Mindfulness-Based Interventions to Depressive Symptomatology I: Introduction, Background and Critical Analysis
Mindfulness in Other World Religions
Goleman (1996) noted that there are meditative practices found within many of the dominant world religions (as cited in Gehart & McCollum, 2008). Goldstein (2013) specifically described that mindfulness practice is similar to Taoist philosophies in that in Taoism there is also a guiding notion that one should allow things to flow on their own as opposed to attempting to fix things out of a desire to improve them. Within mindfulness meditation, detachment from goal is also encouraged in that individuals formulate a mind that does not receive its conditioning from desire (Goldstein, 2013).
Meditative practices can also be found within the context of the Christian tradition as noted in the centering prayer (Knabb, 2012). The centering prayer is a type of Christian meditation with its etiology in Catholic mysticism (Knabb, 2012). Hence, the universality of mindfulness practice in religion is useful in that it can permit individuals to draw upon their tradition when they are experiencing depression (Knabb, 2012).
Doing Mode Versus Being Mode
Modes of being are broken down in Buddhist philosophy as being under the categories of either “doing” or “being.” In the doing state of mind, the central task is to engage in task completion in the internal or external environment (Segal et al., 2013). The ruminative state of mind is thus a variation of the “doing” state of mind (Segal et al., 2013). In relation to depression, individuals seem to employ the “doing” state of mind with the thought that this will help them to avoid experiencing depressive relapse again (Segal et al., 2013). In the doing state of mind, the mind examines for discrepancies between how things are currently and how one wants them to be (Segal et al., 2013). If an action can be taken immediately to rectify a feeling, then it is not problematic (Segal et al., 2013). However, doing mode can become problematic and turn into what it is termed as “driven-doing” mode in which one interprets oneself in a negative lens as a result of external events (Segal et al., 2013). For instance, a relatively neutral situation, such as performing poorly on an academic assignment, may occur which causes someone to think “I’m a failure” (Segal et al., 2013). Driven-doing mode entails a continual dwelling on discrepancy and rehearsing the ways that one is different from one’s ideal situation and self (Segal et al., 2013). It additionally entails feeling more poorly about oneself because of one’s continual dwelling and one’s recognition that this dwelling makes one even further away from one’s ideal self or ability to handle a situation (Segal et al., 2013). This ruminative pattern of thinking in relation to situations and the self tends to create thought in depressed individuals of thinking that there is something wrong with them (Segal et al., 2013). In driven-doing states, the mind frequently travels to the past and the future as well as interacts in the present moment through a veil of thoughts or concepts with all of these temporal components (Segal et al., 2013). Within driven-doing mode, individuals also tend to engage in avoidance or aversion to negative thoughts affiliated with their depressive mood (Segal et al., 2013). Engaging in aversive relationships to thoughts tends to lead to a perpetuation and augmentation of the depressed mood state the individual was attempting to avoid (Segal et al., 2013).
Conversely, being mode consists of one having an immediate and intimate connection to the present moment (Segal et al., 2013). Thoughts in this mode are viewed merely as transient events that occur in awareness, which subsequently pass (Segal et al., 2013). Therefore, a “decentered” perspective is assumed when engaging in “being” mode (Segal et al., 2013). Thoughts are viewed as being merely mental events which do not require action by the individual (Segal et al., 2013). Being mode can further be delineated from driven-doing mode in that there is not an end goal in this state (Segal et al., 2013). More particularly, in the being mode there is not a focal point on monitoring or evaluating oneself and instead the centerpiece is to “accept” or “allow” things to occur without a need to change or rectify emotional states (Segal et al., 2013). Importantly, Segal et al. (2013) clarified that being mode does not need to occur only when there is a lack of activity, as being or doing modes can occur when there is a lack or presence of activity. Conspicuously, mindfulness practices and mindful relations to thoughts are categorically being mode related.
Compassion in Mindfulness
The Buddha’s holistic teaching held a purpose of reducing suffering in humans in addition to increasing compassion and loving-kindness in the practitioners of mindfulness (Gause & Coholic, 2010). Aversion to negative emotional states has a tendency to augment these states (Segal et al., 2013). Goldstein (2013) noted that the most effective way of preventing aversion is through Metta. Metta, derived from the Pali language, refers to loving-kindness (Goldstein, 2013). Loving-kindness practice is from the Tibetan Mahayana Buddhist tradition (Gilbert & Choden, 2013). Metta specifically pertains to a generosity of heart that one may experience which desires that other living beings be happy and well (Goldstein, 2013). Metta allows for the prevention of aversion to occur because it permits one to focus on the good of other people as opposed to one’s own faults (Goldstein, 2013). Possession of a Metta-based mind permits one to see a situation with clarity as opposed to having emotions obscure the situation (Goldstein, 2013). Metta, compassion, is encouraged in individuals through mindfulness practice (Goldstein, 2013). Compassion in Buddhist philosophy entails purifying one’s mind so that one can be more effective at helping others (Goldstein, 2013).
Overall, psychological pain within the context of Buddhism is seen as something that can be more approachable from the vantage point of a compassionate stance (Gilbert & Choden, 2013). However, engaging in mindfulness and practicing compassion can be a difficult process for individuals initially since it brings more awareness to painful feelings that may not have been in the forefront of an individual’s consciousness (Gilbert & Choden, 2013). Overall, however, mindfulness is useful in that it helps one to understand that they are not one’s thoughts and enables them to view the thoughts from a more detached perspective.