Japanese Psychology: What is it?

japaneseIn 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 method is a life and mental health discipline that was 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 help you master your life. The educational approach allows you to develop attitudes of responsibility, authenticity, honesty, gratitude, and a capacity to lead actions from intention, and not the emotion. Originally of a Buddhist influence, 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 50s[1]. It was brought into the Western world in the late 70s. The method develops superior capacities for gratitude, and how to recognize the ways the world around us supports us, whatever we do. It showcases 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 steers us toward developing a greater sense of responsibility and gratitude towards all life. 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 with which we are living, to the thousand ways that the world is supporting us, we cannot truly appreciate life. There is a risk that we become 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 up our 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

Under 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.

References: 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.

Jocelyne Durand
Consultant and Certified Specialist in Japanese Psychology

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