Mindfulness and Mental Ilness: Enlightenment’s Evil Twin

This snippet from Mindfulness Therapy Comes at a High Price at the Guardian.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm for mindfulness-based therapies and they are very powerful interventions,” Ruths said. “But they can also have side-effects. Mindfulness is delivered to potentially vulnerable people with mental illness, including depression and anxiety, so it needs to be taught by people who know the basics about those illnesses, and when to refer people for specialist help.” His inquiry follows the “dark night” project at Brown University in the US, which has catalogued how some Buddhist meditators have been assailed by traumatic memories. Problems recorded by Professor Willoughby Britton, the lead psychiatrist, include “cognitive, perceptual and sensory aberrations”, changes in their sense of self and impairment in social relationships. One Buddhist monk, Shinzen Young, has described the “dark night” phenomenon as an “irreversible insight into emptiness” and “enlightenment’s evil twin”.

And here’s a little more. The description of what can happen in meditation is not unlike what can happen in psychotherapy. It can get worse before it gets better:

Lokhadi, a mindfulness meditation teacher in London for the past nine years, has regular experience of some of the difficulties mindfulness meditation can throw up. “While mindfulness meditation doesn’t change people’s experience, things can feel worse before they feel better,” she said. “As awareness increases, your sensitivity to experiences increases. If someone is feeling vulnerable or is not well supported, it can be quite daunting. It can bring up grief and all kinds of emotions, which need to be capably held by an experienced and suitably trained teacher.

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kaleachapmanpsyd

Clinical Psychologist practicing in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.

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