Margaret McCartney: Mindful of mindfulnessBMJ 2016; 352 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i839 (Published 17 February 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i839
All rapid responses
Margaret McCartney’s reservations about the growth of the mindfulness industry are understandable. An approach that is said to help the mentally ill, increase life skills in the healthy, and even improve the aim of army snipers, needs careful examination.
If she had been given space to put the practice in an historical and ethical context, McCartney’s readers would be better able to judge for themselves.
Like Transcendental Meditation, a billion dollar business for decades past, mindfulness comes from the East. Mindfulness teachers and enthusiasts in the West are often reluctant to explain to patients, students and interested people, that mindfulness is the seventh element of the Noble Eightfold Path, the essential teachings of the Buddha.
Secular, sceptical westerners might become less interested.
Mindfulness, which may be a real help to people, today, with diverse problems, has for two and a half millenia been but but one component of the path which Buddhists follow, in an effort to diminish and dispense with that over riding sense of “I” that Westerners cherish.
To imagine that mindfulness, on it’s own, will bring lasting contentment and calm, is akin to to hoping that a man with nails and a hammer will build you a house on a hill, essential though he may be in some small construction role.
As the provision of mindfulness services becomes monetarised, it’s aims more suited to success in a consumer society, than to individual liberation, it is no surprise that, from the Buddhist perspective, ( whence it came ), “ ..‘ the mindfulness movement.. is not addressing the most deep rooted forms of human suffering. In fact, it is reinforcing the self -centered individualism that seems to be the basic problem in Western society.” (1)
1 Hewapathirane, D. Buddhist Meditation: Research and Practice in the Western World.
The Middle Way, Vol 90,No 2 August 2015
Competing interests: No competing interests
Cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy has demonstrated 70% enhanced treatment outcomes and long term remission compared to CBT alone, in meta-analysis of 18 relative studies.
Additionally, hypnosis sessions can also deal with associated phobias, substance abuse, eating disorders, low self esteem, social behavior patterns, motivation development, etc, commonly encountered in such patients, at the subconscious level.
Methods like reframing, ego reinforcement, releasing tension, taking responsibility, age progression, physical dissociation, metaphor, anchors, confusion techniques for facilitating specific amnesia, have profound long term impact.
Clinical hypnotherapy is widely used against for depression, anxiety, somatization syndromes.
Furthermore, overall necessary treatment with sessions of clinical hypnotherapy is much shorter than sessions of classical psychotherapy, CBT or mindfulness workshops.
Competing interests: Dr Stavros Saripanidis is also certified in providing clinical hypnotherapy interventions.
The Mindfulness Centre /Foundation is based within Oxford University Department of Psychiatry Prince of Wales Centre, Warneford Hospital. It seems to be the main training project in the UK but has links with Oxford USA. It is a registered charity which has received £6million funding from the government and is campaigning for donations to extend their work. This seems allowable under charity law. The charity runs teaching and training programmes both on line and a years extended course which awards qualifications. It is unclear whether there is any statutory regulation rather than just the guidelines laid out by the charity.The charity is running a research project in schools starting early in 2016 to assess the value to students and to wider communities/society in general of practicing mindfulness. It includes an aspect of monitoring social behaviour, as well as mental health problems of individual students who will be followed up for two years.
The number of conditions claimed to be successfully helped with mindfulness is quite staggering. As is the number of trainers already practicing. (Too many to mention but stated on web site).
The project can only be run by schools with interested and hopefully supervised teachers but it may be wondered whether people are truly well informed of the massive mindfulness project spreading across the country. Although many people find mindfulness helpful it seems to have become something of a cult It is to be wondered whether parents/families in dire poverty and members of 'deprived areas' would opt to spend the funding on mindfulness or whether they would have other priorities if they had been consulted.
Competing interests: No competing interests