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Young-Eisendrath, P. (2008). The Buddha in the Consulting Room: A review of Minding What Matters: Psychotherapy and the Buddha Within, by Robert Langan. Boston, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2006, 176 pages. Contemp. Psychoanal., 44(4):629-633.
The Buddha in the Consulting Room: A review of Minding What Matters: Psychotherapy and the Buddha Within, by Robert Langan. Boston, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2006, 176 pages
Review by: Polly Young-Eisendrath, Ph.D.
The work of psychoanalysis is to free associations. The work of Buddhism is to free associations beyond what Freud ever dreamt.
Robert langan is a brave soul. He has taken on a massive project in few pages, and he wants to be true to the subtleties and complexities of his endeavor: to align psychoanalysis and Buddhism as methods of mending the mind. Writing about these ideas is not enough, though. Langan wants his readers to see and feel how the mind, when it watches itself, can become aware not only of its contents, but also of its process, not only of its memories and desires, but also of its flow, gaps, and inflexibility. As a practitioner of Buddhism since 1971 and a Jungian psychoanalyst since 1986, I am acutely aware of the challenges that he has set for himself.
Langan develops a multilayered text that invites us to observe our minds (and his) while we are reading for content. Here is how he describes the organization of his well-written and accessible book:
[T]his book has a peculiar structure, like a double helix perpetually turning from one sort of writing to another. The two strands of writing intertwine in an effort to draw attention to how one engages with what is written, how one falls into a relationship, with the pattern of words. The one strand is of essays musing on topics relevant to Buddhism and psychoanalysis; these alternate with fictional vignettes describing an imaginary psychoanalytic case, the second strand [p. xi].
Just as Thomas Ogden (1994) makes explicit his relationship with his readers—reminding us that Ogden, as author, is occupying readers' thoughts as a “third subject,” or the “essence of the experience of reading” (pp. 1, 2)—Langan wants us to be aware of participating in an experiment.
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