Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Truth of Suffering and Modern Psychology

The first Noble Truth taught by the historical Buddha after his enlightenment is about Suffering. "Life is Suffering"
It is sometimes difficult to swallow. After all, there are times when our life is pleasant.
It seems however, that a branch of today's psychology "Relational Frame Theory" agrees with Buddha, and has demonstrated that our Intelligence is set up to memorize dangers and painful stuff rather than pleasant things.
Here is a a translation of an article "L'intelligence verbale" published in French at

I will post more later. This is my own translation, and it is probably not perfect. Still, I found this extremely interesting. Once again, the advances of modern science validate Buddhist insights.

Just as are the speed of the Horse or the length of the Giraffe's neck, Human intelligence is the result of evolution. It has been selected as a survival mechanism that allows visualization of dangers that are not immediately present, the implementation of strategies of anticipation as well as a social organization based on rules which can be orally transmitted.

Intelligence is a tool for survival, not a tool of well being. While it provides the human being with a power unknown to any other living creature, it also afflicts him with a lucidity that can sometimes be very heavy to carry : No matter the advantages and qualities of the place where I presently stand, my intelligence will automatically figure out what its drawbacks are, and suggest the grass is probably greener on the other side of the road.

No matter how good my present situation is, my intelligence is going to establish the list of all the losses I can expect, and the catastrophes that might occur. It operates in this way as a formidable machine designed to spoil the here and now.

Our ability to imagine future or faraway virtual realities as if they were real protects us against dangers we never directly experienced and helps us figure out solutions to complicated problems without having to proceed through multiple trial and error cycles.

Unfortunately we do not have the option to temporarily turn it off just as one can unplug their phone when they want peace. Relational Frame Theory which proposes a scientific approach of the working of human intelligence helps us better understand how.

to be continued

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