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Magid, B. (2017). Freud and the Buddha: The Couch and the Cushion edited by Axel Hoffer Karnac, London, 2015; 184 pp. $39.95. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 98(2):564-568.

(2017). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 98(2):564-568

Freud and the Buddha: The Couch and the Cushion edited by Axel Hoffer Karnac, London, 2015; 184 pp. $39.95

Review by:
Barry Magid

This volume is a collection of essays that grew out of a symposium entitle ‘The couch and the cushion: What psychoanalysis and Buddhism can learn from each other’ held at Pine Manor College in 2013. In addition to the editor, Axel Hoffer, the participants included psychiatrist Mark Epstein, psychoanalysts Della Kostner and Sara Weber, and Buddhist scholar Andrew Olendzki. Nina Saville-Rocklin was invited to provide an introductory chapter on ‘The origins and fundamentals of psychoanalysis,’ and Gerald Fogel concludes with a personal account of his decades-long involvement with Zen and psychoanalysis. The volume also reprints Nina Coltart's classic paper ‘The practice of psychoanalysis and Buddhism’ (1985).

Attempts at dialogue between psychoanalysis and Buddhism have been going on at least since the late 1950s when Erich Fromm, Karen Horney and Richard DeMartino began meeting with D.T. Suzuki. From the beginning, the various participants had their own goals and agendas in pursuing the dialogue. As Kostner points out, Fromm's explicit goal was to use Zen in the formation of a new humanistic psychology emphasizing human potentials that lay outside the scope of classical Freudian analysis. Suzuki, it should be noted, sought to translate Zen into Western philosophical terms to make it accessible to a new audience; he had no thought that Zen suffered from any psychological or theoretical lacunae that psychoanalysis could fill.

Another strand in the dialogue has involved a different branch of Buddhism, the Theravada school described here by Olendzki, with the importation of mindfulness as a technique that could be used in conjunction with a variety of short-term cognitive behavioral approaches, such as those pioneered by Jon Kabot-Zinn.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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