Psychoanalysis and The Human Problem – Jiddu Krishnamurti

Commentaries on Living Series 2 / Chapter 40

krisnamurtiTHE BIRDS AND the goats were all somewhere else, and it was strangely quiet and far away under the wide-spreading tree which stood alone in an expanse of fields, well-cultivated and richly green. The hills were at some distance, harsh and uninviting in the midday sun, but under the tree it was dark, cool and pleasant. This tree, huge and impressive, had gathered great strength and symmetry in its solitude. It was a vital thing, alone, and yet it seemed to dominate all its surroundings, even the distant hills. The villagers worshipped it; against its vast trunk there was a carved stone on which someone had placed bright yellow flowers. In the evening no one came to the tree; its solitude was too overpowering, and it was better to worship it during the day when there were rich shadows, chattering birds, and the sound of human voices.

But at this hour all the villagers were around their huts, and under the tree it was very peaceful. The sun never penetrated to the base of the tree, and the flowers would last till the next day, when new offerings would be made. A narrow path led to the tree, and then continued on through the green fields. The goats were carefully herded along this path until they were near the hills, and then they ran wild, eating everything within reach. The full glory of the tree was towards evening. As the sun set behind the hills, the fields became more intensely green, and only the top of the tree caught the last rays, golden and transparent. With the coming of darkness the tree appeared to withdraw from all its surroundings and close upon itself for the night; its mystery seemed to grow, entering into the mystery of all things.

A psychologist and an analyst, he had been in practice for a number of years and had many cures to his credit. He worked in a hospital as well as in his private office. His many prosperous patients had made him prosperous too, with expensive cars, a country house, and all the rest of it. He took his work seriously, it was not just a money making affair, and he used different methods of analysis depending upon the patient. He had studied mesmerism, and tentatively practised hypnosis on some of his patients.

It is a very curious thing,” he said, “how, during the hypnotic state, people will freely and easily speak of their hidden compulsions and responses, and every time a patient is put under hypnosis I feel the strangeness of it. I have myself been scrupulously honest, but I am fully aware of the grave dangers of hypnotism, especially in the hands of unscrupulous people, medical or otherwise. Hypnosis may or may not be a short cut, and I don’t feel it is justified except in certain stubborn cases. It takes a long period to cure a patient, generally several months, and it is a pretty tiring business.

Some time ago,” he went on, “a patient whom I had been treating for a number of months came to see me. By no means a stupid woman, she was well read and had wide interests; and with considerable excitement and a smile which I had not seen for a long time, she told me that she had been persuaded by a friend to attend some of your talks. It appeared that during the talks she felt herself being released from her depressions, which were rather serious. She said that the first talk had quite bewildered her. The thoughts and the words were new to her and seemed contradictory, and she did not want to attend the second talk; but her friend explained that this often happened, and that she should listen to several talks before making up her mind. She finally went to all of them, and as I say, she felt a sense of release. What you said seemed to touch certain points in her consciousness, and without making any effort to be free from her frustrations and depressions, she found that they were gone; they had simply ceased to exist. This was some months ago. I saw her again the other day, and those depressions have certainly cleared up; she is normal and happy, especially in her relationship with her family, and things seem to be all right.

This is all just preliminary,” he continued. “You see, thanks to this patient, I have read some of your teachings, and what I really want to talk over with you is this: is there a way or a method by which we can quickly get at the root of all this human misery? Our present techniques take time and require a considerable amount of patient investigation.

Sir, if one may ask, what is it that you are trying to do with your patients?

Stated simply, without psychoanalytical jargon, we try to help them to overcome their difficulties, depressions, and so on, in order that they may fit into society.

Do you think it is very important to help people to fit into this corrupt society?

It may be corrupt, but the reformation of society is not our business. Our business is to help the patient to adjust himself to his surroundings and be a more happy and useful citizen. We are dealing with abnormal cases and are not trying to create super-normal people. I don’t think that is our function.

Do you think you can separate yourself from your function? If I may ask, is it not also your function to bring about a totally new order, a world in which there will be no wars, no antagonism, no urge to compete, and so on? Do not all these urges and compulsions bring about a social environment which develops abnormal people? If one is only concerned with helping the individual to conform to the existing social pattern, here or elsewhere, is one not maintaining the very causes that make for frustration misery and destruction?

There is certainly something in what you say but as analysts I don’t think we are prepared to go so deeply into the whole causation of human misery.

Then it seems, sir, that you are concerned, not with the total development of man, but only with one particular part of his total consciousness. Healing a certain part may be necessary, but without understanding the total process of man, we may cause other forms of disease. Surely, this is not a matter for argumentation or speculation; it is an obvious fact that must be taken into consideration, not merely by specialists, but by each one of us.

You are leading into very deep issues to which I am not accustomed, and I find myself beyond my depth. I have thought only vaguely about these things, and about what we are actually trying to accomplish with our patients apart from the usual procedure. You see, most of us have neither the inclination nor the necessary time to study all this; but I suppose we really ought to if we want to free ourselves and help our patients to be free from the confusion and misery of the present western civilization.”

The confusion and misery are not only in the West, for human beings the world over are in the same plight. The problem of the individual is also the world’s problem, they are not two separate and distinct processes. We are concerned, surely, with the human problem, whether the human being is in the Orient or in the Occident, which is an arbitrary geographical division. The whole consciousness of man is concerned with God, with death, with right and happy livelihood with children and their education, with war and peace. Without understanding all this, there can be no healing of man.

You are right, sir, but I think very few of us are capable of such wide and deep investigation. Most of us are educated wrongly. We become specialists, technicians, which has its uses, but unfortunately that is the end of us. Whether his speciality is the heart or the complex, each specialist builds his own little heaven, as the priest does, and though he may occasionally read something on the side, there he remains till he dies. You are right, but there it is.

Now, sir, I would like to return to my question: is there a method or technique by which we can go directly to the root of our miseries, especially those of the patient and thereby eradicate them quickly?

Again, if one may ask, why are you always thinking in terms of methods and techniques? Can a method or technique set man free, or will it merely shape him to a desired end? And the desired end, being the opposite of man’s anxieties, fears, frustrations, pressures, is itself the outcome of these. The reaction of the opposite is not true action, either in the economic or the psychological world. Apart from technique or method, there may be a factor which will really help man.

What is that?

Perhaps it is love.

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46 thoughts on “Psychoanalysis and The Human Problem – Jiddu Krishnamurti

  1. This is fantastic. A well developed theme with clarity and evocative description. Congratulations.

  2. New therapies? Rogers, Ellis, Skinner, Perls, etc. are old hat? I beg to differ. The so-called new therapies seem to be combinations and permutations of the original therapies, just dressed up differently with new names. “developed by a new generation of academics who want to establish themselves and appear to “discover” something new. The saying”what’s old is new again” seems to fit here, I think.

    Proust said “We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us”.

    I think good counseling involves a ton of unconditional positive regard for the client, and meeting them wherever they are on their life’s journey. Sharing the different philosophical underpinnings of counseling theories can be helpful in pointing directions for clients to explore and find what fits them.ultimately, in my opinion, counselors don’t give answers , they just point out different paths to clients.

    • I am quite ignorant on the different schools in psychotherapy. There is nothing wrong with a pill if it works, but not as a solution for everyone. I think we need as many different approaches as we have people needing counselling or therapy. The therapist who would be the best choice is the one who knows and feels what his patient feels and knows, and at the same time knows several ways out of that special labyrinth of mind of that particular patient. The work is to be done by the patient, but not entirely. Lead the horses to the water and let them choose how and when to drink.

      • Very true and sometimes a client needs to be medicated before one even touch talk therapy but I am talking now of those with major mental illnesses.
        Glad you were helped by counseling. Sometimes one just needs a tune-up. 🙂

    • Perhaps you are correct in stating the newer therapies are just permutations of the older greats of therapy. Being on the receiving end of long term therapy (not psychoanalysis) to treat a major mental illness and married to a therapist who works with the poor clients left behind, I would say you are right. The most important thing is to convey respect and caring for the client and temporarily entering into their world if you can. And this approach was discussed by the masters and is just dressed up in new names today.

  3. For me it depends on which layer, level or label of who and what we think we are at the root we are sharing/speaking from in any given exchange. The masters degree level education I have gives me ‘licensure’ to use many therapeutic techniques, but…. who says the words from those techniques with my mouth??? It is only words until one looks at the foundation level of understanding and experience they are said from.

    I work to know and heal myself first and then and only then, can I turn and know healing to that very exact same level in the world. One must see clearly their own limitations before they can ever see clearly anyone else. Physician, heal thyself and then when this is done, one can teach others to do the same for themselves! In my book, a true therapist/teacher/guru/healer never claims to do, they empower others to do for themselves. Point the way to the healing and live it, teaching by example.

    So just who is this voice that is M anyway? lol (intro to section applicable to this post here starts about 12 minutes in and there is an intermission song… please feel free to substitute the word ‘God’ with whatever word or concept you are comfortable with… unified field, singularity, TOE, etc). It is an interview with my husband (right as I we were meeting, before we were married) from a chunk of years ago now. It is a bit rough as it is the first time I was ever asked to say these words with my mouth out loud! M says: “You can only love someone else as much as you love yourself. You can only understand someone else as much as you understand yourself. You can only give someone else what you can give yourself”. In my world, this is what makes any real psychoanalysis ever possible.

    One should be allowed to find out how a therapist’s marriage is going and how things are with their mother before a patient ever hits their couch! Answers to those questions will directly show the limitations of that therapist’s ability to REALLY teach you. The way ethically to begin to do this is to find the therapist in your area that all the other therapists go to :). Brené Brown in her TED talk on vulnerability humorously addresses this: I left teaching at the university and shuttered my private practice some time ago, but am so heartened to see people like Brené carrying the torch on!

    Therapeutic techniques as philosophy are interesting, but they hold no real power until the talk has been walked, creating real wisdom through living experience.

    Hope all finds you well today in your corner of the world Bert! -x.M

    • I left this reply till last. While doing so I noticed that many things you said in your comment, I already used as replies to other comments. It must be that our thinking belongs to the same frame-less canvas.

          • This is therapy at its best. It refers to the intersection of therapy and physics. It also reminds me of the intersection of therapy and The Upanishads, India’s oldest wisdom writings, which, in my opinion, were the precursor to much of modern physics theory.

            This was an excellent post, thanks for putting it up. I can’t read the title of it. Could you post it separately, please?! (It’s too “skinny” in the thread to show the title!)

            • I posted this up over on the little blog I write as well and I will put the link with full size video here:

              I think all info can be tracked if one opens it into the youtube channel itself by clicking on the youtube icon in bottom bar right-ish in the video box. Hope this gives you the information that you seek!

              BTW, I also am just in the process of looking at some interesting information from psychologist Dr. Lynn Sereda as he discussing using quantum attunement in the therapeutic process. I am not that deep into his stuff yet and I like to get a sense of how well the presenter has their own ego in check as well before sharing it at large… so, I mention his name here if this is an area you are interested in starting your own deeper dive into as well. Enjoy the journey! -x.M

            • This voice comes from a physics background as well, but it is also echoing the need for “inner” work to be done by the scientist as it will directly impact the level of discovery that can then be described :):

            • … well, I didn’t like the beginning of the video. Where he states that spirit enters dense matter to give consciousness. Either it is always there, or it is never there. What is the treshold of consciousness?
              But then, when the vid continued, he started to make sense … talking about the google-in-our-head, as the unconscious thought pre-processor …
              we become more and more what we value, that is if we value something at all, else we become doubt or fear.

            • The words choosen do tend to muddle the mix at times. Does a rock have spirit and consciousness? I do understand what he is getting at in terms of what we would consider an alive body with electromagnetic signatures in brain and heart that are used as markers to measure “life in dense matter”, but I can see what you are saying Bert. I appreciate you sharing your feedback. I feel a post coming on to help with this trajectory rather than clogging your comment section :). You are delightful to engage with. -x.M

            • No worries… I know you know this, but please feel no obligation to ever have to respond or engage to any trail I leave. Honestly, I just enjoy the trajectories that get sparked as we share unique experiences on the shared path as human beings on this planet. If inspiration does not resonate in the moment, sometimes I just file certain things away under may be important later… and sometimes later turns into not at all. 🙂 Health & Happiness into your corner of this week B! -x.M

          • I zapped to the point 30 min and found the video quite interesting. I noticed that in my mind Jungian synchronicity and human synergy came to life. This happens a lot in our lives, often unnoticed. I like to call these phenomena ‘the long distance connector’.
            The first 20 minutes of the vid have now played too, but they are quite boring.

            [added later:] Apparently it becomes experiential after 24 minutes 🙂

            (I hate the use of quantum mechanics in this kind of talks. I’m a little bit knowledgeable with the subject, and it makes no sense to bring its laws into the macro world.
            Not unlike magnetism was attached to this kind of phenomena in another century. The word paradigm also does not make me happy. I’m quite down to earth, and no nonsense.)

            • I will begin this comment reply by stating that my educational background exposure to physics comes from a place where my intuition screams that it is an important area of contemplation, but that my current skill set requires that most of the heavy duty equations and mathematics are footnoted to the back of my bus… they are beautiful in structure to me, but end up mostly looking just like Chinese on the page. So, I will confess that my access to understanding is more in the area of dangerously loose in application, rather than proficient understanding.

              As to the micro, macro… the paradigm of thought ( 🙂 overused word used here with love and a lol for your heart) that I operate from tells me that universal laws must apply to the full spectrum and continuum of reality. In the macro world are we not made up of grouped micro bits in larger relationships? I know this can change the way a law plays out on scale, but at it’s core, for it to hold water for me. ultimately the realms must be bound by the same dynamics.

              In my life when I hit up against things that irritate me and “do my fruit” making me grumpy and unhappy, this is where I know my next focus of growth is to be found.

              My intention here was good, even if the result gave you cause for pause :). I am always pleased to have any inconsistencies based on poor application of any faulty paradigm foundations be pointed out. I will work on putting some additional thoughts on this into a post. WHAT A GIFT SHARED FROM YOUR AUTHENTIC EXPERIENCE BERT! and I am truly sorry about the fact that it trailed into the feeling of unhappiness. -x.M

            • No unhappiness, only impatience about this vid, thinking ‘please come to the point Mrs. Rosetree’, and then zapping ahead.
              I didn’t mind watching the video, and I certainly don’t want to put Rosenbaum’s words into your mouth. So my reply was directed to the vid and not to your good intentions, which are highly valued, and to bringing my attention to this vid, which is also a good thing.
              I just want to bring the information about consciousness, mind and whatever else there is to a broad audience. Confusing them with out of place jargon doesn’t seem the right way to go. I suppose at Esalen everyone gets brainwashed into paradigm thinking 🙂
              Where I think that whatever paradigm you are using, it will always limit your thinking. Whenever you tell something your are not very sure of, one shouldn’t use words like quantum fields, but simply: “I don’t know how it works, but this are the facts and examples about events and happenings that make me think there is more than what we see.”

  4. It is interesting and thought-provoking, but I would be interested in the time and historical / cultural context. I don’t think this dialogue does justice to psychologists as it addresses one particular school of thought only, I guess.
    I am not at all an expert but I have read numerous books by Viktor Frankl who was a medical doctor and psychotherapist, and a philosopher. I believe he would have disagreed with nearly anything the “psychoanalyst” in this dialogue has said – starting with this particularly appalling statement about making people “fit in”. Frankly was an opponent of classical “Freudian” psychoanalysis and excessive self-indulgence and over-analyzing.
    To be honest, the dialogue sounds a bit “set up” to show-off the positive attitude as opposed to the limited and technical worldview of the psychoanalyst. Probably it was apt in relation to the society / time / country / culture that this text was based on.

    • As long as a psychotherapist is open to meeting the mind that needs help, and seeing this encounter as unique, and as long as the book is not strictly followed, I guess that the person who needs help will indeed be helped.
      I see these days that a small amount of therapists in the Netherlands and Belgium, also involve the persons spiritual levels in whatever system they might exist, but this is still a minority.
      I wouldn’t like to be mentally ill in my country.

      • I believe the defintion of illness itself is a tricky thing. I would prefer a therapist having a solid medical training or at least expect him/her to know when a patient should be referred to a medical doctor. I know that there might be large, blurred, grey area of so-called mental illnesses that might be spiritual or existential problems and that should not be “declared” an illness. Anyway, this is quite a responsibility to deal with on behalf of the therapist. I am not sure if all of those coaches, therapists, counselors etc. can handle that.

        On the other hand, I am actually rather sympathetic to philosophical counseling as opposed to psychotherapy / medically inclined treatment; I would also prefer the tag “existential” to “spiritual”, but this is probably a personal preference and a matter of the connotations these words have for me.

        • Psychoanalysis is only one school of therapy. I do not subscribe to it but do go to therapy with a psychiatrist and occasionally with a psychiatric social worker. This is not to make me conform to society but rather to medicate me and help me function in daily life without being crippled by, say, negative thoughts, paranoia and panic and many other side effects of having a mental illness. One thing I do agree about– the therapy will not work if love is not there. Carl Rogers called it “unconditional positive regard” and he posited it as a requirement for therapy to be effective.

          • Thanks, Ellen, for adding this interesting first-hand experience! I assume that coming to such conclusions – as a patient – requires you to become sort of an expert yourself… in order to utilize the positive effects of different schools of thoughts in a pragmatic way and pick the most effective methods. I do admire this (I am only theorizing here.)
            Thanks for the pointer to Carl Rogers – I can remember the name vaguely, but need to dig it up / google. Gestaltherapie springs to my mind, but I can’t quite remember what that is.

            • Carl Rogers preached unconditional positive regard for the client. I think he called it “client-centered therapy” and I think Gestaltherapie was Fritz Perls, a very different form of therapy in which the therapist challenges the client but in a helpful way. May be wrong on this. Remember a film on the 3 forms of therapy in the 70s and those two were mentioned and the 3rd was Rational-Emotive therapy with Albert Ellis. But these are all old hat and many new schools have developed. Basically it does all come down to love.

            • Thank you Ellen for both your insightful replies. I’m very ignorant on the subject. I only needed counselling 3 times in my life, and was helped immediately with the problems I was facing. They were more overload problems than mental or emotional illness. So I have no experience at all.
              I just see by the many blogs that I read, that very few are really helped, most are mended until the next breakdown. So there still is a lot of work to be done, at all levels, As well on the level of neuroscience as on the behavioural, emotional, mental and spiritual levels. If you do not see the entire picture you might always follow the coastline to go from New-York to Los Angeles and eventually, be half the way in Tierra del Fuego.

        • In the emotional.mental.existential.spiritual emergency room, we need someone who can quickly diagnose and transfer the patient to a specialist at the problem level. Someone who specializes in borderline patients, might not have enough experience with depression and vice versa. In a general hospital an acute appendicitis needs a different set of doctors than a patient with a broken leg, another one with cancer, and another one with heart problems.
          That’s a primer.
          Then of course we there is experience in the problem and experience with the problem. Someone who has diabetes and at the same time is a diabetes doctor, might have entirely different insights in her disease and her patients, than somebody who knows ‘the book’ with those same patients.

    • I don’t know exactly why Krishnamurti was so against psychotherapy, his entire life. It would be interesting to know these backgrounds. One thing: K was born while Freud was just starting his experiments and insights, which were innovative, but unfortunately not always ‘correct’.
      I have the same problem today with DSM5.
      This doesn’t mean however that psychotherapists can’t deliver solutions to their patients. The book is not the practice.

    • I’m not very sure about that. I see that part of self wanders around in spiritual levels, something I often call supra-mental. On the other hand I have no idea whether there exists something like the essence of self. I suppose everything is important.
      Not-knowing has been important in my life for the past 15 months. I like this life that I have right now, It could well be the only one I got, but I’m not sure about anything 🙂

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