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Suffering: How do we understand it, and why does it matter?
Dates: Jan 26, 2018 - Jan 28, 2018
Days: Fri - Sun (2 Nights)

Instructor(s): Paul Fulton

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While we all know suffering when we see it, there are countless ways of understanding its causes. Some of these are shared and formal, such as those found in medicine, psychology and Western religious traditions, and many are private and idiosyncratic to every one of us.  How we understand suffering critically shapes the way we respond to it. In this course, we will explore a range of accounts of suffering, including how our understanding is shaped by personal history, culture, science, and personality, with particular attention to the underlying assumptions about suffering found in clinical psychology and psychotherapy. We will then explore the Buddha’s formulation for the origin and cessation of suffering. Every ‘great tradition’ has some cornerstone truth, and the First Noble Truth of Suffering is one such foundational axiom of Buddhist thought and practice: If we are born, we are inevitably subject to suffering, and yet it is the experience everyone is most motivated to escape. In this, suffering becomes a central and enduring problem for all of us. Through readings, conversation, lecture, and practice, we will explore these various formulations, in order to open up broader avenues for understanding – and responding to – suffering. While this course has relevance for mental health practitioners and other caregivers, enrollment is open to all.


  10.5 continuing education credits for psychologists and social workers have been approved for those who attend this program in full. We are not able to offer CEU's for Counselors (NBCC). Please note that we charge a $25 processing fee for CEUs.  More information is available here.
  • Paul R. Fulton is a founding member and former president of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy, and is course director for the Institute’s year-long Certificate Program in Mindfulness & Psychotherapy. He is a member of the clinical faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a clinical psychologist/psychotherapist in Newton, MA. Paul has been a student of psychology and meditation for over 48 years, and is author of a number of papers and book chapters, as well as co-editor/author of Mindfulness & Psychotherapy. He teaches the application of Buddhist psychology to mental health professionals internationally.