Book Of The Week: Advice Not Given

We all want to do and be better, but we don’t always know how to get there.

Mark Epstein, M.D. is a psychiatrist with Buddhist teachings. His insight perfectly intertwines Buddhism and psychotherapy. Among several books that he has written, “Advice Not Given: A Guide To Getting Over Yourself” discusses some of the advice that he has been hesitant to provide to his psychiatric patients in the past.

Buddhism entails the Eightfold Path, which includes “right“ ways of being, such as right motivation, right speech, right action, and right effort.

As Dr. Epstein states in the book, the word “right” doesn’t necessarily mean “correct.“

The main thing is to interact with our egos in a way that helps us have a more satisfying existence. 

Here are some of my takeaways from Dr. Epstein’s insights into the Eightfold Path as it relates to psychotherapy:

Meditation Is A Way Of Life 

I have often heard people say that they have tried meditation to relieve stress. Many of these individuals give up on meditation if they struggle to stay focused during their sessions.

Right View can help serve as a reminder of why we are trying medication in the first place.

Are we trying to escape life? Or are we trying to accept the challenges that come our way and deal with them better? 

According to Buddhism, Right View states that the basic purpose of meditation is not to create a comfortable hiding place for oneself; it’s to acquaint the mind, on a moment-to-moment basis, with the concept of impermanence. 

We all know that things are constantly changing, but our ego will try to control things nevertheless. Right View can help us get over the need for control.

Right Speech 

It goes without saying that we should speak to each other with respect, compassion, and empathy.

But what about how we speak to ourselves?

We all have an inner dialogue littered with stories we tell ourselves.

Dr. Epstein reminds us that Right Speech also means paying attention to that inner dialogue. He also says to remember that just because we think certain things doesn’t make them true.

When we are mindful of our thoughts and the stories we tell ourselves, it gives us more power over them. Having power over them doesn’t mean pushing them away; it just means that we see them and can work with them.

Sometimes therapy can help with unpacking and questioning inner monologues. It can help us become more willing to loosen the attachment we have to the long-standing explanations we have been giving ourselves about our feelings. 

Final Thoughts 

I found it interesting that Dr. Epstein pointed out that therapy works when the discussion one has with one’s therapist changes the conversation one has with oneself. (Page 74)

This got me thinking about patterns that are repeated throughout life.

Do we repeat patterns because we tell ourselves that’s what we deserve?

I believe the Eightfold Path, and therapy, can help us with answering this question and help us live a more satisfying life.

I would love to hear what others have experienced; drop a comment below. 

Thanks for reading!

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