Over the years I have noticed that psychotherapy often seems to be viewed in a negative way by spiritual seekers and even spiritual masters. Might the reason for this be that psychotherapy tends to be about the ego and its role in our suffering. I have come to see that the ego does not like to be seen, so from the ego’s point of view spiritual teachings of various kinds are safe; the ego need not be seen at all. Where there is an ego there is suffering and the more rigid the ego is the more suffering there will be. The spiritual search can only occur because we are suffering in some way. I understand that looking closely at our own ego is not a pleasant experience so naturally most people try to avoid it. In my experience the only reason we are drawn to therapy or spirituality is because we are suffering. Of these two options clearly spirituality is the safer option as it isn’t required that the ego be looked at. Surely this is like an ostrich burying its head in the sand and hoping that because it can’t see the danger the danger will not be there. Of course we would all rather become enlightened without getting our hands dirty. Strangely many spiritual teachings refer to enlightenment as an egoless state, yet also seem to deny that we should look at the ego. When I talk about psychotherapy and the ego I am not saying that we should analyze the ego or examine it in an intellectual way. The ego is deeply connected to suffering so it is in suffering that we may most closely approach the ego. The ego demands that when we suffer we do something to avoid that suffering but if we examine the suffering itself we will come to see that it is created by the ego that then encourages us to avoid what it has created. To examine the suffering means to allow the physical sensations that occur in suffering to be what they are without avoiding them in any way. The ego would rather you not do this because if you do the ego will be revealed as the cause of our suffering. It does not want to be seen as the cause it would prefer to be seen as the saviour that will put an end to suffering. I am not necessarily advocating psychotherapy, if you find a therapist that understands the ego, not theoretically but actually then that could be helpful but this examination of suffering can also be done alone if we have the motivation to do it. The spiritual by-pass is a great trap created by the ego to avoid being seen as the creator of suffering. It is natural that sooner or later we all become spiritual seekers because it is inevitable that we will suffer. It is interesting to note that the four noble truths of the Buddha are -
1. Life means suffering. 2. The origin of suffering is attachment. 3. The cessation of suffering is attainable. 4. The path to the cessation of suffering.
While it is true that the origin of suffering is connected to attachment, the origin of attachment is in the ego. If for instance we say that we are attached to pleasure this must mean that we believe that there is a value in being attached to pleasure. Without belief there could be no attachment and without belief there could be no ego.