The Japanese Psychology – What is it?

In a society centered on emotion, it is not surprising to see a great number of people unhappy and spinning around – like a mouse – entangled in their emotions. While they acknowledge the emotions, the Japanese methods redirect the attention towards reality and what needs doing instead of dwelling on the emotions.

The Japanese psychology methods is a life and mental health discipline inspired by two Schools of psychotherapies practiced in Japan: Morita (action) and Naikan (reflection).

The two dimensions are action oriented. The combination of both provides a solid basis to master your life. The educational approach allows you to develop attitudes of responsibility, authenticity, honesty, gratitude and a capacity to lead from intention and not the emotion. Of a Buddhist influence originally there is no need to have an interest in Zen or other Japanese things to practice Japanese psychology methods.

The Naikan approach

The Naikan therapeutic applications started in Japan in the 50's. It was brought into the Western world in the late 70's. This method develops superior capacities for gratitude and to recognize how the world around us supports us whatever we do and the desire to serve life in return for all the blessings and love received during the course of our life.

In Naikan the reflection is done from three questions:

What have I received from...?
What did I give to...?
What problems and difficulties have I caused to...?

It is a profound reflective exercise of observing reality that brings us to develop a greater sense of responsibility and gratitude towards all life and that raises our awareness of how Reality supports us in each moment, whether we are doing good or bad.

"Unless we make a real effort to redirect our attention from the problems and obstacles we are living, to the thousand ways that the world is supporting us, we cannot truly appreciate life. There is a risk that we get bogged down in bitterness and self pity" (free translation). (Takao Murase, 1996, p. 23)

The Morita Approach

The Morita therapy began in Japan in 1917. It was introduced in the Western world as an educational program after World War II. It generates the capacity to act from the goal, and keep with the efforts despite the fears, doubts or procrastination that tries to hold us back.

"The mature human being goes about doing what needs to be done regardless of whether that person feels great or terrible... Even on days when the satisfaction and confidence just aren't there, you can get the job done anyway." (David Reynolds 1984, p. 5)

It is complementary to the reflexive dimension of Naikan and is also oriented towards action. It is based on three postulates:

Accept your emotion
Know your purpose
Do what needs doing

In this approach the driver comes from the intention and not the emotion. For example, while being shy and nervous at the thought of public speaking one can always walk to the mike and start saying a few words, with the emotion of fear. Chances are that after a few minutes the shyness will gradually start fading and one just can't stop speaking.

Very few training programs allow you the capacity to develop superior capacities to master your life. An even better reason to look at what other cultures can teach us on the art of mastering life and developing superior attitudes.

Jocelyne Durand has been trained into the Japanese methods and has undergone the intensive residential Naikan program the Japanese way.

Reynolds, D.K. (1984). Constructive Living. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.
Murase, T. (1996). La pratique du Naïkan. Le Kremlin-Bicêtre : Éditions La Pierre d'Angle.

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What if you're not sick but thirsty!

Do you put coffee, tea, juice, beer or soda in your glass more often than water? If so, be careful. You could be on the road to serious health problems.

According to Dr. Batmanghelidj (1995), while it's true that all these beverages are water-based, they also contain dehydrating agents. These agents draw the water content from your body, and deplete some of its reserves as well (p. 6). So after you drink that coffee or cola, you're actually more dehydrated than you were before.

Your body is 75 percent water. Not surprisingly, it needs water every day to function well. Water washes away toxins, transports nutrients and other materials, and helps your body process chemicals. If you don't get enough, you will show signs of deficiency – just as you would if you didn't get enough of a particular vitamin.

When your water reserves can't meet your body's needs, water-deficient areas will send signal, such as: a sudden throbbing pain in your joints, stomach disturbances or early signs of allergies.

In our society, experts interpret these symptoms as sicknesses. Then they treat you with pills and potions that stifle your body's cry for help for a while, but don't resolve the underlying cause. As long as the aching body part lacks the water it needs, you can take every pill in your medicine chest, but your body will continue crying more and more loudly for help.

My mother's story illustrates this. At 40, she began having digestive troubles and was diagnosed with dyspepsia and a hiatus hernia. Both conditions are early signs of dehydration. As a result, she went through three major operations in a decade. The lining of her esophagus was so fragile and dry that it tore like tissue when a surgeon tried to fix it.

At 50, Mom developed osteoporosis. Acupuncture, physiotherapy, calcium supplements and hormone replacement therapy didn't help.

Two decades later, she developed memory problems, dizziness and migraines. Tests showed that the neurons in her brain were drying out. When doctors spotted a condensed grey area in her brain, they suspected the early onset of epilepsy. Convinced that was the reason for her symptoms, they prescribed the "ideal" medication. Unfortunately, this drug had strong, unpleasant side effects and did not cure her symptoms.

My mother suffered for years. The medications exhausted her and she feared she would lose her independence. She didn't know which saint to pray to anymore.

Fortunately, I had just finished reading Dr. Batmanghelidj's book Your Body's Many Cries for Water (1995). The book explained that "chronic dehydration" could be at the root of my mother's health problems. Lack of water was the main reason for three decades of suffering!

My mother never drank much water; she found it too bland (many of us have the same reaction). Over time, her system dried out. All the efforts made to silence the distress calls coming from her body only added to her deterioration. The brain did not show effects until late in the process because it receives a richer blood flow than any other part of the body.

Dr. Batmanghelidj highlights several interesting facts about dehydration, blaming both Alzheimer's and asthma on the condition. When you're dehydrated, your body produces histamine, which contracts the lung cells to keep you from losing water when you exhale. The result? Asthma.

And then there's the epidemic of backaches sweeping North America. Water comprises 80 percent of your inter-vertebral disks; if you don't get enough water, these disks may atrophy, leading to displacement and pain. Then the spine, which supports 75 percent of your body's weight, can't do its job anymore. Backaches start, sparking a whole range of medical treatments.

Lack of water is one of the main stressors on your body. Once your body knows it will get the water it needs for its daily operations, it will start to relax and your stress level will drop. Your mood will improve, and you will be calmer.

What has happened to them since they started drinking water?

Energy renewal

Two weeks after she started drinking six to eight glasses of water a day, my mother's migraines and angina stopped completely. She had more energy to do her housework, and she surprised herself by dancing the foxtrot again as she had in the "good old days." She no longer suffered from depression and anxiety. Water and pleasant activities are her new "pill", she now says.

No more arthritic pain

Several months ago, a colleague nervously rubbed her hands as she talked to me. She explained that she suffered from arthritis and added that her doctor might soon put her in a wheelchair. Yet this woman is only about 40 years old! Like my mom, she is very active, but she does not drink water. Instead, it's mainly coffee and colas.

I recommended Dr. Batmanghelidj's book. A few weeks later, she told me that before she started drinking water, she lay in bed every morning wondering how she would get on her feet with all that pain. After a few weeks of drinking water, her problems declined. Her pain is gone and she has started skiing again. She no longer fears that she will need a wheelchair.

The end of stomach problems

Loren is a street person I walk past every day. Over time, we have become friends. One morning, he told me that he suffers from stomach disturbances and that he had not eaten in the last 48 hours. I advised him to drink water. It's free and available everywhere.

The next morning, I found him radiant. He had followed my advice and consumed a lot of water. He told me happily that he was free from the stomach pain and was finally able to eat a good meal.

A few recommendations before you take the plunge

  • Drink six to eight glasses of water (eight ounces each) a day, even if you are not thirsty. Thirst is only one of many symptoms of dehydration, and it is often one of the last ones to occur.
  • After a few days of drinking six to eight glasses of water add half a teaspoon of salt to your diet for every 10 glasses of water you drink. Be sure your kidneys eliminate urine well; otherwise, swelling will occur.
  • According to Dr. Batmanghelidj (1995) if your kidneys have to filter high concentrations of toxins due to long-term dehydration, be careful. You are probably already under medication. You can't simply stop your medication and replace it with water. Start by noting the exact quantity of water you drink daily and the quantity of urine you eliminate. Then add one or two glasses of water to your daily intake, ensuring that you measure the amount of urine eliminated. If the quantity of urine rises, you can drink more water (p. 159).
  • If you are suffering from a chronic disease, be patient. It will take time for your body to reverse course. Water will not do it all. You may want to add a multivitamine to your diet, consult a nutritionist, start a work-out program, or consult your doctor.

Jocelyne Durand

Consultant and Certified Specialist
in Japanese Psychology

Batmanghelidj F. (1995). Your Body's Many Cries for Water (second edition), Global Health Solutions, Inc., Falls Church.

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