Philosophical counselling has gotten a lot of flack. It’s a newer model and practice of therapy and as such is subjected to a lot of skepticism. When we are unfamiliar with something we are more likely to write it off, especially if familiarizing ourselves with it requires effort on our part. It is much easier and far more convenient to believe what society and the media tells us than to question what we hear and form our own opinions.
I’ve mentioned in an earlier post how philosophical counselling works—its philosophical practice. Philosophical counsellors facilitate individuals through talk, in working backwards from conclusions to identify the initial premise(s) that contributed to that conclusion, and then those initial premises are questioned for their validity. Those initial premises are our beliefs, assumptions and values—our philosophy. Sometimes they have been passed down through generations and we’ve held onto to them just because they’re “tradition,” not realizing the environment and circumstances that created those beliefs at that time.
A good example of this is within cultural beliefs. In November when my grandma passed away, there was some discussion about the manner in which her funeral rites were to be performed. The priest who was performing the ceremony was a knowledgeable man; he explained the reason for each rite, each sermon, and each prayer as he performed them. There had been discussion about women not participating in funeral rites because that’s “just how it is” and that these beliefs are traditions from “back in the day.” The priest said that in earlier times women did not go to funerals because funerals were held away from home, it required taking a bus, walking through mud and overcoming other discomforts – cremations were held in unpopulated barren lands and were not easily accessible. Women (especially those with children) chose not to go to funerals because of this. Over the years, that has somehow translated to women are not supposed to go to funerals and now it is a commonly held belief within our family and culture.
My family line is full of traditions, and with all due respect to them and those who follow them, my personal rule of thumb has been if it 1) does not enrich my life and 2) cannot be founded on some form of logic or reason then I’m reluctant to adopt that belief as part of my own philosophy and I encourage you to do the same.
“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” – Buddha