Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Three approaches to healing and life satisfaction

Awareness Philosophy combines three different approaches to life and thought that are often thought of as incompatible, and that often attract entirely different kinds of people.

The first I am going to call "the engineering approach".  Engineers, as I am using the word, are people who primarily relate to the world through cognitive thought.  They work hard to make sense out of things, to put things in logical order, to understand, to make things clear and remove them from the "gray area" of fogginess that makes it difficult to draw conclusions.  They watch out for logical inconsistencies, pursue anomalies, and are keen on intellectual integrity.  Despite all the jokes they bear, they are invaluable in helping us cope with the world and avoid pain.  The primary therapy that appeals to this type is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is focused on correcting one's thoughts for better living.  In my mind, CBT include people such as David Burns ("Feeling Good"), Dr. Wayne Dwyer ("Change your thoughts, Change your Life"), and Byron Katie ("Loving What Is").

The second approach could be called "the feeling approach".  This includes people who process their feelings, try to work things out emotionally, look at their childhood and any trauma in their life to help them understand themselves as they are today.  They find talking about their feelings rich and deep, and tend to look at people in terms of what motivates them to do what they do.  Most regressive, analytic and emotional release therapies tends to fall in this camp.

The third approach I would call "the mindfulness approach".  Those who tend to gravitate towards mindfulness tend to see emotions and thoughts as not particularly condusive to living a life of acceptance and peace.  Most mindfulness approaches focus on being aware of what is, independent of the meaning we put to it or the emotions we carry about it.  Our interpretations of reality, or of what we experience, tends to take us away from the reality itself, and cause us to distort what is real to the point of creating illusions that harm ourselves and others.  Buddhism has often been a source of mindfulness thought, and modern writers such as Eckhart Tolle ("The Power of Now") fall into this line of thinking.

There tends to be a lot of prejudice between these three approaches.  Engineers are faulted for not having feelings or being fully human, not having heart, being too much in their heads, and sometimes being so caught up in theory they ignore the obvious.  The feeling approach has been criticised for just talking and never getting anything done, - for being off the wall, anti-scientific, woo-woo, or otherwise mentally challenged.  And the mindfulness approach has been criticized for ignoring the influence and positive effects of emotion and passion in our life, and becoming so non-attached that they do not get involved in the real world of human interaction.

Yet all three approaches have critical strengths and insights that we would all be very poorer without.  Awareness Philosophy encorporates these three approaches in order to come to life fully, using all our facilities and capabilities and wisdom to live lives that satisfy.


  1. Gene, I am curious about how the Awareness approach will address these different ways of looking inside at our minds and outside at the world around us.

  2. Techniques from the three styles are already interwoven into the awareness philosophy. The awareness piece is, of course, largely based on mindfulness - if we are to know the truth about ourselves and the world around us, we have to be able to clearly distinguish between what actually is, and what interpretations or stories we place on it. Without awareness of how we distort reality, or even the fact that we *do* distort reality, we will not have any reason to change or grow or learn.

    The engineering approach is used strongly as one way of noticing that how we look at the world may not be accurate, and that our minds may not be reliable to deliver truth to us - evidence for that is all around, yet we often excuse it away.

    The feeling approach is crucial in learning how to deal with the emotions that come up and tend to sabotage our best interest. Many times, emotions and stories come from deep-seated traumas from the past, and without a recognition of why we feel the way we do, it is very difficult to convince ourselves that something else is true.

    So it is a package. If I tried to put it in order, I would say that both emotions and a cognitive recognition that something's wrong with people, can help us realize the problem of why we as humans so frequently do things contrary to our own best interest and the best interest of those we love. Mindfulness is then the piece that allows us to see the mechanism of our own dysfunction as it is happening, both in ourselves and in others. Then comes the solution - how do we turn ourselves around once we clearly see what is going wrong? All three approaches have a strong place here - cognition to recognize and weed out poor decisions, emotions to place us firmly in touch with our true values which give our decisions a direction, and mindfulness to keep us from slipping back into illusions and stories.

    I realize I'm tossing all this out in bits and pieces - I will be trying to fill in as we go along. Or you could wait for the book :)