Sunday, September 04, 2011

Gareth Williams on Possible Relationships between EFT and Buddhism

Entry for 4 September 2011:

This year’s Glasgow EFT Level 1 training was marked by more theoretical diversity than ever before, which made for some interesting dialogues with colleagues from psychodynamic, systemic-couples, … and Buddhist perspectives.  One of this year’s participants, Gareth Williams, brought a particularly Buddhist perspective to the EFT training.  After the training workshop, at my invitation, he wrote the following about possible connections between EFT and Buddhism.  He’s given his permission for me to publish these comments here.  (Thanks, Gareth!)

First, here’s a bit about Gareth: Following 2 years as a full-time volunteer at Lothlorien therapeutic community in Scotland, Gareth trained in person-centred counselling at Strathclyde University with Dave Mearns. Since then he has undertaken a long-term study of Arnold Mindell's process-oriented psychology; a Masters degree at the University of Manchester, where his thesis focused on the role of creativity in transformation and healing; a certificate in mindfulness at Samye Ling; and a certificate in supervision at Tenemos.  

Gareth is currently based on the border of Staffordshire and Cheshire, where he works as a senior counsellor with North Staffs Mind. Also in the process of establishing himself as a freelance therapist and supervisor, he has just contributed to a forthcoming book on counselling psychology. He has special interests in creativity, anxiety, mindfulness, ecotherapy, working with young people and their families, and common factors in therapy. 

Hi Robert.

Here's some gathered thoughts on how EFT fits into a Buddhist mindfulness context. My understanding is of course limited and there are many schools of Buddhism with subtle and not so subtle differences. So this is a personal Buddhist-inspired epistemological take on EFT.

EFT can help us understand the way our mind constructs experience. Not the truth or anything like that, simply our experience of life.

(And in the process of exploration we no doubt contribute to the construction.)

From a Buddhist perspective, life and who we are cannot be fully summed up ever. It’s all part of an ongoing life process.

Shantideva, Buddhist saint from a few hundred years back, said we should regard all phenomena as rainbow-like. EFT can help us appreciate the various interactive components of our experience.

Buddhist therapist John Welwood (2000) (Gendlin was one of his mentors) points out how we can get tangled up in our reactions to our emotions (secondary emotions in EFT). Rather than letting a feeling guide us and letting it come and go, there can be a judging and resisting of it. A whole storyline can be associated with it, for example, "only failures feel down like this, I must be a failure."

He goes on to explain how psychotherapy can support people to untangle the experience and understand the complex information within an overall lived experience.

What comes to mind is mindfulness teacher Rob Nairn citing a Tibetan master, Tai Situpa, as saying that if you let it go/be/play out, without resisting or adding, any thought/feeling will last at most 2 to 3 minutes. If you worry or avoid or resist you tend to suppress and inadvertantly prolong the experience.  [Note: In EFT we like to point out that adaptive emotions are by nature brief: they emerge to help us read, understand and respond appropriately to a particular immediate situation, then they recede in order to make space for the next emotion.] 

EFT supports people to allow their experiences.

In mindfulness practice, the meditation support (breath, sound, body sensations) is an anchor, a regulator, but ideally like a feather on a stream. Not pushing anything away, letting it all be. And mindfulness is awareness and compassion/kindness. When practiced skilfully, whatever emotion/experience/thought arises is met with kindness. One teaching is to soften around it. This ties in with Greenberg (2004) on transformation of emotion through contact between difficult scheme and adaptive scheme.

Rob Nairn teaches his students the importance of not "parking off" their difficult feelings. Compassion training really emphasises making friends with our pain. Rob draws on Jung's notion of "complexes" - split off parts - and how healing it can be to meet these with mindfulness. Allowing for some kind of integration and transformation.

Compassionate awareness itself brings change. There is not an agenda of how it should be in the inner world. Capacity for awareness and kindness is regarded as inherent. It’s often called Buddha Nature.

Tara Brach is a popular mindfulness teacher. She wrote Radical Acceptance and teaches a method called RAIN: Recognise, Allow, Inquire and Non-identify. The inquiry part of the practice seems very akin to bringing awareness to the different components of the emotion scheme - body, associations, images, etc.

That's probably more than enough for now. Any questions and/or feedback will be enthusiastically received!

All the best and thanks for a great training course. Gareth

Gareth Williams
Human (mostly)

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