morita therapy, the psychology of action

once in a while i tell people that the name of my company is moritherapy and they say, “oh yes, i know moritherapy!” what they usually mean is morita therapy.

it’s about time i explore what that is. the information here comes from the ToDo institute.

morita therapy is sometimes referred to as the psychology of action.

morita psychotherapy was developed by japanese psychiatrist shoma morita in the early part of the twentieth century. he was influenced by the psychological principles of zen buddhism. his method was initially developed as a treatment for a type of anxiety called shinkeishitsu but in the latter part of this century the applications of morita therapy have broadened.

if we find out we have won the lottery, we may be excited. if we hear about the death of a friend, we may feel sadness. such feelings are natural responses and we need not try to change or “work through” them. this is acceptance of reality as it is (arugamama).

thus, if we feel depressed, we accept our feelings of depression; if we feel anxious, we accept our feelings of anxiety. we can then direct our efforts toward living our life well, coexisting with unpleasant feelings from time to time. it is not necessary to change our feelings in order to take action.

“trying to control the emotional self willfully by manipulative attempts is like trying to choose a number on a thrown die or to push back the water of the kamo river upstream. certainly, they end up aggravating their agony and feeling unbearable pain because of their failure in manipulating the emotions.”
shoma morita, m.d.

often, taking action leads to a change in feelings. for example, it is common to develop confidence after one has repeatedly done something with some success.

in western psychotherapy there are a great many labels which purport to diagnose and describe a person’s psychological functioning – depressed, obsessive, compulsive, codependent. many of us begin to label ourselves this way, rather than investigate our own experience. if we observe our experience, we find that we have a flow of awareness which changes from moment to moment. when we become overly preoccupied with ourselves, our attention no longer flows freely, but becomes trapped by an unhealthy self-focus. the more we pay attention to our symptoms (our anxiety, for example) the more we fall into this trap.

when we are absorbed by what we are doing, we are not anxious because our attention is engaged by activity. but when we try to “understand” or “fix” or “work through” feelings and issues, our self-focus is heightened and exercised. this often leads to more suffering rather than relief. how can we be released from such self-focused attention?

“the answer lies in practicing and mastering an attitude of being in touch with the outside world. this is called a reality-oriented attitude, which means, in short, liberation from self-centeredness.”
takahisa kora, m.d.

the successful student of morita therapy learns to accept the fluctuations of thoughts and feelings and ground her or his behavior in reality and the purpose of the moment. cure is not defined by the alleviation of discomfort or the attainment of an ideal feeling state but by taking constructive action, which helps with living a full and meaningful existence and not being ruled by emotions.

what do you think?  would this sort of therapy work for you?

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