Psychology and spirituality can be great helpers to each other, yet they are often found separated in our modern world. It makes sense that they are currently separated from the perspective of the scientific materialist paradigm, but I feel in the future they will become more and more intimately interwoven.
Psychology literally means “the study of the soul”. I feel that the aim of psychology and psychotherapy is ultimately to understand the mind and emotions so deeply that we heal and lift the veils off of our souls. We come to a deep understanding of ourselves so that we can be free from falseness and the shackles of suffering, and live from our soul’s essence.
However, spirituality is often not part of the modern study of psychology, and you won’t usually find it in a psychotherapy office. Modern psychology does its best to distance itself from spirituality, and often looks down upon spirituality. In my training to become a therapist I observed a lot of skepticism, uncertainty, and rejection of spirituality in my professors and fellow students. Some of this is understandable because it would be harmful for a psychotherapist to impose their spiritual beliefs on a client, but since it is so natural for the human soul to long for something greater, the depth of psychotherapy and the study of psychology can be limited by its discomfort with spirituality. We can come to a certain level of self-actualization with the help of psychology, but then we start knocking on the door of our soul that wants to know the Divine and feel one with all of life. Additionally, welcoming the Divine into the therapy office can be profoundly healing to our humanity.
Just like psychology dismisses spirituality, spirituality has also traditionally dismissed psychology, often because it has only viewed our humanity as a problem or a sin. I have even heard some spiritual teachers say that psychology is not something a spiritual person should get caught up in; that the spiritual seeker just needs to transcend and forget about themselves. However, it is pretty darn hard to transcend yourself when you have baggage and that you haven’t worked through and haven’t examined yourself yet. It’s kind of like being tied to a bag of rocks in a lake but trying to keep your head above water. Also, treating our human problems like something to be escaped or ignored is harsh and unloving. Most of us have so much pain, and being unloving towards our human pain is almost like neglecting or hurting a little child. We need to find love for ourselves to heal; to heal our own pain and the pain of others.
I started my spiritual path from the perspective of “I just need to transcend my humanity” too. Without the help of some spiritual teachers who are developing a new spiritual paradigm of working lovingly with our humanity, as well as my own study of psychology, I might still be stuck in hating my humanity. I, and many people on the spiritual path, have really suffered from self-denial and self-hatred due to the old spiritual paradigm. I think most spiritual seekers could benefit from therapy and/or other kinds of healing work to open to love and acceptance of their humanity.
My hope is that psychology becomes more open to understanding, studying, and accepting the spiritual dimensions of our humanity. I also hope the understanding and love of our humanity in the spiritual community grows. I vow to hold space for the human as a spiritual coach. May our minds and our souls be freed!