Freud and the Buddha: The Couch and the Cushion

Editor : Axel Hoffer

Freud and the Buddha: The Couch and the Cushion

Book Details

  • Publisher : Karnac Books
  • Published : July 2015
  • Cover : Paperback
  • Pages : 224
  • Category :
    Culture and Psychoanalysis
  • Category 2 :
    Psychoanalysis
  • Catalogue No : 35441
  • ISBN 13 : 9781782201472
  • ISBN 10 : 1782201475
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This book investigates what psychoanalysis and Buddhism can learn from each other, and offers chapters by a Buddhist scholar, a psychiatrist-author, and a number of leading psychoanalysts. It begins with a discussion of the basic understanding of both psychoanalysis and Buddhism, viewed not as a religion but as a psychology and a philosophy with ethical principles.

The focus of the book rests on the commonality between the psychoanalyst’s neutrality as he listens to his freely associating patient, and the Buddhist monk’s non-judgmental attention to his mind. The psychoanalytic concepts of free association, the unconscious, transference and countertransference are compared to the implications of the Buddhist principles of impermanence, non-clinging (non-attachment), the hard-to-grasp concept of the "not-self", and the practice of meditation.

The differences between the role of the analyst and that of the Buddhist teacher of meditation are explored, and the important difference between the analyst’s emphasis on insight and thinking is compared to the Buddhist attention to awareness and experience. Mention is made of the authors’ implicit recognition of the dissolution of the mind-body split and the relevance of neuroscientific discoveries of the increasingly important role of the right brain in thinking is noted.

The book concludes with a discussion of the controversies about free association, words, and understanding, in both psychoanalysis and Buddhism.

Reviews and Endorsements

‘This luminous book by Axel Hoffer and his colleagues challenges the false binaries of East and West, psychoanalysis and humanistic philosophy, the certainty of structure and the fluidity of transience, as well as the self’s proud separateness and its humble merger with the universe. Themes of positive emptiness, healthy detatchment, pitfalls of insight, and, above all, the elusive anguish that forever pulsates at the core of human existence are also elucidated here. The conceptual and clinical yield of such discourse is awe-inspiring!’
––Salman Akhtar, Professor of Psychiatry, Jefferson Medical College; Training and Supervising Analyst, Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia

Freud and the Buddha is a much-needed map of the places where psychoanalytic thinking and Buddhist psychology converge and diverge. These lively chapters and Dr Hoffer’s final synthesis bring fresh perspectives to the interface of two powerful tools for the relief of human suffering. This volume will have much to offer students of the dharma as well as students of depth psychology.’
––Robert Waldinger, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School; Senior Dharma Teacher at Boundless Way Zen

‘This book is by far the most sophisticated contribution yet to the dialogue between Buddhism and psychoanalysis that began almost sixty years ago. Eschewing romantic idealisation on the one hand and easy dismissal on the other, free from cultural prejudice, the book is exemplary in clearly highlighting the similarities and differences between two important traditions of psychological inquiry and, more importantly, in what the two can learn from each other as they strive towards their common goal of ameliorating mental suffering.’
––Sudhir Kakar, Visiting Research Professor at Goa University, and author of The Inner World

About the Editor(s)

Axel Hoffer, MD, is a Training and Supervising Analyst in Boston and Associate Professor of Psychiatry (part-time) at the Harvard Medical School. He won the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association prize for his paper 'Toward a definition of psychoanalytic neutrality.' He has also written the Foreword to Freud’s monograph 'A Phylogenetic Fantasy', and the Introduction to the second volume of the Freud-Ferenczi Correspondence. He has lectured and supervised in the United States, Europe, Eastern Europe, Russia and Israel.

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