The Four Noble Truths: The Heart of Core Process Psychotherapy
Core Process Psychotherapy is an contemplative, psycho-spiritual approach that combines the curative power of awareness with western psychotherapeutic theories. The word "Core" refers to the inherent freedom and joy at the heart of our being and "Process" is about the exploration of any suffering and our pathway back to this freedom and joy. It enables us to be present to our current experience and explores how our past conditioning may affect us. It also provides an opportunity explore our unconscious processes and to challenge our habitual reactions which may have at one time been crucial to our survival but which now inhibit us causing suffering and discontentment.
Core Process Psychotherapy is grounded in Buddhist Dharma (teaching); principally the Buddhist teaching on 'suffering' called the 'Four Noble Truths'. This teaching presents us with an understanding, that even though there is suffering there is a pathway out of it and back to our true self (core self or soul (psyche) where we are content and happy
Below is a summary of the Four Noble Truths.
The First Noble Truth: There is suffering (Dukkha) and it must be understood. (the words in brackets are the original Pali).
Life is in a constant state of flux. Everything changes and we therefore need to respond to those changes. Change in Buddhism is the concept of anicca , (impermanence) and is seen as one of the three marks of existence along with dukkha (suffering) and anatto (non-self). Anicca is an important concept in Core Process Psychotherapy, as if nothing stays the same then what we experience in the present moment will also change. We can begin to 'let go' of any suffering when we realise that what has happened in the past has come and gone.
When we reflect on our lives, we can review the process of change that has occurred and this can provide an assurance that nothing is permanent. If nothing is permanent then any suffering that we experience is also not permanent. This does not mean that change is easy, but that change is inevitable. No one wants to suffer, but it is usually in how we relate to life’s events that condition us and establish our patterns of behaviour. We cannot have life without our conditioning and this is the source of much of our suffering.
So to change suffering we must firstly acknowledge the suffering we experience and then try to understand it. We need to understand the strategies and 'defences' that we have created to try and avoid or reduce our suffering. Often these strategies and defences, which at one time served a purpose, can themselves become a cause of suffering as we cling to what we believe will protect us.
The Second Noble Truth: There is an origin to suffering (Samsara)
For suffering to be present it has to have an origin, a point when it started. This is understood to be 'our unconscious drives, urges and tendencies that organise our behaviour’ and the cause of these is because of our desires (Tanha).
These unconscious and conditioned drives that we have form our sense of 'Being', of who we are. Our conditioning and drives are caused through our relationship to others, events or objects. It can be seen in terms of ‘cause and effect’;
“When there is this, that is. With the arising of this, that arises. When this is not, neither is that. With the cessation of this, that ceases”
All our interactions have an impact and with each impact there is an emotional quality attached to it depending on our mental state at the time.
It is a fact that we cannot change the past, what has happened has happened. We can however change our relationship to it; our conditioning and emotional suffering associated with it and therefore become happier and have a greater sense of wellbeing.
The Third Noble Truth: There is a way to be released from suffering (Nirodha)
The third noble truth states that in order to be released from suffering an understanding about its origin is needed.
It is also understood that in order to experience suffering that there must be 'something' that experiences the suffering. If this is understood it means that when the suffering is alleviated there must be 'something' remaining. Therefore one of the founding tenants of Core Process Psychotherapy is our 'inherent health'. (Tathagatagarbha).
This 'inherent health' directs us to a fundamental truth held by certain traditions in Buddhism, as well as many other ‘spiritual paths’, that at the core of our being, whether it is known as our spirit, soul, big mind, or our 'core state', we are free from suffering and through exploration and understanding we can be released from our suffering and experience our natural state of wellbeing.
The Fourth Noble Truth: There is a pathway (Marga) that if we follow we can be released from our suffering.
The fourth noble truth provides us with a methodology or as they are known the 'eight fold pathways' to how our suffering could be changed. These pathways involve 'process and enquiry', and covers the areas of intentionality, wisdom, ethical and moral conduct, together with an attitude and fostering of awareness and mindfulness .
These pathways are the foundation stones of Core Process Psychotherapy. Core Process Psychotherapy is a relational enquiry by the therapist and the client bringing together the practice of awareness and western psychotherapeutic techniques.