Psychoanalysis and Yoga Do Not Mix

Whatever an individual focuses on takes on a large, central position and other aspects shift into the background. This is the secret not only of concentration of effort, but also on an understanding of the issues surrounding practices such as psychoanalysis in relation to a practitioner of yoga. Whatever is focused on gains in strength, in intensity and in longevity. Thus, if one focuses on the subconscient layer of urges, desires, unfulfilled vital impulses, suppressed energies, these rise up and take possession of the thoughts, emotions and vital activities. The danger of psychoanalysis lies in the focus and fixation on the darkest aspects of human existence and the consequent strengthening of these very forces that one hopes to reduce or eliminate eventually from the being. Psychoanalysis becomes particularly an obstacle because most who engage in the practice and most who undergo the ‘treatments’ are limited in their view and understanding of the wider field of consciousness of which the subconscient is one part, not the entirety, and they thus do not have the perspective and knowledge required to respond effectively to the impulses originating from there when they rise up..

Psychoanalysis arose within the context of Western civilisation as a ‘breakthrough’ in understanding of the human psyche by a culture which historically did not invest much time or attention on development of the inner psychology, but focused more on outer results and successes as a measure of the society’s (and the individual member’s) worth. As young people awoke to the necessity of inner exploration and psychological growth in the mid-20th century, they frequently were treated as imbalanced or unhinged, and needing psychiatric help. Parents pressured their children in such instances to “see a psychiatrist”, certain that somehow the onset of puberty and suppressed desires were the causes of the disruption in the life-path they had charted out for their children. Of course, without a wider understanding of the evolution of consciousness and the progressive development of the spiritual dimension as central to life and purpose, neither the parents, nor the psychiatrists, could relate to the true circumstances causing their children to take up yoga, rather than psychoanalysis, as a solution to their internal existential crisis.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “Your practice of psycho-analysis was a mistake. It has, for the time at least, made the work of purification more complicated, not easier. The psycho-analysis of Freud is the last thing that one should associate with yoga. It takes up a certain part, the darkest, the most perilous, the unhealthiest part of the nature, the lower vital subconscious layer, isolates some of its most morbid phenomena and attributes to it and them an action out of all proportion to its true role in the nature. Modern psychology is an infant science, at once rash, fumbling and crude. As in all infant sciences, the universal habit of the human mind — to take a partial or local truth, generalise it unduly and try to explain a whole field of Nature in its narrow terms — runs riot here. Moreover, the exaggeration of the importance of suppressed sexual complexes is a dangerous falsehood and it can have a nasty influence and tend to make the mind and vital more and not less fundamentally impure than before.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 9, Transformation of the Nature, Transformation of the Subconscient, pp. 262-267

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