What is happiness? Most of us mistakenly believe that the presence of transitory pleasure, and the absence of immediate pain, is genuine happiness. For instance, when we get a raise at work, and there is no obvious suffering present in our minds, we feel “happy.”
According to counseling psychologist Dr. Parker Wilson, this type of happiness is transitory and fleeting (e.g., two days later your happiness about the increase in your salary has somehow worn off a bit). What if true happiness and psychological flourishing are much more than simple fluctuations in our levels of transitory pleasure and pain? What if true happiness is not actually dependent on the external circumstances of our lives?
Authentic happiness, or psychological flourishing, comes from learning to effectively work with your own mind. Modern mindfulness meditation techniques are the primary vehicle of learning to work with thought and emotion. Mindfulness based meditation is not necessarily a spiritual practice of any kind. For the last twenty years, modern psychology, and mind science, have been researching the effects of mindfulness meditation. We have found that mindfulness and psychotherapy are an excellent and highly effective combination. Modern clinical psychology has, therefore, synthesized these two by creating a therapy centered around the cultivation of mindfulness (i.e., mindfulness based cognitive therapy). More and more in the modern era, mindfulness is being conceptualized as a kind of cognitive technology. AMI’s Psychotherapy in Denver utilizes this cognitive technology to produce awareness, clarity, and insight. This process is not necessarily long term psychotherapy, and couple’s and family therapy can often be added to the process.
Utilizing the cultivation of mindful awareness as a clinical platform, AMI’s mindfulness based cognitive psychotherapy is structured into three distinct phases:
The first phase of AMI’s mindfulness based cognitive therapy (or MBCT) is the development of psychological awareness. This increase in a client’s awareness of their own thoughts and emotions is powered by the cultivation of mindfulness. Using both informal and formal mindfulness meditation techniques, the client begins to become profoundly aware of all their thoughts, emotions, judgments, opinions, memories, fantasies, and images. According to Dr. Wilson, AMI’s psychologist in Denver, this is where mindfulness and psychotherapy begin to come together so beautifully. Now the client learns to stop automatically identifying with and getting “all caught up in” everything they think and feel. The client learns to create some sense of space between them and all their thoughts and emotions. Moreover, through the use of mindfulness based meditation, the client learns to stop grasping at thought and emotion, and s/he becomes distinctly aware that they are something other than all the things they think and feel. They are something other than all their mental constructs, self-identities, masks, and defenses. This is the essence of AMI’s psychology in Denver. This leads to a powerful question: if I can grasp and release my thoughts and emotions, than clearly what I think and feel are not absolute and inherent parts of me; thus if I am not what I think and feel – then what am I?