Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

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Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby binocular » Tue Jul 16, 2013 9:20 am

Many people experience samvega, to a lesser or greater extent. Externally, this tends to look like depression. So many such people are advised to seek help from medical professionals, which usually means a psychotherapeutic treatment (such as CBT, DBT, REBT, ACT etc.) and medications.

But on principle, how much can really be hoped for from such treatments? Especially from the Buddhist perspective?
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jul 16, 2013 9:23 am

binocular wrote:Many people experience samvega, to a lesser or greater extent. Externally, this tends to look like depression. So many such people are advised to seek help from medical professionals, which usually means a psychotherapeutic treatment (such as CBT, DBT, REBT, ACT etc.) and medications.

But on principle, how much can really be hoped for from such treatments? Especially from the Buddhist perspective?
You need to define what you mean by samvega and by depression.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby binocular » Tue Jul 16, 2013 9:56 am

Samvega was what the young Prince Siddhartha felt on his first exposure to aging, illness, and death. It's a hard word to translate because it covers such a complex range — at least three clusters of feelings at once: the oppressive sense of shock, dismay, and alienation that come with realizing the futility and meaninglessness of life as it's normally lived; a chastening sense of our own complacency and foolishness in having let ourselves live so blindly; and an anxious sense of urgency in trying to find a way out of the meaningless cycle.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... rming.html



As the term "depression" can be used to have several meanings, notably -
Major depressive disorder (MDD) (also known as clinical depression, major depression, unipolar depression, unipolar disorder or recurrent depression in the case of repeated episodes) is a mental disorder characterized by episodes of all-encompassing low mood accompanied by low self-esteem and loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_depressive_disorder


Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person's thoughts, behavior, feelings and sense of well-being.[1] Depressed people may feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, worried, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, hurt, or restless. They may lose interest in activities that once were pleasurable, experience loss of appetite or overeating, have problems concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions, and may contemplate or attempt suicide. Insomnia, excessive sleeping, fatigue, loss of energy, or aches, pains, or digestive problems that are resistant to treatment may also be present.[2]
Depressed mood is not necessarily a psychiatric disorder. It may be a normal reaction to certain life events, a symptom of some medical conditions, or a side effect of some drugs or medical treatments. Depressed mood is also a primary or associated feature of certain psychiatric syndromes such as clinical depression.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depression_(mood)


for the purposes of discussion, the posters are invited to specify what in particular they mean.


Edited for spelling.
Last edited by binocular on Tue Jul 16, 2013 10:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby reflection » Tue Jul 16, 2013 10:08 am

I don't agree samvega looks like depression. Samvega can arise without any negative emotions or moodswings about it. You can feel an samvega (urgency, or let's say a push or desire) to find a way out of suffering without feeling low about it. Samvega does not give rise to low moods like depression does. So if there are low moods, low self acceptance, than at least there is more going on than just samvega. And I'd even say there is no real samvega because that will also give lots of energy, which naturally goes against feeling low.
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby binocular » Tue Jul 16, 2013 10:52 am

reflection wrote:I don't agree samvega looks like depression. Samvega can arise without any negative emotions or moodswings about it. You can feel an samvega (urgency, or let's say a push or desire) to find a way out of suffering without feeling low about it. Samvega does not give rise to low moods like depression does. So if there are low moods, low self acceptance, than at least there is more going on than just samvega. And I'd even say there is no real samvega because that will also give lots of energy, which naturally goes against feeling low.

What are your sources for understanding samvega?

It has been my understanding so far that on its own, samvega is very dangerous, life-threatening. Hence the importance of countering it with pasada.
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jul 16, 2013 11:05 am

binocular wrote:
reflection wrote:I don't agree samvega looks like depression. Samvega can arise without any negative emotions or moodswings about it. You can feel an samvega (urgency, or let's say a push or desire) to find a way out of suffering without feeling low about it. Samvega does not give rise to low moods like depression does. So if there are low moods, low self acceptance, than at least there is more going on than just samvega. And I'd even say there is no real samvega because that will also give lots of energy, which naturally goes against feeling low.

What are your sources for understanding samvega?

It has been my understanding so far that on its own, samvega is very dangerous, life-threatening.
Understanding based upon what?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby binocular » Tue Jul 16, 2013 11:17 am

From what I've read so far, mostly from Thanissaro Bhikkhu, as already mentioned. I couldn't find all that much about samvega and pasada from more sources, though.
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby Coyote » Tue Jul 16, 2013 12:03 pm

Perhaps grasping samvega wrongly can lead to depression. Maybe samvega in its early stages, when we have not removed greed aversion and deleusion, can cause depressed, low moods because it is essentially frustrated desire. The thing to do then would be to remove the desire, this would fix the problem.

But my experience has been that low moods (depression or otherwise) are there because of an unskillful relationship with reality. It is heavily based on greed and aversion. Whether it is proliferating a physical or a mental tendancy, or caused by some other factor.

Is this depressed samvega the renunicate grief that the Buddha talks about?
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby reflection » Tue Jul 16, 2013 12:04 pm

binocular wrote:
reflection wrote:I don't agree samvega looks like depression. Samvega can arise without any negative emotions or moodswings about it. You can feel an samvega (urgency, or let's say a push or desire) to find a way out of suffering without feeling low about it. Samvega does not give rise to low moods like depression does. So if there are low moods, low self acceptance, than at least there is more going on than just samvega. And I'd even say there is no real samvega because that will also give lots of energy, which naturally goes against feeling low.

What are your sources for understanding samvega?

It has been my understanding so far that on its own, samvega is very dangerous, life-threatening. Hence the importance of countering it with pasada.

My own experiences and suttas I've read. In the suttas an understanding or acknowledgement of suffering leads to effort, to energy to overcome suffering, effort and energy to practice. It is not leading to depressed or down states of mind where there is little energy to do anything, which is one aspect of how I see depression. I think those states of depression are more based on having little hope of a way out. But that is not part of samvega in itself. In my eyes a part of samvega is the hope, or even knowledge, of a way out, which is why it gives energy to practice.

:anjali:
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby cooran » Tue Jul 16, 2013 12:43 pm

Hello all,

Here are multiple references to Samvega from a previous thread:

Samvega
viewtopic.php?f=19&t=1816#p23854

With metta,
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby binocular » Wed Jul 17, 2013 11:43 am

reflection wrote:I don't agree samvega looks like depression. Samvega can arise without any negative emotions or moodswings about it. You can feel an samvega (urgency, or let's say a push or desire) to find a way out of suffering without feeling low about it.

I would think this depends on the circumstances one is in, what help and insights are available.


Samvega does not give rise to low moods like depression does.

Many people have felt the meaninglessness of life as it is usually lived, and the urgency to get out of that cycle. Yet that alone does not guarantee one will actually find a way out. Hence some people commit suicide, and many more resign themselves to a life of quiet desperation.


So if there are low moods, low self acceptance, than at least there is more going on than just samvega.

The same person could score for clicnical depression and low self-esteem on standard medical tests, and when presented with the definition of "samvega", agree with it.


reflection wrote:In the suttas an understanding or acknowledgement of suffering leads to effort, to energy to overcome suffering, effort and energy to practice.

Sure. And in the suttas, those people go to the Buddha and his noble disciples.

In modern reality, a person experiencing samvega might have no suitable teachers around to whom to turn.


It is not leading to depressed or down states of mind where there is little energy to do anything, which is one aspect of how I see depression. I think those states of depression are more based on having little hope of a way out.

And after one has not been able to find a way out, one tends to lose hope, at some point. Some sooner, some later.


But that is not part of samvega in itself. In my eyes a part of samvega is the hope, or even knowledge, of a way out, which is why it gives energy to practice.

I would think that's already pasada, already developed to a relevant degree.
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby reflection » Wed Jul 17, 2013 12:01 pm

binocular wrote:...

As you also seem to acknowledge, the loss of hope happens later, not immediately. And some people feel low and commit suicide, but not all. So all these things are additions to the 'core' feeling. I don't think it is samvega, because as I've argued I see samvega as an urgency to actually do something - which is missing in depressed states of mind. But for the sake of argument let's call it 'the feeling' and let's agree it can give rise to depression.

So it can form a depression, but the feeling in itself is not a depression nor is it showing depression. The depression is something different from the feeling. If this feeling is the earth, it can give rise to weeds, but also to beautiful flowers. So to say externally samvega looks like depression is saying the earth looks like weeds. But it just depends on what you do with it. It does not have to be dangerous or life threatening at all. So I'd say, we don't treat this 'samvega', we treat the depression.

I don't know all suttas, but I don't know one reference where samvega is seen as something that needed to be treated instead of something that was used as a means to practice and gain insight.
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby chownah » Wed Jul 17, 2013 3:11 pm

Seems like samvega is a complex idea. Does anyone know of a Sutta reference which contains something that can be used as a definition for it? Seems like samvega might be a word that people just try to figure out what it means by context.
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby santa100 » Wed Jul 17, 2013 6:10 pm

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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby chownah » Thu Jul 18, 2013 2:28 am

I have looked at the first two links in the thread that santa100 has provided and have not found anything that seems to be a defining statement or description of samvega. I'm still hoping that someone knows of a Sutta reference which can provide some sort of definition of samvega.
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P.S. An example of why this is an issue:
He hadn't seen his mother in twenty years and when he saw her he was immediately filled with BLOFING.

Does blofing mean love, hate, foreboding, agitation, revulsion, calm, peace, resolution, or any combination of these or any number of possible emotional states, or did he just need to pass wind? If the story containing that sentence has enough details we can project our ideas of what blofing is onto the story but the less detail contained in the story the less certain we will be about the intended meaning of blofing. I'm looking for something that can give some kind of certainty about the meaning of samvega.
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby Kusala » Thu Jul 18, 2013 5:36 am

Someone posted this article a while back...

Still Crazy after all these Years: Why Meditation isn't Psychotherapy http://www.buddhanet.net/crazy.htm
Image

Homage to the Buddha
Thus indeed, is that Blessed One: He is the Holy One, fully enlightened, endowed with clear vision and virtuous conduct, sublime, the Knower of the worlds, the incomparable leader of men to be tamed, the teacher of gods and men, enlightened and blessed.

Homage to the Teachings
The Dhamma of the Blessed One is perfectly expounded; to be seen here and now; not delayed in
time; inviting one to come and see; onward leading (to Nibbana); to be known by the wise, each for himself.
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby PeterB » Thu Jul 18, 2013 7:02 am

That's the one... :goodpost: meditation ( in any tradition ) is not psychotherapy...
And importantly, psychotherapy is not meditation either...

Just as meditation is not dentistry
Nor is it dermatology
Nor is it physiotherapy.

They have different aims and different reasons for being.

The aim of psychotherapy is to restore social functioning by understanding that which disables social functioning.
If one wants to go deeper, or broader ( supply your own spatial metaphor ) then Dr Freud wont help you, and neither will Dr Jung. That's not their job..despite anything that Jungians claim.. :smile:
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby cooran » Thu Jul 18, 2013 7:08 am

Kusala wrote:Someone posted this article a while back...

Still Crazy after all these Years: Why Meditation isn't Psychotherapy http://www.buddhanet.net/crazy.htm


Thanks for reminding me of this teaching by Patrick! :smile:

With metta,
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---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby danieLion » Thu Jul 18, 2013 7:45 am

binocular wrote:Many people experience samvega, to a lesser or greater extent. Externally, this tends to look like depression. So many such people are advised to seek help from medical professionals, which usually means a psychotherapeutic treatment (such as CBT, DBT, REBT, ACT etc.) and medications.

But on principle, how much can really be hoped for from such treatments? Especially from the Buddhist perspective?

Hi binocular,
This is an extremely complex issue. I think domanassa is a better parallel for what "depression" is, but still not perfect. Before that, though, what "depression" is is not agreed upon, even by medical professionals and psychotherapists. The DSM in not scientific, by any stretch of the imagination.

CBT and REBT focus, like the Buddha did, on the dependently originated aspects of "depression" and downplay labelling from the DSM or other sources as they are seen to only compound the problem. I have posted about this extensively here. Medications can make "depression" worse, and are no more effective than placebos, as I noted here. Gary Greenburg, a practicing psychotherapist and sufferer of "depression," has written brilliant critiques of psychotherapeutic takes on the DSM and "depression:"
Blog
Manufacturing Depression: The Secret History of a Modern Disease
The Book of Woe: The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry
The Noble Lie: When Scientists Give the Right Answers for the Wrong Reasons
Kindly,
dL
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Re: Treating samvega with Western psychotherapy?

Postby santa100 » Thu Jul 18, 2013 1:50 pm

chownah wrote:I have looked at the first two links in the thread that santa100 has provided and have not found anything that seems to be a defining statement or description of samvega. I'm still hoping that someone knows of a Sutta reference which can provide some sort of definition of samvega.


The link below might have more info. on samvega and various sutta references..
http://dharmafarer.org/wordpress/wp-con ... 7-piya.pdf
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