings, emotions and thoughts (Bianco, et al., 2016). Psychoanalysis is primarily a psychology of the unconscious. Meditation may also permit deepened access to the unconscious (Bogart, 1991).  Meditation deals mainly with the training and observation of consciousness and observes the mind in great detail on a moment-to-moment level (Falkenström, 2003). The goal of psychoanalysis is to acquire self-understanding and knowledge of the sources of anxiety (Satsangi, 2013) and the goal of meditation is to go beyond the mind and to foster well-being.

For Freud free association is the “fundamental rule” of psychoanalysis. According to some experts during meditation auto-catharsis- a form of free-association occurs.  The meditator observes free associated thoughts, feelings, and fantasies silently.  Meditation facilitates self-observation. Both meditation and free association involve self-observation. Self-observation refers to observations and reflections about the self in the present moment (Falkenström, 2012).

The unconscious has played an important explanatory role in transpersonal psychology (Welwood, 1977).  Freud's topographical model is used to stress that the psychoanalytic unconscious can be understood only in relation to theories of consciousness and wishing (Opatow , 1997). The fundamental proposition of psychoanalysis is that all mental processes are in themselves unconscious (Solms ,1997). Meditation can also bring about "descendence" of consciousness, thus increasing access to the unconscious (Bogart, 1991).  The aim of Zen is, rather, the breaking-up of the very dualistic structure of consciousness-and-unconsciousness (DeMartino, 1961). 

According to Freud in each individual there is a coherent organization of mental processes. Meditation uses mental processes to influence physical functioning and promote health. According to object relations theory, the major cause of psychopathology is the lack of a sense of self, caused by failures in establishing a cohesive, integrated self, resulting in an inability to feel real  correspondingly  Buddhist meditation is focused upon seeing through the illusory construction of the self (Bogart , 1991).

In 1912 Freud delineated the ideal state of mind for therapists to listen, what he called "evenly hovering" or "evenly suspended attention which is an accessible state of mind that could be similar to meditative mind (Rubin, 2009).  Meditative mind can achieve the highest level of consciousness.

Meditation is a multidimensional phenomenon and meditation can make a significant contribution to the deep transformation of personality sought in psychotherapy (Bogart, 1991). Meditation may lead to "transcendence," the experience of going beyond one's habitual perceptions or conceptions of self and world, culminating in peak experiences such as samadhi, satori, or enlightenment (Noble, 1987).

The main goal of psychoanalytic therapy is to bring unconscious material into consciousness and enhance the functioning of the ego. Mindfulness   is a method of using the ego to observe its own manifestations (Epstein, 1988).

Meditation promotes egolessness and dissolves ego.  The Jungian term "psychic death" is a synonym for "ego death (Ventegodt & Merrick 2003 ). Ego death is a "complete loss of subjective self-identity (Jonson, 2008). Zen meditation practice is said to lead to ego-death (Safran, 2012). According to Nichtern (2011) egolessness is not a product - it is a discovery. As described by Park (2006) meditation is learning how to die by learning to "forget" the sense of self.  


  1. මහත්මයා ඔය භාවනාවේ වර්ග දෙකක් තියෙනවා.ඒ තමයි සම්මයක්දෘෂ්ඨික භාවනාව සහ මිත්‍යා දෘෂ්ඨික භාවනාව. මිත්‍යාදෘෂ්ඨිකයෝ එක්ක ඉන්නකොට මේ දෙක ගැන අවභෝධයෙන් ඉන්න ඔ්නෑ. නැත්නම් ඔබතුමා මිත්‍යාදෘෂ්ඨිකයෙක් වෙයි.

  2. භාවනාවේ බලය ගැන හොඳ උදාහරණයක් ඉස්ලාමයේ දැක්වෙනවා.
    එක මුස්ලිම් පඬිවරයෙක්ට කුරාණය කටපාඩමින් කියන්න හැකියාව තිබුනා. ඔහු ඒ ගැණ ආඩම්බර වුනා.
    දවසක් එක ධර්ම සාකච්චාවකදී එක්තරා තරුණයෙක් පඬිවරයාට මතක නැති දේව වාක්‍යයක් පැවසුවා.
    පඬිතුමා ගෙදරගොස් ලොකු රටඉඳි කූඩයක් පසෙක තබා ගෙන රටඉඳි කමින් කුරානය මුලසිට කියවා එම දේව වාක්‍යය එහි ඇත්දැයි සොයා බැලුවා.
    ක්‍රමයෙන් රටඉඳි කූඩය හිස්වුනා. පසුවදා එලිවනවිට ඔහුට කුරානය තුල එම දේව වාක්‍යය සොයාගත හැකිවුනා.
    දේව වාක්‍යය සොයාගත්විටම ඔහු මියගියා.
    එයා මැරුනේ පැහැදිලිවම සීනි වැඩිවෙලා. නමුත් කුරානය කෙරෙහි තිබුනු දැඩි අවධානය නිසා කුරානය කියවන අතරතුර මරණය සිදුවීම වැලකුනා. එතනත් සිදුවුනේ භාවනාවක් වගේ දෙයක්.


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