Witney, J. (2017). Liberation Unleashed: A phenomenological study of helping others to see through the illusion of a separate self [Unpublished Master’s thesis]. Alef Trust & Middlesex University.

This study examines the experience of those who help others to see through the illusion of a separate self. The Buddhist doctrine of anatta is reviewed and its potential for the basis of a ‘third-wave’ cognitive behavioural therapy is explored. The organisation Liberation Unleashed (LU) is introduced and its online method of guides helping seekers to see through the illusion of a separate self is described. Using a qualitative approach the study examines the experiences of six LU guides. The six participants were interviewed and the data was analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Eleven major shared themes were identified: Definition: the illusion of a separate self; Definition: seeing through the illusion; Motivation for helping others; The guiding relationship; Obstacles: background, beliefs, expectations; Obstacles: fear; Obstacles: choice and control; Obstacles: thinking instead of looking; Helpful pointers; The nature of guiding; The experience of seeing. Conclusions supporting the development of an anatta-based model of psychotherapy are: management of the therapeutic alliance and compassion fatigue; working with defence mechanisms and transference dynamics; challenging clients’ beliefs and the risk to mental health; paying attention to spiritual materialism and spiritual bypassing. Limitations to the research are discussed and suggestions for further research are made.

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