Overview of the Book

Each chapter of Inquiring Deeply consists of a series of reflections about a particular dimension or theoretical aspect of Buddhist-informed psychodynamic/rela- tional psychotherapy. Filling in an outline familiar from psychoanalytic theory, the various chapters explore basic concepts of Self, Other, and the “object relations” between self and other from an integrative perspective which includes both Buddhist and psychoanalytic ideas.

  • Chapter 1 (Prologue) introduces the psychotherapeutic approach called “inquiring deeply,” a blended clinical strategy which integrates the knowledge of psychoanalysis with the wisdom of Buddhism in a single coherent frame. In addition to describing the questions which the book will address, it describes the personal and philosophical context in which Inquiring Deeply came about.
  • Chapter 2 consists of a series of preliminary reflections on the process of inquiring deeply as a psychodynamic/relational psychotherapeutic approach informed by Buddhist view. It defines inquiring deeply, presents its fundamental premises and assumptions, and discusses the role which mindful awareness plays in psychological healing. Mindfulness in psychotherapy and mindfulness in Buddhist practice are compared.
  • Chapter 3 explores basic ideas of mindful self-reflection as it is understood in inquiring deeply. Introspective awareness practices of mindful noticing, investigation, and inquiry are introduced. These practices are used in inquiring deeply as adjunctive methods which can amplify and “unpack” psychological experience. The clinical process of inquiring deeply is illustrated with case examples.
  • Chapter 4 presents a framework of questions that can be used for clinical inquiry in psychodynamic/relational psychotherapy and/or as a structured process for psychological self-reflection. The process of deep inquiry helps to define and clarify the crux of psychological problems and issues, highlighting problematic aspects of self-experience, relational needs, and existential attitudes. It opens new options and choices for relating to problems and finding the innate wisdom within them.
  • Chapter 5 describes the role of connection in relational psychotherapy and how the quality of Presence which is cultivated in mindfulness practice is relevant in deepening therapeutic intimacy. It describes the receptive, meditative frame of inquiring deeply, and introduces the concepts of “relational field” and “transcendent relational field.”
  • Chapter 6, the heart of Inquiring Deeply, is a series of reflections on different aspects of connection. Because the mind is inherently relational—organized by and for relationship—interpersonal problems are the primary sphere of emotional difficulties. This chapter gives a conceptual framework for understanding conflicts and fear of intimacy with others; explores the importance of how relationship is held in mind; and explains the importance of intimacy with self.
  • Chapter 7 consists of a series of reflections on the nature of thinking. How the mind creates experience presents an important set of questions which are at the heart of both psychotherapy and Buddhism. A clear understanding of the function of thought is essential in developing a wise relationship to the thinking mind.
  • Chapter 8 gives a clear and coherent account of the psychological self and its organization, highlighting the development of self-awareness and the role of self-reflection. The interpersonal origins of self-identity are explained, with special emphasis on the narrative construction of the self. Finally, the “problem of self” as it is understood in Buddhism is elucidated and the role of mindfulness in the development of subjectivity is explored.
  • Chapter 9 takes up the different meanings of the concept of “object” in Buddhism, Western philosophy, and psychoanalysis. Emphasis is placed on the psychoanalytic concept of “the mind-object” which has important bearing on how we relate to our minds and so is very pertinent to understanding both mindfulness practice and psychotherapy. The mind-object in clinical work is illuminated with clinical examples.
  • Chapter 10 presents a summary and synthesis of the various topics in Inquiring Deeply as they pertain to understanding the processes of psychological change and growth. It describes how we change in terms of ten component factors. It presents conclusions about a wise relationship to problems. Core questions about whether mindfulness and psychotherapy are essentially the same or different are revisited. Finally, the nature of psychological healing is considered and contrasted with the Buddhist goal of liberation.

To summarize, Inquiring Deeply describes a framework for psychotherapy which is intended to integrate the knowledge of psychoanalysis and the wisdom of Buddhism into a single coherent frame. It thoughtfully compares Buddhist and psychoanalytic ideas about working with emotional pain and shows in an experience-near way how to go about combining the two into a blended clinical approach. While Inquiring Deeply is based in contemporary psychoanalytic thought, it is best described as a book about how to “practice with problems” in the Buddhist sense of the word practice: how Buddhist methods of practice (mindfulness, investigation, and inquiry) can be used to amplify and “unpack” psychological experience. This strategy can be used in psychodynamic psychotherapy (or psychoanalysis), and it is also applicable to working with the problems of everyday life outside of the consulting room.

There is already a large professional literature that presents a scholarly comparison of Buddhism and psychoanalysis with respect to their essential areas of similarity and difference.8 Inquiring Deeply is not this kind of comprehensive analysis; it is, rather, a series of reflections which is intended to guide readers in making their own discerning comparisons. Its purpose is to give an overview which will help provide a conceptual bridge between Buddhist and Western psychology for those who would like to integrate them in their own practice, personally and/or professionally.

Inquiring Deeply endeavors to present a theoretical overview of basic ideas from contemporary psychoanalysis and to explain how these concepts help us understand experience. The language or “idiom” used in this book is psychoanalytic because this is the theoretical foundation of my clinical work. While basic ideas are presented in a condensed and simplified form so that they will be accessible even to readers who are not trained in psychotherapy,9 I hope that the level of discourse will be both interesting and informative even to those with a lot of clinical experience. Clinical illustrations are provided to add depth and texture to the discussion and to show what Buddhist-informed relational/psychodynamic work looks like in my consulting room.

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