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Self: Mysticism and Psychotherapy
Arthur J. Deikman
Arthur J. Deikman, M.D. is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School and is Board Certified in Psychiatry and Neurology. Currently, he is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, and divides his time between research, teaching, and the practice of psychotherapy. [see also Arthur J. Deikman Home Page]
Excerpts from *The Observing Self : Mysticism and Psychotherapy
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"...our lives and our psychological health depend on a sense of purpose. Mere survival is a purpose, but not enough for human consciousness. Nor is working for the survival of others sufficiently meaningful if one believes that the human race has no place to go, that it endlessly repeats the same patterns, or worse.
The 'midlife crisis'... reflects the fact that at midlife one's own death becomes less theoretical and more probable. Goals of money, security, fame, sex, or power might formerly have given purpose to life. With experience, the limited nature of such satisfactions becomes increasingly evident. As one grows older an awareness surfaces that one is on a relentless slide toward extinction, making self-serving goals seem utterly futile.
Even altruistic goals can wear thin without a larger picture of the human race than the one our scientific culture provides. As life progresses, the search for meaning becomes increasingly urgent.
Profound despair and dull resignation are symptoms of failing in that search. The pervasive use of alcohol, sedatives, and narcotics in our society might well reflect many people's attempts to suppress despair at their purposelessness, to substitute heightened sensation for meaning....
The fundamental questions, "Who am I?" and "What am I?" arise increasingly in the struggle to find meaning and purpose in life. Therapists hear them as explicit queries or in indirect form: "Who is the real me?" or "I don't know what I want - part of me wants one thing and part of me wants something else. What do I want?" Western psychology is severely handicapped in dealing with these questions, because the center of human experience - the observing self - is missing from its theories...."