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J Rat-Emo Cognitive-Behav Ther (2014) 32:345–351

DOI 10.1007/s10942-014-0199-y

And Yet it Moves! A Reply to ‘‘Rectifying
Misconception: A Comprehensive Response
to Gardner, Moore, and Marks Comments on ‘Some
Concerns About the Psychological Implications
of Mindfulness: A Critical Analysis’ ’’
Daniel David
Published online: 15 October 2014 
Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Abstract In this brief article I reply to Gardner et al. (J Ration Emot Cogn Behav
Ther. doi:10.1007/s10942-014-0196-1, 2014)’s comments to my previous article
titled ‘‘Some concerns about the psychological implications of mindfulness. A
critical analysis’’ (David, in J Ration Emot Cogn Behav Ther. doi:10.1007/s10942014-0198-z, 2014). While initially—humorously and for the sake of debate—
adopting an attitude towards mindfulness based on a modified version of Galileo’s
Abjuration, I then critically argued that Gardner et al.’s criticism is focused on a
priori defending a construct and its associated practices that, by the very nature of
empirically supported constructs/interventions, are not perfect (i.e., panacea), but
subject to clarifications, limitations, and improvements.
Keywords Mindfulness  Meditation  Critical analysis  Positive affect 
Cognitive science

Having read the critical reaction of my colleagues Gardner et al. (2014) to my
article (David 2014), I got a little bit stressed, and was initially tempted to
paraphrase Galileo Galilei in saying that (sic!):
…I have been judged vehemently suspect of errors, ignorance, and heresy,
namely of having held and believed that Mindfulness is not a panacea, that
Mindfulness is not the perfect construct and intervention, and that the
construct of Mindfulness and Mindfulness-based interventions could be
improved by a sincere critical analysis. Therefore, desiring to remove from the
D. David (&)
Babes¸ -Bolyai University, No.37 Republicii St., 400015 Cluj-Napoca, Romania


If mindfulness has such an effect (Non-B/B is false). (2014) wrongly perceived it 123 . curse.). and sect contrary to the perfection of Mindfulness as understood by my critical colleagues. and future research should study them so that we can use them explicitly. arguing that one of the key mechanisms in the generation of human emotions is motivational relevance.346 D. Thus.. done for the sake of the present debate regarding the status of mindfulness. However. along with mindfulness. following this initial temptation. and detest the above-mentioned errors and heresies coming from my ignorance. based on my scientific values and cognitive reinterpretation. rightly conceived against me. orally or in writing. and I swear that in the future I will never again say or assert. I simply argued that mindfulness cannot be promoted in itself as enhancing positive affect (Non-B/B is false).’s comments. with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith. I will denounce him…And should I fail to keep any of these promises and oaths… I submit myself to all the penalties and punishments imposed and promulgated in the sacred canons and other particular and general laws against similar delinquents… (This text is a modification of Galileo’s Abjuration.. anything that might cause a similar suspicion about me. behavioral activation based on values. my spirit revolted and thus. heresy. on the contrary.g. indeed. formulated logically. if I should come to know any heretic or anyone suspected of heresy. in a hypothetical-deductive framework: If A Then B: Thesis: If A [mindfulness involves a non-evaluative component] Then B [mindfulness will be associated with an overall reduction in affect (be it positive or negative)]. and in general each and every other error. but typically an unconscious primary evaluation/appraisal of how important the situation is to the person’s goals. based on this thesis. This logical conjecture is based on the classical appraisal theory of emotions (see Lazarus 1991). David (2014)’s article is not a personal criticism from a classical cognitivebehavioral therapy/CBT perspective. The reduction of overall affect could be a first line of intervention mainly for severe clinical conditions. distress) and then. as follows I start a serious critical analysis of Gardner et al. behavioral activation. If mindfulness. I prefer to employ behavioral activation myself by standing up and saying aloud what Galileo Galilei said whispering: And Yet it Moves! After this more humorous introduction done for the sake of the debate. I want to point that at the heart of my article I brought up a simple problem. I mindfully detached myself from my dysfunctional feelings (i. At the beginning. it is important that it be accompanied by other strategies (e. 1989. especially high arousal positive affect. cognitive restructuring) in order to better promote functional negative or positive feelings. in multimodal packages.g. as presented in Finocchiaro. reduces overall affect (B/B is correct). David mind of my critical colleague this vehement suspicion.. I abjure. (1) we have a definitional problem (Non-A/A is False) and future studies should explore these definitional issues of mindfulness so that we can have a well-defined construct and/or (2) other moderators/mediators (e.e. namely a conscious. as Gardner et al. cognitive restructuring) must be involved.

and encourage my students and collaborators to do the same. That is why to perceive my CBT orientation as a motive of the critical analysis (and come back with counter-arguments based on this logic) is just wrong and unproductive for scientific development. However. a criticism coming from a CBT therapist must be an attack of CBT to our ‘‘school’’). To conclude. Goyal et al. Thus.135 participants) showed that mindfulness meditation programs reduce negative affect. but there is no comment on this at all in the Gardner et al. use mindfulness in my clinical work. Again. (2014) found that there was no effect of mindfulness meditation programs on increasing positive mood. but there is not comment on this at all in the Gardner’s critical analysis! In this context. 2014. as a key finding for our thesis. 2014) and neurobiological data (Brown et al.g. which were confronted against a large set of behavioral (Goyal et al.e. I am doing myself research relating various mediation practices. Starting with the latter criticism. (2013) showed that dispositional mindfulness modulates the late positive potential (LPP) of the event-related brain potential to both positive and negative stimuli. look where I am pointing’’ (McCullogh)]. However. 2013). Both conclusions are fully consistent with our thesis. Indeed. Brown et al. (2014) and David (2014) mentioned this effect of mindfulness. MBCT does not seem to work (or works less well) for less vulnerable depressed patients and/or even increases the risk of recurrence in less vulnerable populations (for a review of this data see Williams et al. these findings are fully consistent with our thesis. I will only briefly say that: (1) Picking the data. We should escape the ‘‘school’’ mentality (e. some of them summarized in 123 . LPP has been related to the processing of motivationally relevant information. fully consistent with one of our conclusions. as I expressed my concern in the motto of my first article [‘‘Don’t bite my finger. There is no data picking at all! I had a ‘‘theory’’ (A) from which I derived some ‘‘hypotheses’’ (B). MBCT should not be considered the first line of intervention for these conditions! What happened after I had formulated this thesis and had offered theoretical and empirical support for it? Practically my colleagues did not bite my finger. 2014). because I really think that the topic is worthwhile to study and practice.’s critical analysis! Moreover.. but they tried to totally cut my hand (sic!) for writing this. but it is an academic criticism from a psychological science perspective. active control and usual care) for the whole group of patients with recurrent depression. 2014) (47 trials.. it is worth mentioning the findings of a new study (published during this debate) showing that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) offers protection against relapse of major depressive disorder to participants with increased vulnerability due to a history of childhood trauma (Williams et al.And Yet it Moves! 347 and/or incorrectly try to suggest. I was first criticized of not knowing Buddhism and then I was criticized for not understanding/knowing the key constructs and picking the data to support my results. Both Gardner et al. it offers no significant advantage in comparison to control conditions (i. Coming back to the arguments for my thesis. a recent large-scale meta-analysis (Goyal et al. and try to evaluate it in an open-minded mode and in the large context of psychological science. see also Williams et al. 3. 2014).

this definitional controversy. 3. PUBMED. My colleagues did not comment at all on the data I presented! Instead. mindfulness involves the key component of a non-evaluative attitude. although they are mainstream. and Gardner et al. not only cited. among other components described in my article.e. my colleague ‘‘gets perplexed’’ when I said that mindfulness can be seen as an emotion regulation 123 . I still think that most.. 2014 (47 trials. although Gardner et al. the construct is redefined or another definition is chosen to avoid the confrontation with the counter-examples. to hundreds of researchers and professors using this mainstream construct in psychological science. (2014) even said that ‘‘…The target paper uses a great deal of terminology that is antithetical to mindfulness practices in general. to the key and foundational publications in the field. 2010... Web of Science). does not address directly my thesis. 2013) that discussed the effects of mindfulness. in the interest of scientific rigor. depression). according to my colleagues ‘‘…no feeling…should be judged as « dysfunctional. if not all. 2014). Let me give some specific examples. However.348 (2) D. dysfunctional emotions) because.»’’. I understand well this idiosyncratic view of some mindfulness practitioners. it is normal that in such an analysis the terminology about mindfulness should be related to psychological science. following the logic of the classical appraisal theory of emotions (see Lazarus 2001). their false assertion that I have picked some of the data (sic!). As concerning mindfulness. the key definitions. immune to criticism. for the sake of discussion. It was my feeling that my colleagues tampered with the constructs so as to make them unfalsifiable and. anxiety. They completely missed my main point about the key impact of mindfulness on positive versus negative affect! But let us accept. and MBIs in particular…’’.135 participant) that I have discussed.g. thus. However. not only to mindfulness practices. based on the best of the current state of the art in the field. David meta-analyses (Goyal et al. (2014) criticized my conceptualization of the construct. my colleagues didn’t show me the Non-B I had ignored! I believe that the large meta-analysis of Goyal et al. I was also criticized for using the concept of dysfunctional feelings (i. I will let the professional community judge this criticism and decide who picked the data. mindfulness). Well. this is the foundation of my argument. but I chose to view the construct similarly to the international databases (e. looking for examples (B) rather the for counterexamples (Non-B). Khoury et al. I am concerned about this criticism.e. because it undermines any fair scientific debate. is a fair test and a proof of my sincere effort to treat the issue extensively and rigorously... Gardner et al. they picked two meta-analyses (Hofmann et al. In general. especially high arousal affect)! To make things worse. Any time I provide counterexamples for a defined construct (i. and that support my own hypothesis regarding the impact of mindfulness on negative affect (e. which speaks about the role of mindfulness in the overall affect reduction (i. Not understanding/knowing the key constructs. However.e. (2014) chose to ignore. authors would accept that. in the original article (David 2014) I have often quoted. my critical colleagues were unsatisfied with these definitions.g.

This is just a perfect straw man strategy used by my colleagues. moreover. Hill and Updegraff 2012). not only here but overall their article (i. that they know that they know more than me! Well. not in a psychological sense. Buddhist Publication Society. similar to Christianity. Kandy) one can find: …Having understood the intrinsic inadequacy of all conditioned things. I will let the professional community judge this criticism and decide who does not understand/know the key constructs. starting right from the title they chose) to suggest that they know more than me and. taking into account these unfalsifiable meanings and changing definitions promoted/accepted by my colleague. and no more suffering… (pg.And Yet it Moves! (3) 349 strategy. this kind of pride is not useful in a scientific debate because you may underestimate and ignore powerful counter-arguments. in The Dhammapada: The Buddha’s Path of Wisdom (translated from the Pali by Acharya Buddharakkhita. the unconditioned state where there is no more birth. 2013. aging and death. as the immediate aim for those of developed faculties and also as the long-term ideal for those in need of further development: Nibbana. free from cravings. he who has reached the goal. 123 . In my view. although many papers have already been published on this topic in high impact factor journals (see Brown et al. because they are related to aspects.. co-authored with colleagues who practice and teach Buddhism. writing about Nirvana as ‘‘an ultimate goal’’ of Buddhism. In this case for example. which are often outside mainstream psychological science. which were presented only as a general context of the scientific analysis. it is hard to have a good scientific debate. 2014. …351. any focus of the debate here is just a strategy to escape the clarification of the scientific issues relating mindfulness brought up by me in the article.g. as it is based on my previous reviewed publications (see for example David et al. This is the ultimate goal to which the Buddha points. I am pretty confident of what I wrote. what exactly is the meaning of the Second Nobel Truth) brought by Gardner et al. 2013). is fearless. and has plucked out the thorns of existence – for him this is the last bogy… (pg.. I can cite dozens of books/articles doing similarly (e. his focal aspiration is only for deliverance from the ever-repeating round of births. I myself do not fully trust and agree with the analysis made by my colleagues regarding some aspects of Buddhism.. we did not aim to integrate or debate various Buddhism’s schools! Indeed. the Death-less. I was criticized by using the word ‘‘goal’’ in relationship to meditation and/or Nirvana. passionless. Well.e. I used the term ‘‘goal’’ in relationship to a method and/or an ultimate ideal. we should avoid this and other similar collateral debates (e. Not knowing Buddhism. 1985.g. For example. For example. one can also just run a simple check on Google to check that). I myself became perplexed at them getting perplex! Again. 76) However. Buddhism involves a variety of approaches/traditions. 14).

right from the title of their article. what to do. Having reached this point. 2013 study). Bernad. (1985) (translator). as one famous Romanian literary critic (i. In M. I really hope that this debate will stimulate our community to attend to the problem I have raised and decide if it is a serious concern. and Marks of my collegial respect and appreciation for their professional work.. Buddhist Publication Society. in the end. that they know that they know more than me! As I said. Some concerns about the psychological implications of mindfulness: A critical analysis. Gardner. (2013). David In the end of this replay. W. Goodman. they did not comment at all about the results of Goyal et al. although nobody ever denied neither meta-cognition nor the role of mindfulness (on the contrary!)! It is my feeling that overall their article my colleagues ironically chose. Drs. Titu Maiorescu) said when he was forcefully and wrongly challenged in a paper. moreover. Self-acceptance in Buddhism and rational-emotive and cognitive-behavior therapy.g. I hope that Homo sapiens sapiens will be wise enough to always critically and nondefensively challenge and examine rationally and empirically their (supposed) knowledge. The strength of self-acceptance. this kind of pride is not useful in a scientific debate because you may underestimate and ignore powerful counter-arguments. Theory. J. often out of the mainstream psychological science (as if we were in a parallel universe) and. and hoping that the unconventional and/or polemic tone we all used in this debate will be in the benefit of science. (2014). Scan.1007/s10942-0140198-z. (Ed. A.). S..350 D. doi:10. and what to learn from here. D. Kandy. I have just raised a serious problem. J. Dispositional mindfulness and the attenuation of neural responses to emotional stimuli. & Lama Das. David. to put themselves explicitly in the position of knowing more than me and. They preferred (1) to present just another parallel point of view.. R. I want to assure my colleagues. & Inzlicht. 123 . thanking them for reading and analyzing my article.e. My colleagues have answered in a stronger (sometimes even ad hominem) less conventional tone. as I am afraid that I could affect their impact! Summarizing. 93–99. I myself think that the objections to our article do such a great job at damaging themselves that I do not want to say more. Lynn. mindfulness is part of human condition. (2013). K.. sometimes intentionally in a humorous and slightly unconventional. Buddharakkhita. This is the only reason I have accepted to have this constructive and polemical debate! In the end. The Dhammapada: The Buddha’s Path of Wisdom (translated from the Pali). Journal of Rational-Emotive and Cognitive-Behavior Therapy. 2014 meta-analysis or about the neurobiological data in the study of Brown et al. practice and research. (2) to conclude that being Homo sapiens sapiens we are beings that know that they know and thus. However. but polite tone. David. for the sake of the progress. References Brown. S. 8. Knowing myself that ‘‘sapiens’’ means more ‘‘wise’’ than ‘‘knowing’’ (sic!). M. Moore. in my view they ignored and failed to address my core arguments (e. Springer: New York. D... based on their own (too) large theoretical introduction.

The Galileo affair: A documentary history.. Gardner. 169–183. Goyal. 174(3).. Rectifying misconceptions: A comprehensive response to ‘‘Some Concerns about the Psychological Implications of Mindfulness: A Critical Analysis’’. (1991). Witt.. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for preventing relapse in recurrent depression: A randomized dismantling trial.. D.. F. 275–286.. L.13018. The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression: A meta-analytic review. A. A systematic review and meta-analysis. G. 763–771. 123 . Khoury. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology..1037/a0018555. 81–90. T. G. M. Berkeley: University of California Press. doi:10. C. Mindfulness and its relationship to emorional regulation. Z.. E. Emotion and adaptation. (2012). & Updegraff. (2014). R..And Yet it Moves! 351 Finocchiaro. C. 357–368. G. doi:10. 78(2). Emotion. E.1001/jamainternmed. T. Fortin. L. J. (2014).. G. (2010). Moore. Williams. New York: Oxford University Press. Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being.. Branhofer. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology..2013. A. Sibinga. JAMA Internal Medicine. A. Lazarus.. & Oh. S. et al. A. S. Crane. J.. et al. T.. & Marks. M. Lecomte. doi:10. Hofmann. (1989) (editor and translator). S. 12(1). Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy. (2014). (2013). 82(2). A. Hill. B. Mindfulness-based therapy: A comprehensive metaanalysis. Singh. Clinical Psychology Review. R. M. 33(6). Sawyer. et al.1007/s10942-014-0196-1.