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

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