Is Forgiveness Always the Best Option?

“Always forgive your enemies—nothing annoys them so much.”

Oscar Wilde


Do we always have to forgive?……

Can we ignore the shoulds, oughts and have-to’s, the pressure from some religions and from the often well-meaning, peacemakers ?

Even time-worn sayings urge us to ‘forgive and forget:’

“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” (Alexander Pope)

“Without forgiveness, there’s no future.” (Desmond Tutu)

“The weak can never forgive.” (Gandhi)

“Only the brave know how to forgive. … A coward never forgave; it is not in his nature.” (Laurence Sterne)

Without forgiveness, the famous quotes imply, we are weak, cowardly, hopeless.

It is hard to find quotations about not forgiving. There are exceptions:

I will remember and recover, not forgive and forget. (Dalai Lama)

“If you can’t forgive and forget, pick one.” (Robert Brault)

“Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.” (C.S. Lewis)

Whilst forgiveness may bring considerable benefits at the right time and in the appropriate situation, it is important that people do not feel pushed into this, to please others.

Perhaps there is no single answer to the difficult question of ‘Should we forgive?’ In reality, there are many ways of thinking about this. Each situation is different.

It is impossible to ‘advise’ on whether someone’ought’ to forgive another who has wronged them. We cannot know what is right for anyone else.

We do not have to forgive. Forgiveness is an individual choice and needs to be done for the benefit of the self. It may not always be helpful.

The Role of Psychotherapy.

It is hard to generalize about forgiveness; there are different levels of offence and ways of receiving others’ behaviour. Some things may feel unforgivable. For those who may have been severely abused, victimised, betrayed, or whose loved ones have been injured or murdered, perhaps, most understandably, forgiveness may be unthinkable. It may also be contraindicated for some people.

Forgiveness might not always  be healing or releasing. It could be disempowering. Not forgiving may actually give a hurt person something to hold onto, some personal power, in a situation where they have felt powerless.

It would be detrimental if one were made to feel bad about not forgiving. It would also be a denial of the depth of pain that has been suffered. One cannot merely ‘forget’ this.

Such ‘bygones’ are not ‘bygones’ when they still hurt and when there are reminders through dreams, flashbacks and terrible memories. Forgiveness needs to be an inner decision, made voluntarily and at a time when the trauma survivor is ready.

What is crucial is that thoughts and feelings accompanying a lack of forgiveness are prevented from ruling- and ruining- one’s life. 

Feeling grudges, remaining angry and ruminating bitterly over many years, is traumatic and self-destructive. Psychotherapy can enable people understand, work through and let go of such issues, so that they do not take over as much. 

Whilst the memories will never disappear, (can some things ever be forgotten?they may become less potent and people can feel freer as a result. They are helped to  manage the memories better.

Once worked through, vengefulness towards another matters less. They become less significant, their power has gone. They may not be as prominent in one’s thoughts.


Can you forgive someone who has not expressed regret or apologised?


If the offending individual has not apologised, some people will never forgive. Yet it is still possible for others to find forgiveness within them, even when the offence has been serious. They do this for themselves, for their own healing:


Sometimes, people feel they cannot move on without forgiving. This is fine, but, especially if the wounds have been deep, there needs to be an awareness that maybe they might not be able to trust that person again.

The forgiven one does not have be in the other’s life, or to be fully reconciled. Sometimes the relationship survives, but is different. Perhaps it will be reduced in terms of time spent or the quality will change.

Things will have altered; depending on the degree of pain caused, the experience of feeling wronged might mean that the bond has been altered forever. Forgiveness is different from reconciliation.

Feeling Able to Forgive and be Reconciled.


Image: Pinterest

Forgiveness can be a difficult process. It is important from the beginning that the hurt suffered is acknowledged by the survivor of that hurt. It is also part of the forgiveness process to grieve the betrayal, disappointment, loss, emotional or physical damage.

Emotions like anger, retaliatory feelings, rage and murderousness might arise, as well as sorrow and anguish.

Such feelings need expression,  preferably to the perpetrator. This is frequently not possible, but it can still be cathartic if such pent-up feelings are revealed in therapy or to another empathic person.

The process of forgiveness takes time, as does rebuilding trust. It does not mean that one pardons, disregards or condones what has been done, or absolves the perpetrator of all responsibility.

Perhaps there might, however, develop some objective understanding of what prompted the other to behave as they did. In time, it may be that such awareness produces new attitudes of increasing goodwill towards the offending person. Rumi has said “From understanding comes love.”

It is important also to have some insight into one’s own personal reactions to the hurt or betrayal that has occurred.

Forgiveness can have considerable therapeutic benefits. Research has indicated that

“…developing a more forgiving coping style may help minimize stress-related disorders.”

On a hopeful, yet still realistic note, I end this post with this thoughtful quotation:

“Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.” ― Louis B. Smedes


Would anyone reading this be willing to share their experience of forgiving/not forgiving in the comments box below? It would be helpful to hear people’s view and experiences if possible.

10 Ways Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Could Help You

‘We repeat what we don’t repair.’

Christine Langley-Obaugh



‘I can see no way out but through.’

Robert Frost



When we come into psychotherapy with a plethora of issues, we hope it will ameliorate our pain. Obviously, how much this is achieved will depend on both patient and therapist. Not everyone who has psychotherapy will experience all the benefits listed below.

As we have seen, the research evidence does indicate that psychoanalytic psychotherapy can be very effective.

It might help us to –

1. Gain self-understanding and awareness, through various techniques and therapeutic experiences, over time. This self- understanding often lasts and develops throughout our life, once we have the tools to apply it.

2. Help us feel accepted and learn to accept ourselves and others.

3. Give us alternative viewpoints; to soften a black and white approach to life and to accept there are no absolutes, only shades of grey. Assist us in accepting we-and those around us- are not perfect, but may be ‘good enough.’

4. Identify and explore difficult and often conflicting feelings and come to understand them. In doing this, gently challenge the defences we have built up in order to avoid painful feelings.

5. Talk about fears, fantasies, dreams and wishes as a way of understanding what might be happening in the unconscious. This might be influencing us and our behaviour without our awareness.  Feel more comfortable with and accepting of difficult material and issues that might arise during therapy.



                                          ‘The Royal Road to the Unconscious.’ Clipart.

‘Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious.’



6. Understand the relationship between past and present and how past experiences affect the present in terms of behaviour, feelings and ways of relating to others. Patterns of behaviour that may be adversely affecting our lives and relationships are repeated unless they are identified and brought into awareness. These patterns will be recognised and explored in therapy.

7.  Understand how we relate to others; the therapist will use the transference. She will explore the patient/therapist relationship as a way of understanding how the patient relates generally in his/her life.

8. Comprehend that what we fear outside of ourselves may actually have originated in our internal world. This actually gives us more power to deal with such fears.

‘…our internal landscape begins to develop at birth and is a compilation of early relationships that have left their imprint on our being. Good and not so good. Our internal world is made up of real others (our parents, caretakers, siblings, teachers, places and things etc.) and our experience of them, our emotional reactions and feelings which become the fabric of the relational memories that have been taken in. So our internal world represents our intake of interactions and relationships as they have been experienced and understood at an implicit level.’



9. Develop confidence, self esteem and a feeling of self worth, through being heard and accepted in a non-judgemental atmosphere. Enable us to benefit from and enjoy our relationships more.


10. Through understanding, to either be able to forgive, or, if not, to be able to manage the pain of the past with more strength and fortitude, so that it does not affect one’s present.




Has psychoanalytic psychotherapy helped you? Please leave a response on the comments box below. Thank you. Linda.

Empathy: What is it and How Can We Show It? Find Out How Therapists Do This.



“Can I see anothers woe,
And not be in sorrow too.
Can I see anothers grief,
And not seek for kind relief.

On Anothers Sorrow
William Blake, Songs of Innocence and of Experience


What is Empathy?

Empathy is the ability to put oneself into the world of another, in both a thinking and feeling way, as far as that is possible. It is really trying to understand how that other person sees and experiences the world.

There is a difference between empathy and sympathy or compassion. Sympathy is feeling affected by and sorry for someone’s situation. Compassion is feeling caring concern towards them and their plight and wanting to offer help. Empathy is a more total experience of someone else’s perspective, an intense attunement, putting oneself in another person’s shoes.

Empathy has been thought of as a natural aspect of most people’s personality, a fundamental, innate part of us that enables us to relate to and socialise with others. However, some recent research has indicated that it is mostly a learnt quality, influenced by upbringing and environmental factors.

This, and other research projects now mean that scientists can actually witness the areas of the brain involved with empathy:

With the technological advances of the 21st century, studies began using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to research empathy, frequently using empathy for pain as their experimental paradigm. Two seminal studies (Decety and Jackson,
2004; Singer et al., 2004) simultaneously posited that a specic set of regions of the pain matrix(specically the anterior cingulate cortex [ACC] and anterior insula [AI]) are activated both by experiencing pain and by watching others experience pain.

Walk a Mile in My Shoes

Image:Flickr. The City Project.

Science has revealed that there are neurological indications that can be detected when a person is feeling empathy:

Whether it’s watching a friend get a paper cut or staring at a photo of a child refugee, observing someone else’s suffering can evoke a deep sense of distress and sadness — almost as if it’s happening to us. In the past, this might have been explained simply as empathy, the ability to experience the feelings of others, but over the last 20 years, neuroscientists have been able to pinpoint some of the specific regions of the brain responsible for this sense of interconnectedness.


Why does Empathy matter? What are its effects in Psychotherapy?

Being understood is in itself a highly therapeutic experience; feeling that another has really ‘heard’ you and comprehended both the thoughts and feelings that you have expressed can only improve one’s state of mind.

Many well-known psychotherapists have underlined the crucial importance of empathy as a core skill:


“…deep understanding is, I believe, the most precious gift one can give to another.”

(Carl Rogers.)

Empathy is the capacity to think and feel oneself into the inner life of another person.

“The empathic understanding of the experience of other human beings is as basic an endowment of man as his vision, hearing, touch, taste and smell”

Heinz Kohut


People often feel better after one or two sessions of therapy; this is most likely because of the fact that they have felt really heard. This is frequently an enormous relief, a new and freeing experience for many people, who might never have felt such care and attentiveness from another.

Obviously, empathy alone is not enough to bring about real lasting change; there are many other therapeutic aspects of the process.

However, empathy is important in helping create a vital sense of acceptance as an individual, validation, and safety, all through the process of psychotherapy. Without it, there can be no progress, no healing, no real connection:

“For it is an immutable truth, that ‘WHAT COMES FROM THE HEART THAT ALONE GOES TO THE HEART.’  (Coleridge)

How to show Empathy.

Therapist’s self-reflection is crucial, achieved through introspection, their own therapy and through regular individual and group casework supervision. In this way, a therapist can work though any personal blocks and obstacles that might be in the way of showing empathy to all kinds of others.

For example, if a therapist had struggles with a dominating father, then it might be difficult to show empathy to what is perceived as a dominating man in the therapy room.

Empathy can be shown in a variety of ways, both verbal and non verbal. For instance, showing a non-judgemental attitude is crucial. This is achieved through:

1.Body languagean accepting, open stance (arms and legs relaxed, unfolded), eye-contact, (but not staring) nodding supportively, mirroring the client’s body language and expression (subtly), having an accepting and warm facial expression.

2.Demonstrating understanding : gentle and accepting tone of voice, lack of judgement, never interrupting the client and allowing the client space and time to talk. The counsellor will often reflect and paraphrase the client’s thoughts and feelings to show this understanding.

3.Listening skills:There are several ways in which the therapist or counsellor can demonstrate that they are really listening. These are both verbal and non verbal. Listening and attending skills are crucial for the client to feel heard and validated.


Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible
Comfort of feeling safe with a person,
Having neither to weight thoughts,
Nor measure words–but pouring them
All right out–just as they are
Chaff and grain together,
Certain that a faithful hand will
Take and sift them,
Keep what is worth keeping,
And with the breath of kindness
Blow the rest away.

George Eliot.


Have you experienced real empathy in psychotherapy or counselling? Can you say how it helped? Leave a comment below.



Image: Flickr. University of Hawaii.

Depression:Can Psychotherapy Help? (2)


Minstrel Man
by Langston Hughes

Because my mouth
Is wide with laughter
And my throat
Is deep with song,
You did not think
I suffer after
I’ve held my pain
So long.

Because my mouth
Is wide with laughter
You do not hear
My inner cry:
Because my feet
Are gay with dancing,
You do not know
I die.



Image: Nik Shuliahin. Unsplash.

Can psychotherapy help those who experience the hellish afflictions of depressive illness? The answer to this question is that it is possible to treat some people through psychotherapy. Obviously, there is no universal panacea, no magic cure and this treatment is not for everyone.

However, there are several kinds of psychotherapy which have been shown through research to help depression. A GP or therapist will make an assessment to help the person decide which modality might suit them. Many have found different forms of psychotherapy helpful. 

There is a combination of factors in relation to the origins and causes of clinical  depression; it has both chemical and psychological origins. Therefore treatment often needs to address both of these, in terms of medical or psychiatric help and therapy. It is up to the individual to decide, along with professional advice, which treatment or treatment combination may be right for them.


Medication for depression certainly has its place and has been proved to be effective. Indeed, it can be life-saving. Obviously different drugs suit different people, and some work generally better than others.

However, there is still plenty of room for further research:

New treatments are badly needed, the experts say. Most of the drugs in the study are known as SSRIs, which are thought to work by increasing levels of a chemical messenger called serotonin in the brain, but nobody knows for certain. “We don’t have any very precise treatments for depression at this point in time,” said Geddes.



Dr Tim Cantopher, in his helpful book Depression:The Curse of the Strong, underlines the fact that depression does not happen to weak people. He refers to the increase of stress in our society, which he feels is the commonest cause of clinical depression:

This illness nearly always happens to one type of person. He or she is strong, reliable, diligent, with a strong conscience and a sense of responsibility, but is also sensitive, easily hurt by criticism and has a self-esteem which, while it may look robust on the outside, is in fact quite vulnerable and easily dented. This is the person to whom you would turn in times of need, and they would never let you down.




Keeping quiet about one’s depression can make it worse; sometimes people share with friends or family and that may be helpful. At other times, being able to talk with a professional therapist may be the best way though one’s problems.

The therapist will help look for meaning, for what might lie, psychologically speaking, at the heart of the depression and emotional suffering. Insights may be gained into past experiences that may have been damaging, into negative ways of thinking and destructive behaviour patterns, all repeated in the present.

Long repressed thoughts, feelings and significant dreams can come into consciousness in the accepting and non-judgemental atmosphere of the therapy room.

Sometimes, a depressed person feels so isolated, so alone, in a very dark place. As a therapist, it seems often like a privilege to have someone try to communicate this pain of loneliness, of feeling locked inside, trapped in a dark hole, vessel. or tunnel.

Rather than attempt to ‘pull out’ the person, I wonder if there is any way I can be in there with her, even for a second? Of course I cannot know exactly what it feels like for her, but I have been in my own ‘dark spaces’ , so I know them inside myself.

Having someone even express the wish to be in that terrible place with her, may make the depressed person feel less afraid, less alone. Of course, this has to be handled sensitively and, crucially, with an awareness of timing.



Issues like unresolved anger, grief, disillusionment, may be explored and worked through in a way that can provide understanding into the roots of the problems. Then perhaps new ways of managing such feelings may be discovered.

Gradually, such understanding may lead to re-evaluation and change, so that old patterns can be broken and new ways of being discovered.

People become trapped in their past, which is very depressing. Coming to terms with long-held feelings and disappointments can be a releasing experience, for these can inhibit personal growth and development. Adjusting to newly-found truths about oneself and one’s past may be difficult, but it often leads to increased energy for life and the wish to move on more hopefully and constructively.

Do you have thoughts about this post? Has psychotherapy helped you with depression? Feel free to share whatever you can in the comments. 

Snap out of it!! How Depression gets Misunderstood.


‘It Hit Me’ Claudia Unsplash.

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain
I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –
And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum –
Kept beating – beating – till I thought
My mind was going numb –


(Extract of poem by Emily Dickinson)


The whole of this poem above was recited during a brilliant Ted Talk on depression by the writer and Professor of Psychology, Andrew Solomon. Do watch this; it is both personal and professional and highly informative.

2015 PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature: On Africa © Beowulf Sheehan/PEN American Center

Andrew Solomon (Wikimedia Commons)

‘Anxiety is ‘being afraid all the time but not even knowing what you’re afraid of.’

‘The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality.’


What Some People Say……..

Often, people with depression say that others around them do not recognise their symptoms and feelings as indications of a ‘real’ illness. By ‘real,’ they often mean physical.

Physical illness might appear more tangible; there may be a rash, a temperature, a visible lesion or wound. People may develop physical symptoms (somatisation) if their depression is not recognised or if they cannot allow the depression to become known, even to themselves.

In his powerful, complex and highly analytical book, ‘Conversion Disorder’, Webster regards such bodily symptoms as a way of ‘not wanting to know.’ His role as analyst is to respond to this, somehow. Not by knowing, but by containing and processing:

‘I prefer to think of my vocation as a psychoanalyst as a quiet liturgy to the power of the symptom, to this intimate world where very little information can be given, even when there is so much to say. Inside this multitude, I see one of the greatest intimacies on offer- one I know daily in the demand turned upon me  by a patient who needs me to know something. Needs me to. With urgency. With great shame, I return this demand to them, even if I supply a placeholder, a stopgap, given to ease the anxiety that hurtles through their flesh….’


Somatic symptoms can be just as painful  as any other illness. Again, such symptoms may be easily dismissed, seen as ‘imagined,’ rather than as real and genuinely distressing indicators of inner mental pain. If we find a sensitive doctor or therapist, such symptoms should be recognised as the body giving vital clues to psychological ills.

The ‘wounds’ of depression are visible in the depressed person’s weepiness, inactivity, frozen expression or general misery; however these may be downplayed or ignored by others around.

Thus there have developed the expressions snap out of it, pull yourself together, stop being so miserable, you have everything to be happy about.

Many people find depression in others difficult to cope with and they may react impatiently and unsympathetically. Perhaps witnessing depression in another person unconsciously stirs something hidden or repressed inside themselves.

Such unempathic comments will pile guilt on top of the depression. The depression may then be masked.



The term ‘smiling depressive ‘ may refer to someone who is reacting to what they perceive as society’s lack of understanding, or to their own shame; the smile is a cover- up. The depressed person may appear happy and functional in daily life, but the smile hides desperation.

The smiling depressive may feel that their symptoms are weak, that ‘no-one loves a moaner’ and that talking about it will upset others. They may feel that no-one will understand or be able to cope anyway.  So they smile and say ‘I’m fine.’

What are some of the terms popularly used to describe depression?

We hear them often, the expressions used to describe this excruciating illness:

Blues, black dog, black cloud, low, down in the dumps, slough of despond, the doldrums,

Image:Creative Commons Zero – CCO.

How have sufferers described their Illness?

Clinical depression is a serious and debilitating illness. It is more than feeling sad. The depressed person cannot ‘pull themselves together.’ If they could, they surely would. Do not underestimate how despairing a depressed person might feel.

Those who suffer it have described themselves as ‘Floating helplessly in the middle of a vessel , groping for the sides,’ ‘In a dark tunnel, with no light at the end of it,’ ‘Trapped,’ ‘In a dead end,’ ‘Utterly hopeless,’ ‘Paralysed, static, unable to move or do anything,’ ‘Desperate, isolated and unable to ask for help,’ ‘As if I’m nobody, rubbish, stupid,’ ‘Not interested in anything .’

Image:Creative Commons Zero – CCO.


There are several different kinds of depression and  it has many symptoms, which might last for any months or perhaps years. Often a depressed person may appear antisocial, cancelling social dates, unable to get up to go to work in the morning, or to get dressed, washed etc. Such is the feeling of utter inactivity, numbness, lack of energy and helplessness.

There may be irritability, low self-esteem, feelings of guilt and shame. Sometimes, people experience low libido, bodily aches and pains, loss of appetite (or perhaps the opposite), inability to think or concentrate, early waking. They might feel the need for more cigarettes, drugs or alcohol in an attempt to numb the pain.

Other symptoms can be sleep difficulties, ruminative and dark and suicidal thoughts, self harm, loss of interest and a lack of motivation. Often there is much anxiety and a sense of impending doom.



Andrew Solomon said ‘we know depression through metaphor.’ This is an important statement.

Art is a way of expressing such feelings, through metaphor and symbol. Artists like Rothko, Pollock, Van Gogh and Munch all experienced mental illness and various kinds of depression.

These states of mind were expressed through painting and I will end this post with a look at a the work of some of the greatest artists who were able to graphically express their depression in paint:


Van Gogh. Sorrowing Old Man.



Munch. Melancholy.


Pollock. Greyed Rainbow. . (Image:Mark Mauno, Flickr.)

Next week’s post is about How Therapy May Help Your Depression.

If you have had depression and feel able to share something of your experience, do please comment below.

The Real Truth About Mindfulness

‘Many benefits and fruits of Zen practice are real, but they are not to be gained, nor pursued. Just sit, regularly, for a sustained period, and see what is here right now.’

Rosenbaum and Magid



Mindfulness and Psychotherapy

Many psychotherapists find that mindfulness is of value in terms of their practice. There is a considerable evidence base that it can be an effective therapeutic tool. (Also see Baer, R. A.  and  The Lancet,)

Psychotherapists using mindfulness techniques help patients to understand, for example, that ‘thoughts are not facts’ (Christine Dunkley & Del Loewenthal) Self- awareness is vital, and such therapy can help people understand how they might be contributing to their own distress. For example, we might learn to accept the impermanence of life, instead of denying it:

“It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not. We need to learn to appreciate the value of impermanence. If we are in good health and are aware of impermanence, we will take good care of ourselves. When we know that the person we love is impermanent, we will cherish our beloved all the more. Impermanence teaches us to respect and value every moment and all the precious things around us and inside of us. When we practice mindfulness of impermanence, we become fresher and more loving.” Thich Nhat Hanh

There are three main ways in which mindfulness is used in therapy: (Barker)

  •   Teaching mindfulness to clients
  •   Practising mindfulness themselves in order to cultivate therapeutic qualities
  •   Attempting to create a mindful encounter in therapy itself

The techniques of mindfulness are used in several different therapies. For example, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy blends mindfulness with Cognitive-Behavioural therapy.

Mindfulness Based Stress-Reduction Therapy, developed byDr Jon Kabat-Zinn, aims to help alleviate some of the anxieties of daily life.

It is often used in the treatment of chronic diseases, with some beneficial outcomes. It is frequently offered as a group therapy, focussing on such aspects as staying in the present moment and the importance of the individual taking regular time out for meditation.

Critique of Mindfulness 

‘The commodification of mindfulness and meditation is increasingly prevalent and problematic’ Rosenbaum and Magid




Whilst there is no doubt that mindfulness can be helpful and therapeutic, it has limitations. It is not for everyone, and needs to be used professionally.

Whilst there is considerable value in using mindfulness to reduce stress and increase self-awareness, it must be emphasised that it is not a panacea for all ills.

‘There is a contemporary shift in its use and meaning, which actually distorts mindfulness, taking it far from the original Buddhist emphasis on ethics and consideration of others. The danger is that it will be diluted into a corporate, self-serving and over-secularised commodity.’ Rosenbaum and Magid

An increasing backlash against this popular trend is occurring, in that it is becoming fashionable and commercial. It is often promoted as a kind of designer cure-all, another ‘one size fits all’ solution to life’s ills. Another criticism is that it encourages a narcissistic focus on the self.

Thus, there are mindfulness colouring books, mindfulness apps and books like Mindfulness for Dummies, The Mindfulness Diet, Mindfulness for Dogs, Mindfulness is Better than Chocolate, Mindfulness on The Go, Mindful Birthing and so on.

‘…this new corporatised McMindfulness – which in the long term will do as much as a McDonald’s Happy Meal to sate a person’s gnawing hunger for a richer life.’

 Daily Telegraph




Incredibly, a Chicago burger bar sells ‘a more mindful burger.’ Joiner.

I wonder how they might advertise this product? Your ideas are welcome in the comments box below. Please contribute whatever comes to mind!

Here’s my take on it:


One American headline asks:

‘Does L.A.’s Absurd, Narcissistic, and Pricey Mindfulness Trend Have Its Benefits? 

In Los Angeles, mindfulness has become a hot commodity (Los Angeles Magazine)

The writer’s conclusion is that it does: ‘Bring on the chakra exorcism and $24 hemp smoothies,’  she adds, entranced by her experiences. One of these ‘experiences’ is lead by a woman ‘spending the full 15 minutes with a hand over her heart, head tilted dreamily to the side, whispering, “May I forgive myself” over and over again.’

There is criticism of mindfulness as a process that prevents thinking, that it can be used as an avoidance of considering difficult situations, merely by an unquestioning acceptance of them.

Although the NHS supports mindfulness, an Oxford academic claims it stops people thinking deeply:

‘I think mindfulness and meditation are bad for people, I absolutely think that. People should be thinking.’ ( Theodore Zeldin)

This misuse of the concept surely constitutes another form of mindlessness; there is  criticism that corporate organisations use mindfulness in order to stop employees thinking about problematic work issues. (

In similar vein, some schools and universities have used mindfulness to reduce student stress. However, there has been criticism that, as in the corporate setting, such use masks institutional flaws by focussing the problem on the students’ mental health.(Harriet Swain)

Another criticism resides in the ‘infantilising’ nature of this approach, in that it implies that students are going to be troubled emotionally if they do not engage in mindfulness.

Of course, some children are troubled emotionally; at this present time, the evidence of this in terms of child suicides is painfully apparent.

Offering mindfulness exercises is not going to help such children:

Pooky Knightsmith, vice-chair of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition, said such exercises could be actively harmful for those who are particularly vulnerable or have a history of trauma.

“If a child is suffering abuse at home, being given space and time for thoughts to drift through your head isn’t necessarily good,” she said. “Schools need to be aware of the potential risks, even with the most seemingly nice of interventions.”


Have you had experience of mindfulness? What do you think of it? DWill you let me know in the comment box below?