S-III-22: Culture-unique psychotherapy developed in Asia.
About Naikan Therapy
“Naikan therapy in Japan: Introspection as a way of healing”MAESHIRO Teruaki
From Yamato Naikan Center in Nara, Japan
Hello, my name is Teruaki Maeshiro and I am a clinical psychologist. After twenty-four years working in Higashi Kasugai Hospital in Aichi Prefecture, I took my current position as the third director of the Yamato Naikan center in Nara, a place to which the founder of the Naikan method, Ishin Yoshimoto, had devoted his entire life.
Yoshimoto was enlightened on November 12th, 1937. He wished to let all the people in the world know this great joy. In Japan, the method has now evolved beyond the religious world and is now used in the industrial, educational and medical worlds as well as correctional institutions across the country. Internationally, Naikan has also gained popularity and now has several established centers across the globe. As Yoshimoto wished, Naikan has spread throughout the world.
In this symposium, I will address four points to describe Naikan therapy: 1) Naikan and its founder Yoshimoto, 2) the brief history of Naikan, 3) the system of Naikan, and 4) the internationalization of Naikan.
1) Naikan and its founder
The founder of Naikan, Ishin Yoshimoto, was born as the third boy of five siblings in Yamatokōriyama, Nara Prefecture on May 25th, 1916. His father, Ihachi, was an eager member of the village assembly while running a fertilizer business of his own. Little Ishin started to learn calligraphy in his junior high school years and later became an excellent calligrapher. Although his first name, Ishin, was actually his pen name, and his real name Iinobu, he continued to use his pen name as his real name in his later years. He was a top student and excelled in all of his classes except for physical education.
He was gentle and compassionate. One day during his first grader year, he cried all that night upon hearing his teacher had to leave school because of an illness. The next year, his younger sister Chieko died at the age of four. After this tragic event, his mournful mother became absorbed in Buddhist devotional exercises. Young Ishin accompanied his mother on many of her temple visits. In retrospect, we can see how Ishin’s formative childhood experiences played a crucial role in the formation of his personality and life philosophy later on.
The road to Naikan:
In his youth, meeting his future wife, Kinuko, also had a significant influence on his religious devotion. Falling in love, he wondered “What should I do to be loved by her?” By the time they met, Kinuko is said to have already obtained enlightenment. Ishin loved her so much and wanted to marry her that he decided to follow the same path that she did. Against his father’s opposition, he tired Mishirabe, the prototype of Naikan, to obtain enlightenment. He failed three times, before he finally succeeded on his fourth attempt. From this experience, he was inspired to develop Mishirabe into something simpler that could be used effectively by all people. This is how Naikan was born.
2) The brief history of Naikan
1937: At around 8 p.m. on Nov. 12th, Ishin Yoshimoto, the founder of Naikan, is said to have obtained enlightenment through Mishirarabe, the prototype of Naikan.
1941: Yoshimoto refined Mishirabe and renamed it Naikan.
1953: Yoshimoto opened his own Naikan center in Nara.
1968: The three questions (themes) of Naikan were fixed into their current form.
1978: The 1st annual meeting of the Naikan Association (currently called the Japan Naikan Association) was held in Nara.
1980: The 1st Naikan Seminar was held in Austria.
1985: The Naikan Training Institute Association was established.
1988: Ishin Yoshimoto passed away at the age of 73.
1991: The 1st International Naikan Congress, held every three years, was held in Tokyo.
1992: Naikan therapy was presented (lecture-only) at the 7th East China Mental-Medicine Exchange Society in Shanghai.
1993: The Naikan method was clinically introduced into China at Shanghai Mental Health Center.
1998: Japanese Naikan Medicine started.
2003: The 1st International Congress of Naikan therapy, hosted by the Tottori University Faculty of Medicine, was held in Tottori Prefecture.
2005: The 2nd International Congress of Naikan therapy, hosted by the Shanghai Mental Health Center, was held.
3) The System and Procedure of Naikan
There are two forms of actual practice in Naikan. One is called intensive Naikan, which is a week long program, and the other is daily Naikan. Yoshimoto said “Intensive Naikan is like an electric pole and daily Naikan is like wires that connect the poles. Without the wires between the poles, even if you built many poles, the electricity can’t flow.” In other words, intensive Naikan is a basic training and daily Naikan is the application to everyday life. After the basic training is completed and one acquires the Naikan way of thinking, one is able to continue to use it on a daily basis by taking a few moments each day. It is best to be able to do daily Naikan regularly. Here, I will outline the basic procedure used in intensive Naikan training.
1. The setting:
The practitioner should sit comfortably in the corner of a quiet room, walled off by a byobu folding screen. The byobu cuts off the outside world and protects the practitioner from any visual stimulation. This unique setting makes it easier for a person to explore their inner world.
2. The code of conduct:
The practitioner is required to remain within the walled-off section at all times, except to use bathroom. One must also have meals here, which the counselor will bring three times a day. Reading newspapers, watching TV, and listening to the radio are prohibited. Using the telephone or talking to others is also not allowed. Drinking alcohol is of course strictly prohibited, although smoking is permitted in the designated smoking area.
3. The daily schedule:
The practitioner gets up at 5:00 am in the morning and goes to bed at 9:00 pm. Every one or two hours, a Naikan counselor visits the practitioner and conducts a short interview. This usually lasts five to ten minutes and is held eight or nine times a day for the duration of the week.
4. *The question-association-search method:
Unlike free association in psychoanalysis, Naikan has strict instructions to help you to examine yourself by exploring the relationships with the important people in your life. There are three set questions you should always ask yourself regarding them: (1) What did you receive from a specific person? (2) What did you return to that person? (3) What troubles, worries, and difficulties have you caused that person? Using these questions, the practitioner examines themselves in their life relationships. I personally call this unique approach the question-association-search method.
4) The internationalization of Naikan
Its therapeutic structure and cultural differences
Originating from Japan, Naikan is heavily influenced by Japanese culture. In its setting, the typical Naikan room in Japan is filled with Japanese things, such as the byobu folding screen, tatami flooring mats, and paper sliding doors. However, these things are not necessarily essential to the Naikan therapeutic process itself. For example, in Japan, the practitioner should sit in proper seiza position during the interview. In other cultures, however, it may be very difficult to sit in such a position for extended periods of time. In this case, a chair may be permitted during interviews.
Naikan questions and cultural differences
According to Naikan methodology, one is supposed to recollect one’s relationships with specific people, usually starting with one’s mother. Once when I visited Germany, however, Professor Wolfgang Blankenburg from Philipps-Univesität Marburg told me that “Germans generally think the father has a more crucial role than the mother. So in this country, the father might be the first person to be reflected upon instead.” This idea left a strong impression on me.
As already mentioned, the method has the three set questions. On the advanced stage, however, there is a fourth question regarding lying and stealing: What have I stolen in my life? How have I deceived people? By examining one’s life through these questions, one comes to be faced up with intense feelings of guilt, which ultimately leads to the realization of the transience of life. However, this may not always be the case in different cultural contexts. In the 2nd International Congress of Naikan Therapy in China last year, for example, Professor Wan Lu-cheng pointed out that “Here in China, people may find it difficult to deal with their feelings of guilt the same way Japanese people do.”
In terms of the internationalization of Naikan, these are just some of the cultural differences that need to be considered seriously.
5) Final comment
Now that Naikan is going beyond its cultural boundaries, some components of the method might need to be changed. Some important questions arise here. To what extent should adaptation be permitted? Whatever changes may happen, can Naikan still be called Naikan? Given this, it is necessary to ponder what the essence of Naikan is all about. Doing Naikan is about listening to the innermost recesses of your soul, especially when you are broken-hearted, in a time of adversity, or in great tribulation. This is what I think is the essence of Naikan.
*Maeshiro T. (2005). Naikan as a type of psychotherapy. Osaka: Tokishobo.