Monday, September 20, 2010

Reason #49134 that I'm not a big fan of "Voice Dialogue"

Salon  has an interview with Meredith Maran, who has recently written a memoir of her involvement in one of the 90's witch-hunts: the mass of children and women who were led to claim a "recovered memory" of abuse that never happened.

There are of course, guided meditations in many traditional Buddhist practices, but these are rather benign, extending to such things as calming one's self and so forth; you know, making new body-mind connections generally.  And of course koan practice is clearly not in this league at all: it's not for nothing, as they've said in Brooklyn, that the "source language" of koans is meaningless. Koans aren't at all about replacing one narrative one has with another. It's about not having a narrative at all, really, and seeing what is and what happens.

"Recovered memory" is like "disowned voices," as far as I can see. It'd be nice for practitioners of such Voice Dialogue stuff to try to explain the differences.


Stuart said...

I've watched on YouTube several of the videos of Genpo Roshi doing his "Big Mind" workshops. It was all interesting, nothing terrible... but it made me think of exactly what you say in this posting, that he was kind of implanting ideas in the participants' minds.

If you say, "I want to speak to the scared child within you," then of course many people will find the voice of scared child within them. That doesn't mean that the voice exists originally, but that we can make that voice (with our beliefs, expectations, etc). And as with good/evil, holy/unholy, self/other... we often confuse the creations of our thinking with a substantial reality.

It's not necessarily harmful or wrong to cultivate this or that inner voice. But it shouldn't be confused with the practice of examining what is (before spinning it this way or that), like a clear mirror.


Duff said...

I'm not a practitioner of voice dialogue, but I think it can be a useful tool as part of a therapeutic approach (which may or may not be compatible with your view of what is essential to Buddhism).

As Stuart suggested, all therapeutic techniques run the risk of injecting content that wasn't there prior to the therapist's suggestions. Ideally this is kept to a minimum. But even in something like Vipassana meditation (no matter the version of Vipassana), you are looking for something pregiven like impermanence and suffering born of grasping and identification.

I do think Dennis Merzel injects more content into his facilitation of voice dialogue aka Big Mind than even the founders of voice dialogue, Hal and Sidra Stone.

The larger point to me though is that the self is a construct or set of narratives. Voice Dialogue and all psychotherapies for that matter work within the construct, attempting to write a better, more useful and empowering narrative. Buddhist practices tend instead to deconstruct the narrative, showing it's relative, impermanent nature. I still think narratives are useful, even self-narratives, but they are certainly subject to critique.

So that said, I don't think false memory syndrome is equivalent to "disowned voices" in all cases, but yes in some---especially in those cases where Merzel is trying to convince you to see the world his way.