Mindfulness For COINTELPRO Victims #3

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy

Kisa-Gotami and the Mustard Seed

    In the Buddha’s lifetime, there was a woman whose name was Kisa-Gotami. She gave a birth to a child, but the baby died early. Suffering from unbearable sorrow, she went insane. She desperately asked around for medicine which could revive her dead baby. The Buddha suggested to her that the only medicine which could cure the death was “a little mustard seed from any house where no one has died.” Kisa-Gotami went into the town and sought for the medicine from house to house. At each house, however, someone had died. Seeing the other people’s similar sufferings from the death of a family member, Kisa-Gotami was able to look at her own sadness objectively. She finally overcame the panic (Schelling, et al, 1996). Likewise, the goal of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) for depression is to enhance the ability to observe one’s own sufferings non-judgmentally. Through this method, a client can disengage from negative emotions, which would otherwise overwhelm the client and lead to a depressive mood. In Biological perspective, MBCT fortifies neuroplasticities which strengthen the function of connecting intellectual/analytical part and emotional part of the brain. In other words, the effect of MBCT is not limited to neurons’ changes either in intellectual/analytical part or emotional part of the brain. Therefore, MBCT is expected to work better, especially for depression, more than as a supliment to conventional therapies, which biological effect seems to be limited to a particular part of the brain.                   

 Behavioral Therapy

   Prior to MBCT, various styles of therapies were introduced. Among the others, Behavioral Therapy became influential in the U.S in 1950’s. The main characteristic of this therapy is the usage of reinforcement and/or punishment to correct a particular behavior. Behavioral methods are often applied to severely depressed patients, especially at the early stage of the symptoms because those patients need active interventions. On the other hand, a problem of Behavioral methods is that this method does not take a person’s complexity of thoughts into consideration. Hence, Behavioral therapy is not designed for dealing with patients who suffer from cognitive problems. Moreover, the effects of behavioral interventions may extinct without the presence of reinforcer and/or punisher.       
Pharmacological Therapy

    Pharmacological therapy uses drugs to induce a particular mood. These drugs are considered to intervene with the functions of the brain chemicals. Hence, this method also suits for patients at a severe symptom of depression. Nonetheless, there are several setbacks in drug therapy. First of all, medicines with strong effects tend to bring about strong side-effects at the same time. Therefore, a patient who takes strong anti-depressant medicines has to take other kinds of medicines to prevent the side-effects such as dizziness, weight-gain, or damages to the stomach and liver. For example, a friend of mine, who suffered from severe symptoms of depression, used to take 8 pills at each meal, thus 24 pills in total every day, and yet she complained that she gained too much weight and also she could not even walk straight because of the strong side-effects of many drugs. Another problem of Pharmacological therapy is that patients who used drug for depression have high rates of relapse/recurrence after medication was discontinued. Several research data indicate significantly higher relapse rates for depressed patients who received anti-depressant medication compared to the rates of those who had only cognitive therapy—the relapse rate of patients who underwent drug therapy is 50 – 78 % while the latter is 20 – 36 % (Segal, et al, 2002, p. 24).            

Conventional Cognitive Therapy

   As mentioned in the last of the previous paragraph, Cognitive therapy was introduced as a new trend which effectively works such as for depression symptoms caused by cognitive problems. Cognitive therapy is designed for “delineating the patient’s specific misconceptions and maladaptive assumptions” (Beck, 1979). In other words, the main purpose of Cognitive strategy is to recognize and correct fallacy of patients’ thoughts. Beck (1979) articulates the process of cognitive approach as follows:

(1) to monitor his negative, automatic  thoughts (cognitions)    

(2) to recognize the connections between cognition, affect, and behavior

(3) to examine the evidence for and against his distorted automatic thoughts

(4) to substitute more reality-oriented interpretations for these biased cognitions

(5) to learn to identify and alter the dysfunctional beliefs which predispose him to distort   his experiences of depression  ( p.4)

In accordance with these guidelines, patients are taught to acquire skills of monitoring and adjusting their maladaptive thoughts mainly through dialogues with a therapist. To exemplify the strategy to make a patient aware of the logical inconsistencies, Beck illustrates a dialogue between a therapist and a 25-year-old female patient who had recently made a suicide attempt and still wanted to commit suicide because her husband was unfaithful.

Therapist: Why do you want to end your life?

Patient: Without Raymond, I am nothing…I can’t be happy without Raymond…

T: What has your marriage life been like?

P: It has been miserable from the beginning…Raymond has always been unfaithful…I have hardly seen him in the five years.

T:  You say that you can't be happy without Raymond…Have you found yourself happy when you are with Raymond?

P: No, we fight all the time and I feel worse.

T: Then why do you feel that Raymond is essential for your living?

P: I guess it's because without Raymond I am nothing.

The conversation continued until the patient realized that she was losing nothing by breaking with Raymond and that there would be other opportunities for her to see a different man (p.217-8). Accordingly, this approach is also recognized as “Talk Therapy.”

       Although Cognitive therapy works comparatively well, such as for reducing the relapse rate of depression, there are a few weak points. First of all, this method takes long time for change; thus health insurance companies tend not to prefer choosing this option. Secondly, Talk therapy may not work for clients who are not good at logical thinking, reasoning, and/or analyzing. Besides, a client might not tell everything honestly to a therapist, or it may take extremely long time for a client to reveal wounds hidden deep inside the mind. Moreover, when sufferings that a client confronts are much harsher than a therapist has ever experienced, the pain that the client is going through may be beyond the therapist’s imagination. In other occasions, a client’s problem can be so unusual that a therapist will not be able to understand why the client is stressed out – for example, a case that a client’s suffering is caused by an extremely evil perpetrator, such as a person with anti-social personality disorder, who can manipulate surrounding people (Stout, 2005). Is not there any solution to these difficulties in helping clients get out of their unbearbale suffering – like the one which the Buddha prescribed to Kisa-Gotami?


Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy

Mindfulness is a key concept of traditional Buddhist practices. Schwartz defines mindfulness in his book “The Mind and The Brain” as: “The capacity to observe one’s inner experience in fully aware and non-clinging way” (Schwartz, et al, 2002). In mindfulness training, patients repeatedly observe arising of negative thoughts and following negative emotions. Eventually the patients come to realize the patterns how they tend to react to their thoughts emotionally. For the next, by “steping back” from their own negative thoughts which used to generate bad moods, patients subsequently become able to avoid being drawn by the negative emotions. Consequently, they can focus on the task at hand. Kuyken, who researched the effect of MBCT, describes the clients’ mental process as follows: Patients learned to “consciously choose thoughts, emotions, and sensations rather than habitually react to them” (Kuyken, et al, 2010).
     Incidentally, it seems that Victor Frankl (1963), a Psychiatrist and victim of Nazi’s Holocaust, adopted MBCT method in a concentration camp.

     I forced my thoughts to turn to another subject. Suddenly I saw myself standing on the platform of a well-lit, warm and pleasant lecture room…I was giving a lecture on the psychology of the concentration camp! All that oppressed me at that moment became objective, seen and described from the remote viewpoint of science…I observed them as if they were already of the past. Both I and my troubles became the object of an interesting psychoscientific study undertaken by myself…Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it (Frankl, 1963).

Using this unique trick, Frankl disengaged himself from his miserable emotions – most likely without awareness of the concept of mindfulness. Nevertheless, the technique that he practiced in face of the inconceivablly harsh adversity was exactly an application of Buddhist mindfulness. Besides, Frankl’s case illustrates that a client can be the teacher or therapist on his/her own in mindfulness practice.

Especially in the Western world, Buddhist meditations were considered to affect the mind, not the body. However, owing to the recent rapid development of brain-research technologies, such as fMRI, the fact was revealed that through neuroplasticity, mind and brain change each other interactively. In addition, the latest scientific study is trying to identify exactly which parts of brain are responsible while patients are overcoming depressive mood. For example, Olivia Longe (2010) and the other researchers found how different parts of brain are activated when people generate self-criticism and self-reassurance. Accordingly, the more scientific evidences were found regarding biological changes caused by meditation, the more Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for depression got acknowledged as a scientifically validated technique which could help improve our mental health.
Conclusion and Futuer Directions

    Regarding mindfulness and its future, I interviewed the Head of the Psychology Department of our university. To conclude this paper, I will introduce her comments, instead of my experienceless assumption, about clinical applications of mindfulness. She emphasizes that mindfulness is a very basic, holistic, core skill for encountering mental health problems because by mindfully observing our mind, we can recognize problems on our own. For example, some teenagers cannot regulate emotions and suffer from sever stress because they do not have a clue why they suffer. Meanwhile, Mindfulness training can provide those teenagers with a hint how suffering arises. In fact, several universities in the U.S. --including Harvard University-- have a program to study and teach mindfulness. For example, Montana State University opend a course titled “Mind/Body Medicine and Art of Self-Care” as a counseling psychology program. In this course, students practice Mindfulness-Based Stree Release Therapy (Cristopher et al., 2006). Moreover, the Head of the Psychology Department of our university suggests that mindfulness teaching should also get incorprated into the high school curriculum. Furthermore, according to her perspespective, Mindfulness-Based therapy will be elaborated so that this method can be applied more specifically in more various fields, not only for stress-releasing and depression but also for alcoholics, emotional regulations, and even personality disorders which are considered to be the most difficult cases to change. As Mindfulness training is integrated into clinical treatments, the traditional Buddhist practice will enhance well-beings of the people living in modern society.



Works Cited


Beck, Aaron T. Cognitive Therapy of Depression. New York: Guilford Press, 1979. Print.


Christopher, John, Suzanne Christopher, Tim Dunnagan, and Marc Schure. "Teaching Self-Care Through Mindfulness Practices: the Application of Yoga, Meditation, and Qigong to Counselor Training." Journal of Humanistic Psychology. 46.4 (2006): 494-509. Print.


Frankl, Viktor. Man's Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy. Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 1962. Print.

Kuyken, W., Watkins, E., Holden, E., White, K., Taylor, R. S., Byford, S., Evans, A., ... Dalgleish, T. (November 01, 2010). How does mindfulness-based cognitive therapy work?. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 48, 11, 1105-1112.

Longe, O., Maratos, F. A., Gilbert, P., Evans, G., Volker, F., Rockliff, H., & Rippon, G. (January 15, 2010). Having a word with yourself: Neural correlates of self-criticism and self-reassurance. Neuroimage, 49, 2, 1849-1856.


Schelling, Andrew, and Anne Waldman. Songs of the Sons & Daughters of Buddha. Boston: Shambhala, 1996. Print.


Schwartz, J., & Begley, S. (2002). The mind and the brain: Neuroplasticity and the power of mental force. New York: Regan Books/HarperCollins Publ.

Stout, Martha. The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us. New York: Broadway Books, 2005. Print.

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The Writer of 『拝啓 ギャングストーカー犯罪者の皆様』(Dear COINTELPRO Criminals) and <集団ストーカーの死> The Death of Gangstalker; also Co-Editor of 「新しいタイプの人権侵害・暴力」 Unprecedented Human Rights Violation

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