Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Recovery from Transcendental Meditation: Questions

I recently received an email from a reader who asks questions that sometimes come up in our comments. I've posted the conversation below. I would really enjoy hearing what TMFB commenters think about these questions that come up over and over.

Hi John,
I've been corresponding with [another TM critic] and there are still some things that I'm wondering about:

1) What exactly causes people to have breakdowns because of tm? It isn't much different from praying.

Actually, it's much different than most forms of prayer. Prayer is a conscious, cognitive activity. The goal is not to "go beyond" the mind as it is in TM, but rather to talk with God(s).

It appears the experience in TM is a form of voluntary dissociation. It could be that extended periods of dissociation, 8 hours or more daily for TMers on "rounding" courses, has a destabilizing effect on the mind. This is not researched. It is simply my hypothesis.

There are other factors besides meditation that may lead to "breakdowns" or other emotional and behavioral problems. For "insiders" the group and psychological pressures are quite intense. My guess is that the problems people report are a mixture of too much meditation and pressures that affect susceptible individuals.

2) Is it possible that the breakdowns would have occurred without tm?

Yes, of course.

Two points: We need to find out if the psychological problems happen in greater frequency than the population at large and whether the problems get worse with practice of TM. There is some research from the 70s, archived at trancenet.net, that indicates this is the case.

The other point is that the Maharishi made extravagant claims, which the TM movement continues to promote, about the beneficial effects of TM, including perfect physical and mental health.

To some, the fact that many former TMers experience psychological problems argues against these claims.

It's interesting that TM has never demonstrated that any practitioner has ever attained enlightenment. But, there are records of many individuals who have broken down.

Yet TM faithful continue to believe that TM leads to enlightenment -- and that no one experiences negative effects from TM.

3) Don't the anti-tm sites keep the injury alive, so the participants live their lives as victims?

I can't speak for all such sites. However, the emphasis on TM-Free Blog and my knappfamilycounseling.com site is on recovery.

For many people, getting an initial insight into the problems with TM and the TM Movement helps them separate from the Movement and begin working on recovery. Put another way, the teaching in the TM movement, and similar organizations, is that the teacher is perfect, the teachings are perfect, and the technique(s) are perfect.

So any person having a problem must have something wrong with them.

They have bad karma, are doing the technique wrong, etc. Most of the people I treat suffer from low self esteem, which I believe is at the least exacerbated by this prejudice taught by the TM Movement. Part of reestablishing trust in themselves, rather than an external guru, is understanding the psychological pressures they experienced in the TM movement -- and the hypocritical policies and practices of the organization.

I can't speak for other counselors, but in my treatment we spend little time on the TM movement and its failings, but rather focus on the changes that the individual must make to recover from their trauma and return to a happy, comfortable, productive life.

Hope that helps!


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