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It is no surprise that the emphasis of Epstein's new book is the intersection of Buddhism and psychotherapy, with emphasis on the work of Winnicott, because that is what all his books are about. This book is focused on trauma, but this is a very broad category for Epstein, and seems to mean difficult experiences like loss of a parent. He does not mean PTSD, and he does not discuss the typical symptoms that are associated with PTSD. Epstein spends a great deal of the book discussing the life and sayings of the Buddha as a guide to how to live. The Buddhist side of the book has the usual ideas, with a focus on meditation and mindfulness, and become less concerned with ego. But to examine this through the life of Buddha is a bit like discussing psychotherapy by examining the life of Jesus. One has to be particularly interested in the life in order to find the discussion useful. These discussions of the Buddha are interspersed with anecdotes of Epstein's own life, his friends, or his patients. Some readers have enjoyed this book a great deal, and eminent people have given blurbs of high praise. Other readers will wish for a more straightforward exposition of what his main claims are. As a manner of reasoning, the appeal to the Buddha's life as a source of authority seems more like a religious approach rather than a scientific approach. At best this seems like a matter of learning from stories that have lasted for centuries and from more philosophical reasoning rather than scientific. Fans of Epstein may want to look into this book but those wanting to just learn about Buddhist approaches to psychotherapy would do better to look into his earlier books, such as Thoughts Without A Thinker.
© 2013 Christian Perring
Christian Perring, Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York
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