Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Ego (Psychology), Psychoanalysis, Buddhism, Sunyata, Schizoid personality, Meditation, Control-mastery theory, Abdhidhamma, Emptiness, Schizoid personality disorder


Despite growing usage of meditation in Western psychotherapeutic practice, there is a divergence in the meaning of empty self-experience between psychodynamic psychotherapy and the Buddhist source of these meditative practices. In this theoretical study I propose that empty self-experience is manifold, including both beneficial and pathogenic forms, specifically the experience most prized in Buddhism as sunyata, and those most dreaded in personality disorders. By studying these through the theories of control-mastery and Buddhist Abhidhamma, I demonstrate how similar psychological processes are involved in overcoming pathogenic emptiness, on one hand, and in the achievement of sunyata, on the other. The findings suggest an approach to pathogenic emptiness that views it as comprised of pathogenic beliefs and employs meditation as a powerful adjunct to disconfirming these beliefs. Future research is suggested through which outcomes are compared between groups involved in control-mastery interventions for pathogenic emptiness, with the experimental group engaged in meditation.




iii, 93 pages. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, 2014. Includes bibliographical references (pages 90-93)