Thesis: Mindful vs. Traditional Martial Arts

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[. . .] , 2001). As the existing research is largely limited to teenagers who are beyond the prime window of opportunity for prevention or early intervention efforts, this study will focus on children age 8-12, where early connections may inoculate at-risk students and set them on a more favorable trajectory. Terrence Webster-Doyle (personal communication, July 1, 2011) illuminates that by effectively challenging the self-imposed limits of each child, students will quickly realize that they can accomplish much more than they ever thought possible. Essentially, this parallels the old adage that we are each our own worst enemy -- the biggest fight for each of us, regardless of age, is within.

Theoretical and Conceptual Framework

Mindfulness psychotherapies are considered the third wave of behavior therapy, preceded by cognitive therapy as the second wave and behavioral therapy as the first wave. Hayes (2004) indicates the first wave was based on establishing empirical support for behavioral principles; the second wave on establishing empirical support for cognitive, behavioral, and emotive principles; and the third wave on expanding empirical support for integrative applications of mindfulness with evidence-based behavioral and cognitive principles. Importantly, the third wave originated from philosophical changes in the field and various research anomalies that were incompatible with contemporary scientific theories (Hayes, 2004). The main difference between second and third wave therapies, beyond integrating mindfulness, is in how problems of control and avoidance are approached. To best capture a solid understanding of the psychotherapeutic growth of mindfulness in the West, a historical trajectory will be illustrated through a review of its predecessors -- the eminent historical theories in psychology.

In the 1890s Sigmund Freud conceived his structural and physics-based theory of psychoanalysis -- the talking cure. In this legendary "science of the mind" approach, Freud (1965) indicates that behavior is largely determined by one's childhood, irrational drives, and unconscious conflicts that are protected from awareness by defense mechanisms. Much like what will be discussed of MBCT, Freud's goal was to make the unconscious conscious and work through issues to rid deviant behavior (Freud, 1965). However, though trail blazing the notion of a talking cure into modern science, the approach was time consuming and unobservable -- thus irrefutable in a period of growing scientific scrutiny.

Behaviorism developed concurrently with and as a reaction against the introspective nature of psychoanalysis (Polkinghorne, 2003). It was an antiseptic theory of conditioning which posited that one's response to environmental stimuli exclusively shaped behavior. Specifically, it focused on behavior instead of consciousness, objective observation rather than introspection, and prediction and management of behavior instead of understanding mental events (Skinner, 1938; Watson, 1913). Skinner (1974) stated, "Thinking is behaving. The mistake is in allocating the behavior to the mind" (p. 104). While behaviorism led the field away from its niche as a science of the mind, it notably positioned psychology as an experimental science. Behaviorism dominated until achieving "intellectual critical mass" in the 1960s (Hunt, 2007, p. 315) with a paradigm shift to cognitive science -- the Achilles heel of behaviorism.

Cognitive psychology, by contrast, asserts that perception of an event shapes experiential reality. Rene Descartes' (1983, Part 1, article 7) famous quote "Cogito ergo sum" (I think, therefore I am) emphasizes this theory of mind. While earlier cognitive-oriented works of Wundt, Titchener, Brentano, James, and Dewey were displaced during the reign of behaviorism, the cognitive revolution emerged in the 1960s, with works of Piaget and Neisser among the most influential (Solso, Maclin, & Maclin, 2008). Opposing Skinner, Neisser (1967) stated, "Cognition is involved in everything a human being might possibly do" (p. 4). However, whereas behaviorists believed everything to be attributable to behavior, in near parallel, cognitivists overemphasized cognition. The treaty between these paradigms imparted cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which presents balanced integration of both perspectives and is considered state-of-the-art in terms of empirical support.

CBT explores the function that thoughts play in behavior and is premised on the notion that by changing thoughts, one can change behavior. The archetype models of Ellis (1962) and Beck (1970) lead to modern CBT comprising of "approximately 80 distinct techniques" (O'Donohue & Fisher, 2008, p. 2) and more than 70 evidence-based treatments (Fisher & O'Donohue, 2010). CBT has become a general classification of psychotherapy with each expression sharing fundamental principles including a collaborative, time-limited, present-focused, and evidence-based approach (Butler, Chapman, Forman, & Beck, 2006). The aim is to help clients first become aware of and then restructure distorted or faulty thinking and the behaviors that are maintaining this thinking (Beck, 2011). Strengths include refutability and active human agency from a wellness orientation (Ledley, Marx, & Heimberg, 2005). Limitations include the foundations on which CBT rests, complexities in comparative analysis with other good psychotherapies, and effectiveness with complicated conditions (Holmes, 2002).

Mindfulness originated from a variety of ancient Eastern traditions, with current research sprouting vastly diverse and empirically supported applications across many Western disciplines (Sears, Tirch, & Denton, 2011). According to Williams (2011), "Finding life difficult isn't a new problem. People do feel more anxious, stressed and depressed at a younger age than they did 50 years ago, but mindfulness meditation emerged 2,500 years ago" (p. 43). Yet until a surge in the literature began in the mid 1990s, this timeless Eastern philosophy and practice received little professional recognition or acceptance in Western culture (Didonna, 2009). However, since the first Western publication in 1982, the number of scientific publications related to mindfulness has grown exponentially (Didonna, 2009; Kabat-Zinn, 1982). Kabat-Zinn, a molecular biologist and Zen practitioner, is credited with the Western mindfulness movement and with pioneering the first scientific mindfulness application, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR; Kabat-Zinn, 1990), in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. What is mindfulness? Kabat-Zinn states, "Mindfulness lies at the core of Buddhist meditative practices, yet its essence is universal [secular]. It has to do with refining our capacities for paying attention, for sustained and penetrative awareness, and for emergent insight that is beyond thought" (Segal, Williams, & Teasdale, 2002, p. viii). According to Langer and Moldoveanu (2000) mindfulness can also open up new avenues to solutions that might go otherwise undiscerned. In this regard, Langer and Moldoveanu (2000) emphasize that, "A mindful alternative would be to consider 'functional diversity' as a way of relating to differences among people. If we assumed that people behaving differently from us are not inferior, but rather are viewing the same stimulus differently, we could take advantage of the different perspective they offer" (p. 132).

Though similar to hypnosis, relaxation techniques, and meditation, mindfulness is distinctly different through its deliberative focus on being fully aware and engaged in the experiences of the moment -- whatever they may be -- rather than seeking escape or avoidance. Hayes (2004) states pain turns into suffering when we try to push it away and he emphasizes this through metaphors such as: Is it easier to drag a heavy weight far behind you or walk with it held closely? Essentially, mindfulness is a deliberate awareness of what human beings most ignore -- the present. It is an awareness process, not a thinking process (Harris, 2009).

While philosophical and psychological history is embedded with arguments over the origin and interpretation of behavior, mindfulness has returned Westerners to the original speculations of ancient philosophers and early psychologists in terms of conscious awareness. Most interestingly, Lau and McMain (2005) state that William James predicted the influence Buddhism would eventually have on western psychology. Likewise, other authorities have weighed in on this issue: "Just as philosophy can be seen as footnotes to Plato, so much of contemporary psychology can be seen as footnotes to William James" (Kessen & Cahan, 1986, p. 648).

Psychologically, different theorists deduce different explanations for psychopathology, primarily given individual experiences within the era zeitgeist, which lead to various ways of conceptualizing problems. With depression, Freud may speak of inadequate defenses with vulnerabilities stemming from childhood; Erikson may see unfulfilled potential for adventure; Skinner may perceive a response to reduced positive reinforcement; Bandura may believe in a lack of mastery experiences; Beck may propose negative automatic thoughts generated by underlying dysfunctional beliefs; and Segal may be mindful of a habitual linkage between negative moods and negative thoughts. Overall, it would appear that psychology has completed the "transcendental slide from God, to Nature, to Mind, to Method [, to Function, to Being]" (Kessen & Cahan, 1986, p. 640).

Mindfulness is not about a set of skills or techniques, it is instead a way of being or a way of seeing, one that is helpful in relating to difficult experiences (Jon Kabat-Zinn, personal communication, October 24, 2011). Other authorities also agree that promoting mindfulness in young people can provide a number of valuable outcomes. For instance, Segal et al. emphasize that, "The most enduring changes in patients seem to come… [END OF PREVIEW]

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APA Format

Mindful vs. Traditional Martial Arts.  (2013, January 7).  Retrieved March 26, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Mindful vs. Traditional Martial Arts."  7 January 2013.  Web.  26 March 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Mindful vs. Traditional Martial Arts."  January 7, 2013.  Accessed March 26, 2019.