What is Mutual Arising?
“Mutual Arising” stems from a combination of the “mutuality” aspects of Adlerian Individual Psychology and the concept of “dependant arising” in Buddhist philosophy. Adlerian Individual Psychology is based on our mutual need to find belonging, to find productive ways to contribute, and to be known and valued for who we are. Dependent Arising is a foundational teaching in Buddhist philosophy that stresses the step by step creation of suffering in our lives. This process comes from attachment to likes and dislikes, our avoidance of things we don’t like, and cravings for things we like—which ultimately leads to some of our suffering. I envision a sort of cure for that suffering through more meaningful relationships and greater personal peacefulness. Together these ideas represent a reminder, a kind of roadmap, to reduce suffering through enhanced relationships with others.
Mutual Arising is a conceptual formation derived from several strands of thought that roughly captures my philosophical vision of counselling and a view for better living. The first strand is the knowledge that we need each other and experience a real psychological benefit from close human relationships—a sense of mutuality, of coming together, and of being important to others is necessary for psychological health. There are many studies that demonstrate the terrible importance of supportive parents and of good friendships, additionally there is much research that shows the terrible impact of neglect and isolation.
In Adlerian Individual Psychology this notion begins with gemeinschaftsgefühl—a sense of belonging to a community, a group in which you are an accepted and loved member and mutually contribute. This can be family, friendships, coworkers, and more. This sense of having community support drastically reduces our suffering and is a fundamental part of why psychotherapy works. Many of the adverse consequences of life can be ameliorated when we work together—not merely the work itself, but the feeling of security and appreciation that develops as a result of our connections. Furthermore: when we have support we are far more effective at getting things done, and we feel more secure to take important life risks.
The second strand is the Buddhist concept of dependent arising or dependent origination (pratītyasamutpāda). Dependent arising explains that each new experience or state of mind comes into existing as a result of the previous state of mind or experience (this also includes our own attempts to interact with the universe). This chain begins with our experience of sensory states taking in the world around us. This causes a sensation in our mind which we will experience as liking, disliking, or feeling neutral about the stimuli. Because of those feelings we develop cravings and desires for more pleasant feelings and avoidance of the unpleasantness of the world. Our habits and expectations for more pleasure develop and form patterns of seeking happiness through filling desires. Some people even develop patterns of expecting to have more and more unpleasantness in life no matter what they do. These patterns lead to much of the suffering we experience: disappointment, failure, anger, revenge, sadness, fixations on identity, status seeking, and more. It is a natural part of being human to face these struggles
The notion of Mutual Arising is a kind of road map to an alleviation of the common experience of suffering we share through the conscious exploration of our awareness and the development of supportive human relationships. It is about changing our expectations of ourselves, of others, and of reality, whilst we guide our thoughts and actions to create more fulfilling lives in our communities. We have much more joy in our lives when we stop expecting it and start creating it instead.