Doctors Diane Gehart and Eric McCollum of California State University and Virginia Tech University say that accepting the existence of miserable times in family relationships is better than striving for perfection.
“The myth of problem-free living is easily identifiable in Western culture through its childhood fairy tales and modern love stories,” they say. Gehart and McCollum argue that the very term “mental health” can conjure a false sense of a life without suffering, and that this can lead to unrealistic expectations that can in turn lead to greater dissatisfaction.
Rather than seeking a life free from teenage moodiness and spousal arguments, they suggest that the Buddhist practice of mindfulness can allow family members to “compassionately engage” with suffering.
Mindfulness is the Buddhist practice of nonjudgmentally observing thoughts and feelings in the present moment, and has been used successfully in a variety of therapies to treat depression, anxiety, chronic pain, stress, and eating disorders.
The authors of the paper, “Engaging Suffering: Towards A Mindful Re-Visioning of Family Therapy Practice,” published in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, say that although Buddhism is generally considered to be a religion, the technique of mindfulness can be useful even separated from Buddhism’s spiritual beliefs and practices.
The practice of Mindfulness includes the notion of developing equanimity, which means that we accept painful and pleasant experiences when they arise, without judging them as good or bad. The approach of mindfulness helps practitioners to accept the presence of difficult situations without feeling that they have failed or that there is something wrong with them or their relationships.
The authors argue that “family therapists can integrate mindfulness principles into their work to help clients shift how they relate to the unique forms of suffering that one encounters in intimate relationships, such as abuse, divorce, rejection, and loss.”
Has the practice of mindfulness helped your family relationships? Have you found meditation helps you deal with problems more gracefully? Why not drop us a line using the comment box below?