The Road Less Travelled, M.Scott Peck M.D.- I started reading this book on a train between Adelaide and Melbourne, 30th May 2013. These notes bring together various definitions of certain behavioural theories he mentions collected from numerous open sources on the web. Other comments on the book are at http://

If you are even the most casual student of psychology, then you have probably spent a fair amount of time learning about Freudian theory. Even people who are relatively unfamiliar with psychology as a subject have at least some awareness of psychoanalysis, the school of thought created by Sigmund Freud. While you may have some passing knowledge of key concepts in psychoanalysis like the unconscious, fixations, defense mechanisms and dream symbolism, you might wonder exactly how these ideas fit in together and what influence they really have on contemporary psychologists.

The Driving Forces
According to Freud psychoanalytic theory, all psychic energy is generated by the libido. Freud suggested that our mental states were influenced by two competing forces: cathexis and anticathexis. Cathexis was described as an investment of mental energy in a person, an idea or an object. If you are hungry, for example, you might create a mental image of a delicious meal that you have been craving. In other cases, the ego might harness some of the id's energy to seek out activities that are related to the activity in order to disperse some of the excess energy from the id. If you can't actually seek out food to appease your hunger, you might instead browse through a cookbook or browse through your favorite recipe blog.

Anticathexis involves the ego blocking the socially unacceptable needs of the id. Repressing urges and desires is one common form of anticathexis, but it involves a significant investment of energy. Remember, according to Freud's theory, there is only so much libidinal energy available. When a lot of this energy is being devoted to suppressing urges via anticathexis, there is less energy available for other processes. Learn more about how these competing forces work and interact in this overview of cathexis and anticathexis.

Freud also believed that much of human behavior was motivated by two driving instincts: the life instincts and the death instincts. The life instincts are those that relate to a basic need for survival, reproduction and pleasure. They include such things as the need for food, shelter, love and sex. He also suggested that all humans have an unconscious wish for death, which he referred to as the death instincts. Self-destructive behavior, he believed, was one expression of the death drive. However, he believed that these death instincts were largely tempered by the life instincts. Learn more about how these two forces interact and function in this overview of the life and death instincts.

Anyone who wants to know the human psyche will learn next to nothing from experimental psychology.  He would be better advised to abandon exact science, put away his scholar's gown, bid farewell to his study, and wander with human heart throught the world.  There in the horrors of prisons, lunatic asylums and hospitals, in drab suburban pubs, in brothels and gambling-hells, in the salons of the elegant, the Stock Exchanges, socialist meetings, churches, revivalist gatherings and ecstatic sects, through love and hate, through the experience of passion in every form in his own body, he would reap richer stores of knowledge than text-books a foot thick could give him, and he will know how to doctor the sick with a real knowledge of the human soul. -- Carl Jung (from "New Paths in Psychology", in Collected Papers on Analytic Psychology, London, 1916)
Freud said that the goal of therapy was to make the unconscious conscious. He certainly made that the goal of his work as a theorist. And yet he makes the unconscious sound very unpleasant, to say the least: It is a cauldron of seething desires, a bottomless pit of perverse and incestuous cravings, a burial ground for frightening experiences which nevertheless come back to haunt us. Frankly, it doesn't sound like anything I'd like to make conscious!

A younger colleague of his, Carl Jung, was to make the exploration of this "inner space" his life's work. He went equipped with a background in Freudian theory, of course, and with an apparently inexhaustible knowledge of mythology, religion, and philosophy. Jung was especially knowledgeable in the symbolism of complex mystical traditions such as Gnosticism, Alchemy, Kabala, and similar traditions in Hinduism and Buddhism. If anyone could make sense of the unconscious and its habit of revealing itself only in symbolic form, it would be Carl Jung.

He had, in addition, a capacity for very lucid dreaming and occasional visions. In the fall of 1913, he had a vision of a "monstrous flood" engulfing most of Europe and lapping at the mountains of his native Switzerland. He saw thousands of people drowning and civilization crumbling. Then, the waters turned into blood. This vision was followed, in the next few weeks, by dreams of eternal winters and rivers of blood. He was afraid that he was becoming psychotic.

But on August 1 of that year, World War I began. Jung felt that there had been a connection, somehow, between himself as an individual and humanity in general that could not be explained away. From then until 1928, he was to go through a rather painful process of self-exploration that formed the basis of all of his later theorizing.

He carefully recorded his dreams, fantasies, and visions, and drew, painted, and sculpted them as well. He found that his experiences tended to form themselves into persons, beginning with a wise old man and his companion, a little girl. The wise old man evolved, over a number of dreams, into a sort of spiritual guru. The little girl became "anima," the feminine soul, who served as his main medium of communication with the deeper aspects of his unconscious.

A leathery brown dwarf would show up guarding the entrance to the unconscious. He was "the shadow," a primitive companion for Jung's ego. Jung dreamt that he and the dwarf killed a beautiful blond youth, whom he called Siegfried. For Jung, this represented a warning about the dangers of the worship of glory and heroism which would soon cause so much sorrow all over Europe -- and a warning about the dangers of some of his own tendencies towards hero-worship, of Sigmund Freud!

Jung dreamt a great deal about the dead, the land of the dead, and the rising of the dead. These represented the unconscious itself -- not the "little" personal unconscious that Freud made such a big deal out of, but a new collective unconscious of humanity itself, an unconscious that could contain all the dead, not just our personal ghosts. Jung began to see the mentally ill as people who are haunted by these ghosts, in an age where no-one is supposed to even believe in them. If we could only recapture our mythologies, we would understand these ghosts, become comfortable with the dead, and heal our mental illnesses.

Critics have suggested that Jung was, very simply, ill himself when all this happened. But Jung felt that, if you want to understand the jungle, you can't be content just to sail back and forth near the shore. You've got to get into it, no matter how strange and frightening it might seem.

Adlerian.     Alfred Adler
The father of Adlerian Psychology, Alfred Adler, M.D., stressed the need to understand individuals within their social context. In the early 1900’s Adler began addressing such crucial and contemporary issues as equality, parent education, the influence of birth order, life style, and the holism of individuals. His then-revolutionary observations triggered a life of research dedicated to understanding people that he called Individual Psychology.

Adler’s comprehensive theory of human behavior has resulted in models of practice that have had broad impact on the fields of education, social sciences, family life, psychology, and psychotherapy.

He pioneered ideas and techniques that have become the basis for most contemporary work including:

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychotherapeutic approach which addresses dysfunctional emotions, maladaptive behaviors and cognitive processes, and contents through a number of goal-oriented, explicit systematic procedures. The name refers to behavior therapycognitive therapy, and to therapy based upon a combination of basic behavioral and cognitive principles and research. Most therapists working with patients dealing with anxiety and depression use a blend of cognitive and behavioral therapy. This technique acknowledges that there may be behaviors that cannot be controlled through rational thought. CBT is "problem focused" (undertaken for specific problems) and "action oriented" (therapist tries to assist the client in selecting specific strategies to help address those problems).[1]

CBT is thought to be effective for the treatment of a variety of conditions, including moodanxietypersonalityeating,substance abusetic, and psychotic disorders. Many CBT treatment programs for specific disorders have been evaluated for efficacy; the health-care trend of evidence-based treatment, where specific treatments for symptom-based diagnoses are recommended, has favored CBT over other approaches such as psychodynamic treatments.[2]

CBT was primarily developed through an integration of behavior therapy (the term "behavior modification" appears to have been first used by Edward Thorndike) with cognitive psychology research, first by Donald Meichenbaum and several other authors with the label of cognitive-behavior modification in the late 1970s. This tradition thereafter merged with earlier work of a few clinicians, labeled as Cognitive Therapy (CT), developed by Aaron Beck, andRational Emotive Therapy (RET) developed by Albert Ellis. While rooted in rather different theories, these two traditions have been characterised by a constant reference to experimental research to test hypotheses, both at clinical and basic level. Common features of CBT procedures are the focus on the "here and now", a directive or guidance role of the therapist, a structuring of the psychotherapy sessions and path, and on alleviating both symptoms and patients' vulnerability.[3]

Reality Therapy

Solution-Focused Therapy
What is Solution-focused Therapy?  

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), also called Solution-Focused Therapy, Solution-Building Practice therapy was developed by Steve de Shazer (1940-2005), and Insoo Kim Berg (1934-2007) and their colleagues beginning in the late 1970’s in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As the name suggests, SFBT is future-focused, goal-directed, and focuses on solutions, rather than on the problems that brought clients to seek therapy.

The entire solution-focused approach was developed inductively in an inner city outpatient mental health service setting in which clients were accepted without previous screening.  The developers of SFBT spent hundreds of hours observing therapy sessions over the course several years, carefully noting the therapists’ questions, behaviors, and emotions that occurred during the session and how the various activities of the therapists affected the clients and the therapeutic outcome of the sessions.  Questions and activities related to clients’ report of progress were preserved and incorporated into the SFBT approach.

Since that early development, SFBT has not only become one of the leading schools of brief therapy, it has become a major influence in such diverse fields as business, social policy, education, and criminal justice services, child welfare, domestic violence offenders treatment. Described as a practical, goal-driven model, a hallmark of SFBT is its emphasis on clear, concise, realistic   goal negotiations. The SFBT approach   assumes that all clients have some knowledge of what would make their life better, even though they may need some (at times, considerable) help describing the details of their better life and that everyone who seeks help already possesses at least the minimal skills necessary to create solutions.

Key Concepts and Tools

All therapy is a form of specialized conversations. With SFBT, the   conversation is directed toward developing and achieving the client’s vision of solutions.  The following techniques and questions help clarify those solutions and the means of achieving them.

Looking for previous solutions

 SF therapists have learned that most people have previously solved many, many problems and probably have some ideas of how to solve the current problem. To help clients see these potential solutions they may ask, "Are there times when this has been less of a problem?" or  "What did you  (or others) do that was helpful?”

 Looking for exceptions

Even when a client does not have a previous solution that can be repeated, most have recent examples of exceptions to their problem. These are times when a problem could occur, but does not. The difference between a previous solution and an exception is small, but significant. A previous solution is something that the family has tried on their own that has worked, but later discontinued. An exception is something that happens instead of the problem, often spontaneously and without conscious intention.  SF therapists may help clients identify these exceptions by asking, "What is different about the times when this is less of a problem?”

Present and future-focused questions vs. past-oriented focus

The questions asked by SF therapists are usually focused on the present or on the future. This reflects the basic belief that problems are best solved by focusing on what is already working, and how a client would like their life to be, rather than focusing on the past and the origin of problems. For example, they may ask, "What will you be doing in the next week that would indicate to you that you are continuing to make progress?”


Compliments are another essential part of solution focused brief therapy. Validating what clients are already doing well, and acknowledging how difficult their problems are encourages the client to change while giving the message that the therapist has been listening (i.e., understands) and cares. Compliments in therapy sessions can help to punctuate what the client is doing that is working. In SF therapy, compliments are often conveyed in the form of appreciatively toned questions of "How did you do that?” that invite the client to self-compliment by virtue of answering the question.

 Inviting the clients to do more of what is working.

Once SF therapists have created a positive frame via compliments and then discovered some previous solutions and exceptions to the problem, they gently invite the client to do more of what has previously worked, or to try changes they have brought up which they would like to try – frequently called "an experiment."

Miracle Question (MQ) 

 This unusual sounding tool is a powerful in generating the first small steps of 'solution states' by helping clients to describe small, realistic, and doable steps they can take as soon as the next day.  The miracle question developed out of desperation with a suicidal woman with an alcoholic husband and four "wild” children who gave her nothing but grief. She was desperate for a solution, but that she might need a 'miracle' to get her life in order. Since the development of this technique, the MQ has been tested numerous times in many different cultures.  

The most recent version is as follows

T:  I am going to ask you a rather strange question . . . that requires some imagination on your part . . . do you have good imagination? 

C:  I think so, I will try my best.

T:  Good.  The strange question is this; After we talk, you go home (go back to work), and you still have lots of work to do yet for the rest of today (list usual tasks here).  And it is time to go to bed . . . and everybody in your household are sound asleep and the house is very quiet . . . and in the middle of the night, there is a miracle and the problem that brought you to talk to me about is all solved .  But because this happens when you are sleeping, you have no idea that there was a miracle and the problems is solved . . . so when you are slowly coming out of your sound sleep . . .what would be the first small sign that will make you wonder . . .there must’ve been a miracle . . .the problem is all gone!  How would you discover this?

C:  I suppose I will feel like getting up and facing the day, instead of wanting to cover my head under the blanket and just hide there.

T:  Suppose you do, get up and face the day, what would be the small thing you would do that you didn’t do this morning?

C:  I suppose I will say good morning to my kids in a cheerful voice, instead of screaming at them like I do now.

T:  What would your children do in response to your cheerful "good morning?”

C:  They will be surprised at first to hear me talk to them in a cheerful voice, and then they will calm down, be relaxed.  God, it’s been a long time that happened.    

T:   So, what would you do then that you did not do this morning?

C:   I will crack a joke and put them in a better mood.

These small steps become the building block of an entirely different kind of  day as clients may begin to implement some of the behavioral changes they just envisioned.    This is the longest question asked in SFBT and it has a hypnotic quality to it.  Most clients visibly change in their demeanor and some even break out in smiles as they describe their solutions. The next step is to identify the most recent times when  the client has had small pieces of miracles (called exceptions) and get them to repeat these forgotten experiences.  

Scaling Questions

Scaling questions (SQ) can be used when there is not enough time to use the MQ and it is also useful in helping clients to assess their own situations, track their own progress, or evaluate how others might rate them on a scale of 0 to 10.  It is used in many ways, including with children and clients who are not verbal or who have impaired verbal skills.  One can ask about clients' motivation, hopefulness, depression, confidence, and progress they made, or a host of other topics that can be used to track their performance and what might be the next small steps.

The couple in the following example sought help to decide whether their marriage can survive or they should get divorced.  They reported they have fought for 10 years of their 20 years of marriage and they could not fight anymore.T:  Since you two know your marriage better than anybody does, suppose I ask you this way.  On a number of 1 to 10, where 10 stands for you have every confidence that this marriage will make it and 1 stands for the opposite, that we might just as well walk away right now and it’s not going to work.  What number would you give your marriage?  (After a pause, the husband speaks first.)

H:   I would give it a 7.  (the wife flinches as she hears this)

T:   (To the wife)  What about you?  What number would you give it?

W:   (she thinks about it a long time)  I would say I am at 1.1.

T:   (Surprised)  So, what makes it a 1.1?

W:   I guess it’s because we are both here tonight.

 Coping Questions

This question is a powerful reminder that all clients  engage in many useful things even in times of overwhelming difficulties. Even in the midst of despair, many clients do manage to get out of bed,  get dressed, feed their children, and do many other things that require major effort. Coping questions such as  "How have you managed to  carry on?”  or "How have you managed to  prevent things from becoming worse?” open up a different way of looking at client’s resiliency and determination.

Consultation Break and Invitation to Add Further Information

Solution focused therapists traditionally take a brief  consultation break during the 2nd half of each therapy session during which the therapist reflects carefully on what has occurred in the session. Some time prior to the break, the client is  asked "Is there anything that I did not ask  that you think it would be important for me to know?”  During the break, the therapist or the therapist and a team reflect carefully on all that has occurred in the session. Following that, the client is complimented and usually offered a therapeutic message based on the client’s stated goal. Usually this takes the form of an invitation for the client to  observe and experiment with behaviors that result in positive movement in the direction of the  client’s identified goal.

Research Findings

Even though it is an inductively developed model, from its earliest beginnings   there has been consistent interest in assessing SFBT’s effectiveness.  Given the  clinical philosophy behind the  SFBT approach, it is not surprising that the  initial research efforts relied primarily on client self reports.  Since then, an increasing number of studies have been generated, many with randomized comparison groups, such as that of Lindforss and Magnusson who studied the effects of SFBT on the prison recidivism in Hageby Prison in Stockholm, Sweden.  Their randomized study compared those clients who received average of five SFBT sessions and those who received their usual available services. Clients were followed at 12 and 16 months after discharge from prison. The SFBT group consistently did better than the control group.

 A number of researchers have reviewed studies conducted in a variety of settings and geographical locations, with a range of clients. Based on the reviews of these outcome studies, Gingerich and Eisengrat concluded that the studies offered preliminary support that the SFBT approach could be beneficial to clients. However, more microanalysis research into the co-construction process in solution-focused conversation is needed to develop additional understanding of how clients change through participating in these conversations.

Yvonne Dolan, M.A. (Psychology)

Executive Director, Institute for Solution-focused Brief Therapy, Hammond, IN 46323.

Suggested Readings and References

Berg, I.K. & Dolan, Y. (2001). Tales of solution: A collection of hope inspiring stories. New York:  W.W. Norton.

Berg, I. K., & de Shazer, S. (1993).  Making numbers talk: Language in therapy. In S. Friedman (Ed.), The new language of change: Constructive collaboration in psychotherapy. New York: Guilford.

De Jong, P., & Berg, I.K.(2007).  Interviewing for solutions (3rd Edition).  Brooks/Cole: Pacific Grove.

De Shazer, S. (1984).  The death of resistance.  Family Process, 23, 79-93.

De Shazer, S. & Dolan, Y. with Korman, H , Trepper, T. S., McCollom, E., Berg, I. K. (2007). More Than Miracles: The State of the Art of Solution-focused Brief Therapy. Binghamtom, N.Y: Haworth Press.

Gingerich, W., & Eisengrat,   S.  (2000).  Solution-focused brief therapy: A review of the outcome research.  Family Process, 39, 477-498.

 Lindforss, L. & Magnusson, D. (1997). Solution-focused therapy in prison.  Contemporary Family Therapy: An International Journal, 19, 89-1-3.

 McGee, D., Del Vinto, A., & Bavelas, J. (2005).  An interactional model of questions as therapeutic interventions.  Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 31, 371-384.

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy
Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT), previously called rational therapy and rational emotive therapy, is a comprehensive, active-directive, philosophically and empirically based psychotherapy which focuses on resolving emotional and behavioral problems and disturbances and enabling people to lead happier and more fulfilling lives.[1] REBT was created and developed by the American psychotherapist andpsychologist Albert Ellis who was inspired by many of the teachings of AsianGreekRoman and modern philosophers.[2][3] REBT is one form of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and was first expounded by Ellis in the mid-1950s; development continued until his death in 2007.[4][5][6]

Existential Therapy
Existential psychotherapy is a philosophical method of therapy that operates on the belief that inner conflict within a person is due to that individual's confrontation with the givens of existence.[1] These givens, as noted by Irvin D. Yalom, are: the inevitability of deathfreedom and its attendantresponsibility, existential isolation (referring to Phenomenology), and finally meaninglessness. These four givens, also referred to as ultimate concerns, form the body of existential psychotherapy and compose the framework in which a therapist conceptualizes a client's problem in order to develop a method of treatment. In the British School of Existential therapy (Cooper, 2003), these givens are seen as predictable tensions and paradoxes of the four dimensions of human existence, the physical, social, personal and spiritual realms (Umwelt, Mitwelt, Eigenwelt and Überwelt).
Holistic Psychology
Family Therapy
Theorists as diverse as Karen Horney, Erich Fromm, Viktor Frankl, Abraham Maslow, Albert Ellis, and Aaron T. Beck credit Adler’s work as an important basis for their own contributions.

Adler was one of the earliest theorists to utilize a short-term, active, focused, and solution-oriented approach to psychotherapy. Adler’s work is fundamental to the professions and practices of school psychology, school counseling, the community mental health movement, and parent education. As a dynamic and vital view of human development, Individual Psychology continues to grow and thrive in a changing world.

Some Tenets of Adler’s Theory
Focus on strengths
Holistic view of the individual
Democratic principals
Sense of community
Personal freedom and responsibility
Social context of behavior
Goal oriented movement
Purpose and meaning of behavior
Individual view of life
Mutual respect
Importance of Contribution


Behaviorism (or behaviourism), is an approach to psychology that combines elements of philosophy, methodology, and theory.[1] It emerged in the early twentieth century as a reaction to "mentalistic" psychology, which often had difficulty making predictions that could be tested using rigorous experimental methods. The primary tenet of behaviorism, as expressed in the writings of John B. WatsonB. F. Skinner, and others, is that psychology should concern itself with the observable behavior of people and animals, not with unobservable events that take place in their minds.[2] The behaviorist school of thought maintains that behaviors as such can be described scientifically without recourse either to internal physiological events or to hypothetical constructs such as thoughts and beliefs.[3]

From early psychology in the 19th century, the behaviorist school of thought ran concurrently and shared commonalities with the psychoanalytic and Gestalt movements in psychology into the 20th century; but also differed from the mental philosophy of the Gestalt psychologists in critical ways.[4] Its main influences were Ivan Pavlov, who investigated classical conditioning although he did not necessarily agree with behaviorism or behaviorists, Edward Lee ThorndikeJohn B. Watson who rejected introspective methods and sought to restrict psychology to experimental methods, and B.F. Skinner who conducted research on operant conditioning.[5]

In the second half of the 20th century, behaviorism was largely eclipsed as a result of the cognitive revolution.[6][7]While behaviorism and cognitive schools of psychological thought may not agree theoretically, they have complemented each other in practical therapeutic applications, such as in cognitive–behavioral therapy that has demonstrable utility in treating certain pathologies, such as simple phobiasPTSD, and addiction. In addition, behaviorism sought to create a comprehensive model of the stream of behavior from the birth of a human to their death (see Behavior analysis of child development).


Gestalt psychology or gestaltism (GermanGestalt – "essence or shape of an entity's complete form") is a theory of mind and brain of the Berlin School; the operational principle of gestalt psychology is that the brain is holistic, parallel, and analog, with self-organizing tendencies. The principle maintains that the human eye sees objects in their entirety before perceiving their individual parts, suggesting the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Gestalt psychology tries to understand the laws of our ability to acquire and maintain stable percepts in a noisy world. Gestalt psychologists stipulate that perception is the product of complex interactions among various stimuli. Contrary to thebehaviorist approach to understanding the elements of cognitive processes, gestalt psychologists sought to understand their organization (Carlson and Heth, 2010). The gestalt effect is the form-generating capability of our senses, particularly with respect to the visual recognition of figures and whole forms instead of just a collection of simple lines and curves. In psychology, gestaltism is often opposed to structuralism. The phrase "The whole is greater than the sum of the parts" is often used when explaining gestalt theory,[1] though this is a mistranslation of Kurt Koffka's original phrase, "The whole is other than the sum of the parts".[2] Gestalt theory allows for the breakup of elements from the whole situation into what it really is.[3]

Enrich Fromm who wrote Escape from freedom Allen Wheelis Book - How people hange - chapter 'freedom and necessity'

Chapter III
Freedom and Necessity
The realm of necessity, therefore, must comprise two categories: the subjective or arbitrary, and the objective or mandatory. Mandatory necessity-like natural law which cannot be disobeyed-is that which cannot be suspended. It derives from forces, conditions, events which lie beyond the self, not subject to choice, unyielding to will and effort. "I wish I had blue eyes,” "…wish I were twenty again,” ” … wish I could fly,” "…wish I lived in the court of the Sun King.” Such wishes are futile, choice is inoperative; the necessity impartially constrains. And since it cannot be put aside there’s not much arguing about it. "If you jump you will fall-whether or not you choose to Fly.” There is consensus, we don’t dwell on it, we accept. 

Arbitrary necessity derives from forces within the personality, but construed to be outside. The force may be either impulse or prohibition: "I didn’t want to drink, but couldn’t help it.” That is to say, the impulse to drink does not lie within the "I.” The "I,” which is of course the locus of choice, does not "want” to drink, would choose otherwise, but is overwhelmed by alien force. "I want to marry you,” a woman says to her lover, "want it more than anything in the world. But I can’t divorce my husband. He couldn’t take it . . . would break down. He depends on me. It would kill him.” Here it is loyalty, caring for another’s welfare, which is alleged to lie outside the deciding "I,” which therefore cannot choose, cannot do what it "wants,” but is held to an alien course. As though she were saying, "I do not here preside over internal conflict, do not listen to contending claims within myself to arrive finally at an anguished, fallible decision, but am coerced by a mandate beyond my jurisdiction. I yield to necessity.” The issue is not one of conscious versus unconscious. The contending forces are both conscious. The issue is the boundary of the self, the limits of the "I.”

Arbitrary necessity, therefore-like man-made law is that which may be suspended, disobeyed. When dealing with ourselves the constraining force seems inviolable, a solid wall before us, as though we really "can’t,” have no choice; and if we say so often enough, long enough, and mean it, we may make it so. But when we then look about and observe others doing what we "can’t” do we must conclude that the constraining force is not an attribute of the environing world, not the way things are, but a mandate from within ourselves which we, strangely, exclude from the "I.”

The lady who "wants” to marry her lover but "can’t” divorce her husband might here object. "When I said ‘can’t,”’ she might say, "it was just a way of speaking, a metaphor. It meant that staying with my husband represents duty, not desire, that’s all. In’ a theoretical way I could choose … I know that. But it’s just theoretical. Because … you see, the conflict is so terribly unequal, the considerations that make me stay, that absolutely demand I stay with my husband … they’re so overwhelmingly strong, there’s really no choice. That’s all I mean.”

We make serious record of her objection. In passing we note with surprise that the inequality of the conflict leads her to conclude there is "really no choice,” whereas this same circumstance would have led us to say rather that the choice is easy, one she might arrive at promptly, with the conviction of being right.

It’s only a metaphor, she says. In some theoretical way, she says, she is aware of choice. Perhaps. But we have doubt. In any event we must point out that she specifically denies this choice for which she now claims oblique awareness, that she locates the determining duty outside the "I” . and its "wants.” And we might add that if she continues such metaphorical speech long enough she will eventually convince even herself; her "theoretical” choice will become more and more theoretical until, with no remaining consciousness of option, it will disappear in thin air. She then will have made actual something that may once have been but a metaphor. Nothing guarantees our freedom. Deny it often enough and one day it will be gone, and we’ll not know how or when.

Objective necessity is not arguable. My lover dies, I weep, beat my fists on the coffin. Everyone knows what I want; everyone knows that nothing will avail, no prayer, no curse, no desperate effort, nothing, that I shall never get her back. When there is argument about necessity, the alleged constraint is arbitrary, subjective. A house in flames, a trapped child, a restraining neighbor: "You can’t go in! It’s hopeless.” I see it differently: I can go in-if I have the nerve. There may be a chance. It’s not clear whether the situation permits or proscribes; the difference of opinion indicates that the necessity at issue is arbitrary. My neighbor’s statement is more plea than observation; he asks me to perceive that the contemplated action is precluded, to "see” that there is no choice. By so deciding I can make it so. If I agree it is impossible, then-even if mistaken-my having arrived at that judgment will, in a matter of moments, make it true. Our judgments fall within the field of events being judged, so themselves become events, and so alter the field. We survey the course of history and conclude, "Wars are inevitable.” The judgment seems detached, as if we observed from a distant galaxy; in fact it comes from within and, like all judgments, it may be mistaken. It is not inert, :it has consequences, shapes action, moves interest and behavior from, for example, the politics of dissent to the connoisseurship of wine; and so chips off one more fragment of the obstacle to war, thereby makes more likely the war which, when it comes, will vindicate our original judgment and the behavior which issued from it. So we create the necessity which then constrains us, constrains ever more tightly day after day, so vindicating ever more certainly our wisdom in having perceived from the outset we were not free. Finally we are bound hand and foot and may exclaim triumphantly, how right we were!

The areas of necessity and of freedom vary in proportion to each other and in absolute measure. They vary, also, from person to person, and, within the same person, from time to time. Together they comprise the total extent of available experience the range of which is a function of awareness and concern.

Adolescence, traditionally, is the time of greatest freedom, the major choices thereafter being progressively made, settled, and buried, one after another, never to be reopened. These days, however, an exhumation of such issues in later life has become quite common, with a corresponding increase in freedom which makes life again as hazardous as in youth.

Throughout our lives the proportion of necessity to freedom depends upon our tolerance of conflict: the greater our tolerance the more freedom we retain, the less our tolerance the more we jettison; for high among the uses of necessity is relief from tension. What we can’t alter we don’t have to worry about; so the enlargement of necessity is a measure of economy in psychic housekeeping. The more issues we have closed the fewer we have to fret about. For many of us, for example, the issues of stealing and of homosexuality are so completely buried that we no longer have consciousness of option, and so no longer in these matters have freedom: We may then walk through Tiffany’s or go to the ballet without temptation or conflict, whereas for one to whom these are still live issues, the choice depending upon a constantly shifting balance of fallibly estimated rewards of gain or pleasure as against risks of capture or shame, such jaunts may entail great tension.

Tranquillity, however, has risks of its own. As we expand necessity and so relieve ourselves of conflict and responsibility, we are relieved, also, in the same measure, of authority and significance. When there arises then a crisis which does not fall within our limited routine we are frightened, without resources, insignificant.

For some people necessity expands cancerously, every possibility of invention and variation being transformed into inflexible routine until all of freedom is eaten away. The extreme in psychic economy is an existence in which everything occurs by law. Since life means conflict, such a state is living death. When, in the other direction, the area of necessity is too much diminished we become confused, anxious, may be paralyzed by conflict, may reach eventually the extreme of panic.

The more we are threatened, fragile, vulnerable, the more we renounce freedom in favor of an expanding necessity, Observing others then who laugh at risk, who venture on paths from which we have turned back, we feel envy; they are courageous where we are timid. We come close to despising ourselves, but recover quickly, can always take refuge in a hidden determinism. "It’s all an illusion,” we say; "it looks like their will and daring as against my inhibition and weakness, but that must be illusion. Because life is lawful. Nothing happens by chance. Not a single atom veers off course at random. My inhibition is not a failure of nerve. We can’t see the forces that mold us, but they are there. The genetic and experiential dice are loaded with factors unknown, unknowable, not of our intending, are thrown in circumstances over which we have no vision or control; we are stuck with the numbers that turn up. Beware the man who claims to be captain ofhis soul, he’s first mate at the very best.”

The more we are strong and daring the more we will diminish necessity in favor of an expanding freedom. "We are responsible,” we say, "for what we are. We create ourselves. We have done as we have chosen to do, and by so doing have become what we are. If we don’t like it, tomorrow is another day, and we may do differently.”

Each speaks truly for himself, the one is just so determined, the other is just so free; but each overstates his truth in ascribing his constraint or his liberty to life at large. These truths are partial, do not contend with each other. Each expresses a quality of experience. Which view one chooses to express, to the exclusion of the other, better describes the speaker than the human condition.

In every situation, for every person, there is a realm of freedom and a realm of constraint. One may live in either realm. One must recognize the irresistible forces, the iron fist, the stone wall-must know them for what they are in order not to fall into the sea like Icarus-but, knowing them, one may turn away and live in the realm of one’s freedom. A farmer must know the fence which bounds his land but need not spend his life standing there, looking out, beating his fists on the rails; better he till his soil, think of what to grow, where to plant the fruit trees. However small the area of freedom, attention and devotion may expand it to occupy the whole of life.

Look at the wretched people huddled in line for the gas chambers at Auschwitz. If they do anything other than move on quietly, they will be clubbed down. Where is freedom? … But wait. Go back in time, enter the actual event, the very moment: they are thin and weak, and they smell; hear the weary shuffling steps, the anguished catch of breath, the clutch of hand. Enter now the mind of one hunched and limping man. The line moves slowly; a few yards ahead begin the steps down. He sees the sign, someone whispers "showers,” but he knows-what happens here. He is struggling with a choice: to shout "Comrades! They will kill you! Run!” or to say nothing. This option, in the few moments remaining, is his whole life. If he shouts he dies now, painfully; if he moves on silently he dies but minutes later. Looking back on him in time and memory, we find the moment poignant but the freedom negligible. It makes no difference, we think, in that situation, his election of daring or of inhibition. Both are futile, without consequence. History sees no freedom for him, notes only constraint, labels him victim. But in the consciousness of that one man it makes great difference whether or not he experience the choice. For if he knows the constraint and nothing else, if he thinks "Nothing is possible,” then he is living his necessity; but if, perceiving the constraint, he turns from it to a choice between two possible courses of action, then-however he choose-he is living his freedom. This commitment to freedom may extend to the last breath.

Conceptual framework for Buddhist thought 

The Four Noble Truths are regarded as central to the teachings of Buddhism; they are said to provide a unifying theme, or conceptual framework, for all of Buddhist thought. According to the Buddhist tradition, the Buddha compared these four truths to the footprints of an elephant: just as the footprints of all the other animals can fit within the footprint of an elephant, in the same way, all of the teachings of the Buddha are contained within the teachings on the four noble truths.[d][c][e]

According to tradition, the Buddha taught on the four noble truths repeatedly throughout his lifetime, continually expanding and clarifying his meaning.[c]Walpola Rahula explains:[8]

The heart of the Buddha's teaching lies in the Four Noble Truths (Cattāri Ariyasaccāni) which he expounded in his very first sermon to his old colleagues, the five ascetics, at Isipatana (modern Sarnath) near Benares. In this sermon, as we have it in the original texts, these four Truths are given briefly. But there are innumerable places in the early Buddhist scriptures where they are explained again and again, with greater detail and in different ways. If we study the Four Noble Truths with the help of these references and explanations, we get a fairly good and accurate account of the essential teachings of the Buddha according to the original texts.

Contemporary Tibetan teacher Geshe Tashi Tsering emphasizes the importance of the four noble truths for the individual path:[13]

The four noble truths lay down the blueprint for the entire body of the Buddha’s thought and practice and set up the basic framework of the individual’s path to enlightenment. They encapsulate all of Buddhist philosophy. Therefore studying, meditating, and fully understanding this teaching is very important, because without an understanding of the four noble truths it is impossible to fully integrate the concepts and practices of Buddhism into our daily lives.


The teachings on the Four Noble Truths explain the nature of dukkha (Pali; loosely translated as suffering, anxiety, dissatisfaction[f]), its causes, and how it can be overcome.

The four truths 

The four noble truths are:[a]

  1. The truth of dukkha (suffering, anxiety, dissatisfaction)
  2. The truth of the origin of dukkha
  3. The truth of the cessation of dukkha
  4. The truth of the path leading to the cessation of dukkha

First truth: dukkha 

Main article: Dukkha

The first noble truth is the truth of dukkha. Within the Buddhist tradition, the term dukkha is commonly explained according to three different patterns or categories:[g]

  • Dukkha-dukkha - (the dukkha of ordinary suffering) this type of dukkha includes the obvious physical suffering or pain associated with giving birth, growing old, physical illness and the process of dying.
  • Vipariṇāma-dukkha - (the dukkha produced by change) this type of dukkha refers to the anxiety or stress of trying to hold onto things that are constantly changing.
  • Saṃkhāra-dukkha - (the dukkha of conditioned states) the third pattern or category of dukkha refers to a basic unsatisfactoriness pervading all forms of life because all forms of life are impermanent and constantly changing. On this level, the term indicates a lack of satisfaction, a sense that things never measure up to our expectations or standards.

The Pali term dukkha (Sanskrit: duhkha) is frequently translated as "suffering", but the term dukkha has a much broader meaning than the typical use of the word "suffering". Dukkha indicates a lack of satisfaction, a sense that things never measure up to our expectations or standards.[8][web 1][21]

The emphasis on dukkha is not intended to be pessimistic, but rather to identify the nature of dukkha, in order that dukkha (or suffering) may be overcome. The Buddha acknowledged that there is both happiness and sorrow in the world, but he taught that even when we have some kind of happiness, it is not permanent; it is subject to change. And due to this unstable, impermanent nature of all things, everything we experience is said to have the quality of dukkhaor dissatisfaction. Therefore unless we can gain insight into that truth, and understand what is really able to give us happiness, and what is unable to provide happiness, the experience of dissatisfaction will persist.[6][22][23][24]

Traleg Kyabgon explains:[24]

Normally we think our happiness is contingent upon external circumstances and situations, rather than upon our own inner attitude toward things, or toward life in general. The Buddha was saying that dissatisfaction is part of life, even if we are seeking happiness and even if we manage to find temporary happiness. The very fact that it is temporary means that sooner or later the happiness is going to pass. So the Buddha said that unless we understand this and see how pervasive dissatisfaction or duhkha is, it is impossible for us to start looking for real happiness.

Second truth: origin of dukkha 

Main article: Samudaya

The second noble truth is the truth of the origin of dukkha. Within the context of the four noble truths, the origin (Pali: samudaya) of dukkha is commonly explained as craving (Pali: tanha) conditioned by ignorance (Pali: avijja).[25][web 1][h] This craving runs on three channels:[25][26][27]

  • Craving for sense-pleasures (kama-tanha): this is craving for sense objects which provide pleasant feeling, or craving for sensory pleasures.
  • Craving to be (bhava-tanha): this is craving to be something, to unite with an experience. This includes craving to be solid and ongoing, to be a being that has a past and a future,[28] and craving to prevail and dominate over others.
  • Craving not to be (vibhava-tanha): this is craving to not experience the world, and to be nothing; a wish to be separated from painful feelings.[i]

Ignorance (Pali: avijja) can be defined as ignorance of the meaning and implication of the four noble truths.[29] On a deeper level, it refers to a misunderstanding of the nature of the self and reality.[j]

Another common explanation presents the cause of dukkha as disturbing emotions (Sanskrit: kleshas) rooted in ignorance (Sanskrit: avidya).[k] In this context, it is common to identify three root disturbing emotions, called the three poisons,[30][31] as the root cause of suffering or dukkha. These three poisons are:

  • Ignorance (Sanskrit: avidya or moha): misunderstanding of the nature of reality; bewilderment.
  • Attachment (Sanskrit: raga): attachment to pleasurable experiences.
  • Aversion (Sanskrit: dvesha): a fear of getting what we don't want, or not getting what we do want.[l]

Third truth: cessation of dukkha 

See also: Nirodha

The third Noble Truth is the truth of the cessation of dukkha. Cessation (Pali: nirodha) refers to the cessation of suffering and the causes of suffering. It is

the cessation of all the unsatisfactory experiences and their causes in such a way that they can no longer occur again. It's the removal, the final absence, the cessation of those things, their non-arising."[web 6]

Cessation is the goal of one's spiritual practice in the Buddhist tradition.[32] According to the Buddhist point of view, once we have developed a genuine understanding of the causes of suffering, such as craving (tanha) and ignorance (avijja), then we can completely eradicate these causes and thus be free from suffering.[33]

Cessation is often equated with nirvana (Sanskrit; Pali nibbana), which can be described as the state of being in cessation[34] or the event or process of the cessation.[35] A temporary state of nirvana can be said to occur whenever the causes of suffering (e.g. craving) have ceased in our mind.[36]

Joseph Goldstein explains:

Ajahn Buddhadasa, a well-known Thai master of the last century, said that when village people in India were cooking rice and waiting for it to cool, they might remark, "Wait a little for the rice to become nibbana". So here, nibbana means the cool state of mind, free from the fires of thedefilements. As Ajahn Buddhadasa remarked, "The cooler the mind, the more Nibbana in that moment". We can notice for ourselves relative states of coolness in our own minds as we go through the day.[36]

Fourth truth: path to the cessation of dukkha [edit]

The Dharma wheel, often used to represent the Noble Eightfold Path
Main article: Noble Eightfold Path

The fourth noble truth is the path to the cessation of dukkha. This path is called the Noble Eightfold Path, and it is considered to be the essence of Buddhist practice.[37] The eightfold path consists of: Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.

While the first three truths are primarily concerned with understanding the nature of dukkha (suffering, anxiety, stress) and its causes, the fourth truth presents a practical method for overcoming dukkha.[38] The path consists of a set of eight interconnected factors or conditions, that when developed together, lead to the cessation of dukkha.[39][web 1] Ajahn Sucitto describes the path as "a mandala of interconnected factors that support and moderate each other."[39]

Thus, the eight items of the path are not to be understood as stages, in which each stage is completed before moving on to the next. Rather, they are to be understood as eight significant dimensions of one's behaviour—mental, spoken, and bodily—that operate in dependence on one another; taken together, they define a completepath, or way of living.[40]

Experiential knowledge 

In the Buddhist tradition, the four noble truths, and Buddhist philosophy in general, are understood to be based on the personal experience of the Buddha. This understanding is implied in the term "noble truths," which is a translation of the Pali terms ariya sacca (Sanskrit: arya satya). The Pali term saccameans "truth" and "real" or "actual thing." In this context, contemporary Buddhist scholar Rupert Gethin explains that the four noble truths are not asserted as propositional truths or creeds; rather, they are understood as "true things" or "realities" that the Buddha experienced.[m][n]

Contemporary Buddhist teacher Thanissaro Bhikkhu emphasizes the same point, noting that the Four Noble Truths are best understood as categories of experience, rather than as beliefsThanissaro Bhikkhu writes:

These four truths are best understood, not as beliefs, but as categories of experience. They offer an alternative to the ordinary way we categorize what we can know and describe–[we ordinarily categorize things] in terms of me/not me, and being/not being.[o] These ordinary categories create trouble, for the attempt to maintain full being for one's sense of "me" is a stressful effort doomed to failure, in that all of the components of that "me" are inconstant, stressful, and thus not worthy of identifying as "me" or "mine". [...][T]he study of the four noble truths is aimed first at understanding these four categories, and then at applying them to experience so that one may act properly toward each of the categories and thus attain the highest, most total happiness possible.[web 5]

The Tibetan Buddhist lama Chögyam Trungpa emphasizes that cessation is a personal experience.[42] Chögyam Trungpa explains:

The truth of cessation is a personal discovery. It is not mystical and does not have any connotations of religion or psychology. It is simply your experience... It is like experiencing instantaneous good health: you have no cold, no flu, no aches, and no pains in your body. You feel perfectly well, absolutely refreshed and wakeful! Such an experience is possible.[42]

Illness, diagnosis, and cure 

In the Buddhist tradition, the Buddha is often compared to a great physician, and his teachings are compared to medicine. The teachings on the four noble truths in particular are related to a medical diagnosis, as follows:[p]

  1. The truth of dukkha: is recognizing that there is an illness
  2. The truth of origin: is identifying the cause of the illness (the diagnosis)
  3. The truth of cessation: is identifying a cure of the illness (the prognosis)
  4. The truth of the path: is recommending a treatment for the illness that can bring about a cure (the prescription)

This analogy is said to emphasize the compassion of the Buddha—that he was motivated by the desire to relieve the suffering of beings.[43][45] It also emphasizes that the Buddha was presented as physician, or healer of the spirit, rather than as a meta-physician or someone who spoke of supernatural powers. For example, Pico Iyer states: "The Buddha generally presented himself as more physician than metaphysician: if an arrow is sticking out of your side, he famously said, don’t argue about where it came from or who made it; just pull it out. You make your way to happiness not by fretting about it or trafficking in New Age affirmations, but simply by finding the cause of your suffering, and then attending to it, as any doctor (of mind or body) might do."[web 10]

Contemporary Buddhist teacher Tamara Engel also emphasizes the Buddha's reluctance to comment on metaphysical matters:[web 8]

The brilliance of this medical model is that the Buddha offers a complete spiritual path that does not depend on metaphysical speculation or belief—no speculation or belief about God. No leap of faith is required. The illness the Buddha refers to is a particular kind of suffering, and there is nothing metaphysical about it. We all experience it. In fact, it is said that the Buddha would never enter into a metaphysical discussion. He stated, "I teach one thing and one thing only. Suffering and the end of suffering.”

There are many examples both in the original suttas and in traditional and contemporary commentaries that compare the Buddha to a physician.[q]


comprehensive world view (or worldview) is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the entirety of the individual or society's knowledge and point-of-view, including natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and ethics.[1] The term is a calque of the German word Weltanschauung [ˈvɛlt.ʔanˌʃaʊ.ʊŋ] ( listen), composed of Welt ('world') and Anschauung ('view' or 'outlook').[2] It is a concept fundamental to German philosophy and epistemology and refers to a wide world perception. Additionally, it refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs through which an individual, group or culture interprets the world and interacts with it.



The true founder of the idea that language and worldview are inextricable is the Prussian philologistWilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1835). Humboldt remains, however, little known in English-speaking countries, despite the works of Brown, Manchester and Underhill. Humboldt argued that language was part of the creative adventure of mankind. Culture, language and linguistic communities developed simultaneously, he argued, and could not do so without one another. In stark contrast to linguistic determinism, which invites us to consider language as a constraint, a framework or a prison house, Humboldt maintained that speech is inherently and implicitly creative. Human beings take their place in speech and continue to modify language and thought by their creative exchanges. Worldview remains a confused and confusing concept in English, used very differently by linguists and sociologists. It is for this reason that Underhill suggests five subcategories: world-perceiving, world-conceiving, cultural mindset, personal world, and perspective (see Underhill 2009, 2011 & 2012).

Though the work of Humboldt offers a deep insight into the relationship between thinking and speaking, and though Edward Sapir gives a very subtle account of this relationship in English. English linguists tend to persist in attaching discussion of worldviews to the work of Whorf. And this trend has not changed with cognitive linguistics.

The linguistic relativity hypothesis of Benjamin Lee Whorf describes how the syntactic-semantic structure of a language becomes an underlying structure for the Weltanschauung of a people through the organization of the causal perception of the world and the linguistic categorization of entities. As linguistic categorization emerges as a representation of worldview and causality, it further modifies social perception and thereby leads to a continual interaction between language and perception.[3]

The hypothesis was well received in the late 1940s, but declined in prominence after a decade. In the 1990s, new research gave further support for the linguistic relativity theory, in the works of Stephen Levinson and his team at the Max Planck institute for psycholinguistics at NijmegenNetherlands.[4] The theory has also gained attention through the work of Lera Boroditsky at Stanford University.