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Medard Boss

Introduction

Medard Boss clippings Medard Boss (1903–90) was a Swiss psychoanalytic psychiatrist who developed a form of psychotherapy known as Daseinsanalysis. It united the psychotherapeutic practice of psychoanalysis with the existential-phenomenological philosophy of his friend and mentor Martin Heidegger. Boss is regarded as having founded the first systematic approach to existential psychotherapy.

Boss on Dreams

Boss saw dreams as coming from a person's life as a whole. Dr George Boeree writes about Medard Boss in his electronic textbook, Personality Theories (1998):

Boss has studied dreams more than any other existentialist, and considers them important in therapy. But instead of interpreting them . . . he allows them to reveal their own meanings. Everything is not hiding behind a symbol . . . Instead, dreams show us how we are illuminating our lives: If we feel trapped, our feet will be bound by cement; if we feel free, we will fly; if we feel guilty, we will dream about sin; if we feel anxious, we will be chased by frightening things.

For example, Boss discusses a man who [finally, after two years' therapy] began to dream of women! This man was sad and lonely because he had retreated to a world made up only of machinery . . . The point to notice is that the pigs [he dreamt of for a while before women] don't represent anything - not hidden wishes, or archetypes, or inferiorities - in the therapist's pet theory. They belong to the engineer; They are what his evolving illumination brought to light at that time in his life!

From A Psychiatrist Discovers India

Modem Western psychology is scarcely a century old. How should it already be in a position to make reliable statements concerning the actual ground and basis on which it takes its stand? After all, the immediate premiss underlying an the sciences is always the last one with which they expressly concern themselves. (Boss 1965:11)

The Indian science of man is far in advance of our comparatively modem psychology and psychopathology; India's finest minds have for more than four millennia continuously contemplated the fundamental nature of man and of his world. They have given to these problems very much more time and mental energy than Western. science hasdevoted to investigating the external physical phenomena of the universe. (Boss 1965:11-12)

The value of an apple-tree . . . was not to be estimated by some of its gnarled or dead branches, but only by its fully ripened fruit. Thus one fails to perceive the particular Indian spirit if one does not approach it directly through its greatest teachers, the sages of India. (Boss 1965:15)

My sympathies went out wholly to the water-buffaloes. I was drawn to these beasts by love at first sight. From the day I first saw water-buffaloes emerging from a broad, blue Indian river, I had felt the tenderest compassion for them. At first, only their nostrils and spines showed above the water. Then they dragged their ponderous bodies up the sloping bank and, one behind the other, finally moved off over the flat meadow. Since then, I have learnt how laboriously life has to strive for its freedom. (Boss 1965:27)

Closely nestled against one another, [sat and lay] grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren . . . The smallest children were nearly all asleep. The older children and the grown-ups were telling one another stories. On two occasions I definitely heard a recitation from the Bhagavadgita. On that evening I recalled with fuller sympathy the many sons and daughters of rich families who at home in my own country had to seek my professional help, because their neurotically hardened parents had turned their centrally heated, roomy, luxurious villas into spiritual concentration camps in which the souls of their children had been allowed to atrophy. (Boss 1965:32)

In India I felt a sense of profound, inward rootedness and repose directing the entire lives of countless millions of people. . . . I saw incomparably more contented, cheerfully smiling, radiant faces than we are used to seeing in the West. (Boss 1965:34)

The findings of three Western psychiatrists who had far more opportunity than I to probe the depths of the Indian mentality will probably carry more weight . . . One of these people, an American, has already been a practising psychotherapist in India for eleven years, the second, a Swede, for seven years and the third, a Swiss woman, for three years. I learned from all of them that they had never been able to discover any mental trait in the Indians they had met that, in respect of fundamental content, they could not have perceived among Europeans or Americans. (Boss 1965:59-60)

The official Christian morality of the West ordinarily stamps man's bodily sensual nature as mainly guilt-laden, sinful or diabolical. It is something that ought not to be. (Boss 1965:60)

At a party in the home of a wealthy businessman [t]he younger generation of the men of this family, who might have been thirty or thirty-five years of age, talked about nothing but making money and eating. The covetous expressions on their faces, their plump satisfied paunches and costly finery left no doubt about their sensuality and their delight in the things of this world. However, in the background on a carpet-covered mattress, sat their old father with legs folded; he calmly gazed at these worldly gentlemen and smiled with unruffled composure. I sat down near him . . . at a slightly lower level, on the bare floor, and waited . . . I put in a question about the spirituality of the young people in front of us. "Of course," he said, "not one of them worries yet about his immortal soul. They are, after all, . . . now going through their domestic householding phase. In this phase they have to marry, bring up their families, earn money and enjoy all the good things this world has to offer, including the delights of sensual love . . . the Kama Deva. . . . And yet, you may rest assured that none of these young bons vivants here will not one day think of the salvation of his soul, once he grows older. . . . the deceased has behind him a life of ftilfilment. Otherwise, the march to the funeral pyre would be no occasion for festive joy." (Boss 1965:61-62)

Boss (1903–90) also makes a point of this somewhere: If a person feels guilt - many do - it could be it is because they are guilty.


Medard Boss wisdom, Literature  

Boss, Medard. Existential Foundations of Medicine and Psychology. Trs. Stephen Conway and Anne Cleaves. London: Jason Aronson, 1983.

Boss, Medard. A Psychiatrist Discovers India. Tr. Henry A. Frey. London: Osward Wolff, 1965.

Boss, Medard. Psychoanalysis and Daseinsanalysis. (Psychoanalysis examined and re-examined). Tr. Ludwig B. Lefebre. Reprint ed. New York: Dacapo Press, 1982.

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