The Four Noble Truths: The Heart of Core Process Psychotherapy
Core Process Psychotherapy (CPP) is an contemplative, psycho-spiritual approach that combines the curative power of awareness with western psychotherapeutic theories.
The word "Core" refers to our inherent health, freedom and joy at the heart of our nature and "Process" is the exploration of any suffering and obstacles that may obscure our freedom and joy. CPP offers the opportunity to be present to our current experience and explore how our past may have affected us.
Core Process Psychotherapy is grounded in the Buddhist teaching on 'suffering' . This teaching, known as the 'Four Noble Truths' presents us with an understanding that even though there is suffering, there is also a pathway out of suffering.
The First Noble Truth: There is suffering (Dukkha) and it must be understood. (the words in brackets are the original Pali).
We are aware that life is in a constant state of change. 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 now will also change. We can then begin to 'let go' of any suffering as we realise that what has happened in the past has come and gone.
However, to change suffering we must first acknowledge and try to understand the suffering we experience. In CPP we will explore the strategies and 'defences' that we have created to try and avoid or reduce our suffering. It is often the case that 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, tendencies and desires (Tanha) that organise our behaviour. These unconscious and conditioned drives that we have form our sense of 'Being' i.e. who we are. Our conditioning and drives arise through our relationships 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; and become aware of our conditioning and any emotional suffering associated with it.
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. This means that when the suffering is alleviated there must be 'something' remaining. Therefore one of the founding tenants of CPP is our 'inherent health'. (Tathagatagarbha).
Our '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 or 'Self', whether it is known as our spirit, soul, big mind, Zen or our 'core state', we are free from suffering and through exploration and understanding we can begin to let go of our suffering and again 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 for release from our suffering. It is known as the 'eight fold pathways'. 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 CPP which is a relational enquiry where the therapist brings together the practice of awareness and psychotherapeutic techniques to assist the client in understanding their suffering and support them on their journey to wellbeing.