psychotherapy, ethics and decisionmaking

so i was talking about buddhism in my last entry …

specifically, i was talking about “the buddhist in me”. i think what i mean by that is “that part of me that feels really close to buddhism”. and talking about parts of me … there’s also a part of me that feels a little sad and lost that i can’t say, with full conviction: i’m a buddhist! i’m a lutheran! i’m a pagan! i’m an atheist! it’s this whole religion vs spirituality thing.

buddhism, liberal christianity, atheism and the pagan worldview all influence me strongly but in the end, that’s what it is, an influence. the part of me that longs for the certainty of a religion is the part that really wishes there was more solid ground under our feet. it’s the part that would like to assert that lying or killing is wrong, under any and all circumstances.

life is so damn confusing! because as soon as i write “killing is wrong, under any and all circumstances”, i think of all the insects i’ve knowingly killed, many of them with glee. is any of you rolling their eyes now? “who cares about mosquitoes and mealy moths?” well, that’s where buddhism comes in. any life form is valuable. (and famous bach scholar and lutheran missionary, albert schweitzer, would agree). anyway, i think this makes it obvious that i need to look at things in context.

there are some contexts – many, in fact, since i’m not vegetarian – under which killing is apparently ok. which makes life complicated because it means that i can’t use a template to make decisions. everything i do i must investigate in the light of who and what is affected by it.

so when i see a mealy moth cruising through the kitchen, the housewife in me curses, hunts it down, and feels victorious if i manage so squash it. the buddhist in me may wonder how i am one with that now departed mealy moth. the christian says a little prayer for the mealy moth’s soul, together with the pagan who thanks the mealy moth for giving up its life. the depressive bipolar part of me is indecisive whether to sink into a pit of depression and confusion over all this, and i have to tie down the manic part, who wants to drop everything and start writing a PhD thesis about the topic. the atheist part glances at all of this and in less than a 10th of a split second decides that it is not worth her thinking time.

psychotherapist andrew feldmar likes to say that much of psychotherapy is not about curing people, it’s about ethics. i agree with him. much of what we do in psychotherapy is finding ways to make decisions. to a large degree, decisionmaking is about ethics.

hmmm … now that i think of it, maybe the “therapy” part of this is to come to the conclusion that much of life is about decisionmaking …

what do you think?

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

5 thoughts on “psychotherapy, ethics and decisionmaking

  1. Marc Olmsted

    I take considerable comfort as a non-vegetarian as well in thinking that life in the wild very rarely results in a pleasant non-violent death. Creatures who get sick are rippied apart or swallowed whole by predators–if they make it that long.
    But life is awful for most animals raised in factory farms. As an ethical choice, agitating for more humane conditions in food production makes for a very-life affirming choice rather than worrying about causing a death only slightly earlier and no more unpleasant than would naturally occur.

  2. Marc Olmsted

    I take considerable comfort as a non-vegetarian as well in thinking that life in the wild very rarely results in a pleasant non-violent death. Creatures who get sick are rippied apart or swallowed whole by predators–if they make it that long.
    But life is awful for most animals raised in factory farms. As an ethical choice, agitating for more humane conditions in food production makes for a very-life affirming choice rather than worrying about causing a death only slightly earlier and no more unpleasant than would naturally occur.

  3. isabella mori

    marc, i wholeheartedly agree with you (and once even wrote a philosophy paper about that). a friend of mine, back from the “back-to-the-land” time of my life, even went so far as to say that he was ethically opposed to eating meat that he hadn’t killed himself.

    unfortunately, my actions have not quite caught up with my convictions. i try to buy free run/free range eggs and lots of fish and lately bison meat, but i still don’t put enough effort into buying pork, beef and chicken that have lived a life relatively free of torture.

  4. isabella mori

    marc, i wholeheartedly agree with you (and once even wrote a philosophy paper about that). a friend of mine, back from the “back-to-the-land” time of my life, even went so far as to say that he was ethically opposed to eating meat that he hadn’t killed himself.

    unfortunately, my actions have not quite caught up with my convictions. i try to buy free run/free range eggs and lots of fish and lately bison meat, but i still don’t put enough effort into buying pork, beef and chicken that have lived a life relatively free of torture.

  5. Marc Olmsted

    I think we have evolved to be carnivores at the top of the food chain, so I have no guilt about eating meat itself, but I could certainly be a lot more proactive about changing the system.
    Luckily there are movements to pass humane farming practices in various state legislatures–I think in a few decades factory farming will go the way of child labor–in the USA and Europe. In the third world though, it will still very bad no doubt–hard to ask for animals to be treated well when so many humans are treated disposably.
    I HAVE stopped eating fast food–both because of the destruction of rain forest for cattle ranching and because of all the fast food trash I pick up. I figure if this stuff is running through our heads, it’s running through millions of others. That gives me hope.

  6. Marc Olmsted

    I think we have evolved to be carnivores at the top of the food chain, so I have no guilt about eating meat itself, but I could certainly be a lot more proactive about changing the system.
    Luckily there are movements to pass humane farming practices in various state legislatures–I think in a few decades factory farming will go the way of child labor–in the USA and Europe. In the third world though, it will still very bad no doubt–hard to ask for animals to be treated well when so many humans are treated disposably.
    I HAVE stopped eating fast food–both because of the destruction of rain forest for cattle ranching and because of all the fast food trash I pick up. I figure if this stuff is running through our heads, it’s running through millions of others. That gives me hope.

  7. isabella mori

    like this: “factory farming will go the way of child labour” and that you’ve given up fast food because of all the trash you’ve picked up. very interesting view points. i should go over and spend more time on your blog, look for “trashy” posts!

  8. isabella mori

    like this: “factory farming will go the way of child labour” and that you’ve given up fast food because of all the trash you’ve picked up. very interesting view points. i should go over and spend more time on your blog, look for “trashy” posts!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *