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Improving Buddhism

Is it Possible?

Counseling About Motivation

One of the important roles of a higher level individual in a modern religion can be counseling. As noted elsewhere, counseling can be done by professionals in the field, but this type of counseling is done without knowledge or involvement in the religious aspects of life. Is that an important aspect?

 

Religion sets goals for its members, and it also sets behavioral norms or standards, among other things. A person outside the religion might envision that individuals should have completely different goals and behavioral norms than someone inside the religion. Then the side effect of professional counseling from someone outside the religion would be to erode the religious teaching that the individual being counseled had received, perhaps weakening it to the point where it no longer plays a large role in that individual's decision-making process. So, counseling within a religion can be a beneficial task for those in the hierarchy.

 

Counseling deals with solving personal problems of an individual. It is not the same as teaching someone how to deal with problems in general, before they occur. It is directed at an existing problem which should be solved in the short-term. Furthermore, counseling is a one-on-one activity, whereas teaching is more efficiently done one-on-many. The benefits of good counseling are typically higher that those of the same effort in teaching, at least in the short-term. Teaching is directed at a more long-term horizon, for situations which might arise in the future. There is, especially at the younger ages, one-on-one teaching which is directed at either short-term behavior or at long-term planning and activity. Perhaps a better word for this very early teaching is training, as it is done for a pre-rational child, whereas teaching extends well past the arrival of rational capabilities in the student.

 

In parallel with this division, counseling for a young child is likely indistinguishable from training, especially when it is directed at child behavior. Thus, counseling for older children and especially adults deserves to be in a separate category.

 

Adult counseling can be further broken down by the nature of the problem that is being addressed. A good way to classify the problems is by the specific role that is being played by the person being counseled in connection with the specific problem. Roles include spouse, parent, worker, member of the religion, protector, hierarchy member, and leader, to name some of the most important. Classification by roles enables the counseling to connect with the teaching basis of the religion, as that is also classifiable by roles.

 

Consider the role of worker. In Improved Buddhism, as in certain other religions, as well as philosophies which substitute for religions, work is an important means for furthering the overall goal of the religion, which is self-preservation and preservation and improvement of the membership. At the very top of the issues that can arise regarding the role of worker is that of motivation. The teaching of the religion strives to motivate all members to work toward useful ends, but there are other factors which can serve to debilitate that motivation. One of the factors involves the proper appreciation of status, and it may very well be that a counseling opportunity arises because of lack of this appreciation.

 

Status here is meant the level achieved in a hierarchy of an organization, or the level of rewards received, or the level at which a person's value to others, mostly others in the religion or others closely connected to the individual, is perceived by others. Motivation is negatively affected when an individual sees himself at a status below his own desired status, and he is blocked from achieving any upward change, either by psychological factors or by situational ones. Consider first the psychological factors. As is well known, early life has a large effect on later self-confidence, and a difficult environment as a youth can lead to a self-opinion which includes negative or very negative self-views. The brain does not force all effects from one's past into a cohert and organized mixture, but instead it is a collection of possibly discordant experiences which are never forgotten and never combined. Thus, when memories of the negative experiences arise, the member of the religion might experience a loss of motivation, or much worse, a motivation in the wrong direction, toward failure and subsequent despair.

 

Every experience that a young person has is a teaching experience, because everything is remembered and nothing is erased or overwritten, according to the human brain's operating mechanism. This means that, even though the teaching done within the religion promotes positive self-image, full motivation to work in a useful manner, and a desire to improve one's status and that of others, experiences outside the religion can be just the opposite. These opposite experiences give rise to one type of status and motivation problem.

 

Counseling a person with this type of problem might be much more common than with other types of work-related problems, except perhaps interpersonal work-related ones. The obvious, but eventually ineffectual method of dealing with it is to provide encouragement toward more positive experiences, to keep trying and to gradually build up enough self-confidence that the childhood negative experiences cannot overcome them. This might work, if they are not so strong as to insert themselves into any new activity so as to ruin the chances of it becoming a full-blown success. In this case, very large amounts of counseling might be needed, to continually steer the person away from self-destructive activities. Maintaining this level of counseling is possibly too demanding over the long term that it is necessary, and so it is diminished, giving the negative youth experiences time to overcome the positive ones achieved initially.

 

The other solution is to provide an introspective capability to the person being counseled. In someone whose mental abilities are sufficient to understand the workings of the human mind, insights into how their past affects their future can be given. If this is done effectively, then there can be formed a kind of feedback, so that when these negative times lead to a de-motivation or a desire to fail, this can be observed, and possibly corrected before they have an opportunity to de-rail progress toward sufficient self-confidence and the ability to progress as well as their capabilities permit.

 

Meditation is a critical tool in allowing this self-monitoring to occur. One of Buddhism's strong points is the teaching of meditation, of the correct form. Meditation can be designed to provide a reinforcement of positive feelings and of positive expectations of the future, which is a vital role, and it can also be used to quiet negative feelings, as well as to notice their occurrence and their origins. These two reactions to negative experiences bubbling up in subconscious ways are not completely different. Meditation toward positive experiences inevitably serves to suppress negative past experiences and it is something which does not demand resources from a counselor or anything except time from the individual being counseled. Meditation to comprehend the origins of negative experiences can work for experiences which did not happen at such a young age that the brain could not store them in a rememberable fashion. For those earliest ones, only positive meditation works. For the later ones, a quieter, less enthusiastic version of positive meditation can provide a mentally quiet background in which memories of the negative times can be viewed, without them leading to the negative feelings which might otherwise debilitate the individual. Thus, teaching and supporting meditation is an effective and cost-effective way to do counseling for status and motivation problems.

 

Thus, counseling can be divided out among contributors, provided that there has been enough preliminary one-on-one counseling done to support meditation to cure the status problem. The other contributors can recognize that the person's negative experiences will tend to make mediation fail, just as they tend and have tended in the past to make other goal-oriented activities fail, and the task of the contributors is to encourage the individual to continue meditating. This might be done by involving the individual in group meditation, which is almost always part and parcel of any Buddhist sect's activites. It can also be done by volunteering for one-on-one meditation, where two people do it, the extra contributor to counseling and the person with problems. The same goes for where there is no group, but a pair or trio of contributors to the other person's future success involve him in mediation, for the purpose of seeing that it continues at a sufficient pace to keep overcoming the past negative experiences, certainly long enough to start building up the positive ones to counterbalance the negative early ones and certainly long enough to allow the introspection mode of mediation to have an effect, if it can.

 

Meditation can be used to help individuals with many other types of problems. Some are quite congruent with the work status type of problem. For example, if an individual's history is such that all interpersonal relationships fail, perhaps in disasters, it might be that these negative experiences overwhelm any new attempts at positive relationships. The analogy is obvious, and the solution is as well: mediation following counseling on the problem. There may be others similar to these two as well.

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