Psychology vs. Spirituality

As many Westerners do, when we are having trouble in our lives, we seek the advice of a qualified practitioner in the form of a psychologist (MSW) or a psychiatrist (MD). It’s a cliché that we expect them to ask, right off the bat, “Tell me about your mother”. Automatically, we de-internalize the subject, instead focusing on the things that happened to you rather than how they were observed.

When I first went to my life coach, she asked me what I wanted to get out of it. I have never had a therapist ask me this. And the funny thing was… I didn’t have an answer. Even after a few months, it’s still evolving, breaking down into smaller, more pure pieces. I am changing my vocabulary, saying that “I am happy” rather than “I want to be happy” (which is some place in the future). Small tweaks.

This morning I read a blog post from Brian Johnson’s “Philosopher Notes”. Excerpt below:

“Quick fact: In the 20th century, for every one hundred articles psychologists published on *negative* aspects of human behavior (stuff like depression, schizophrenia, etc.) there was only one article published on the positive stuff.

To address this issue, in the year 2000, Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi created a new movement called “Positive Psychology” that promised to identify the scientific underpinnings of how we can live with more happiness, meaning and all that good stuff.

They went Old School—sifting through all the classic wisdom texts where they saw the same ideas repeated again and again. Although they differ on the details, these classics (from the Bible to the The Bhagavad Gita to the Bushido samurai code) say the same thing: Live with virtue.

In fact, the researchers identified a constellation of six core virtues: wisdom, courage, love, justice, temperance and spirituality. They set out to *scientifically* establish that, when we put these virtues in action, we’ll live with more happiness, meaning and mojo.”

Imagine a psychologist/psychiatrist talking about wisdom, courage, love, justice, temperance and spirituality. None of this is fact based. These things are all felt. They come from the heart and not the head. And yet we continue to identify with these therapists because that’s what Westerner’s do. And many people have been helped by this. But what happens when you combine psychology with spirituality? Well, you probably wouldn’t get insurance to pay for it. But you might find yourself. The observer looking behind the eyes that are part of the greater Wisdom those facts can’t touch. Instead of seeing it to believe it, you have to believe it so see it.

By diving into our histories, therapists try to untangle a web of years of reactions to external stimuli. I say that it doesn’t matter how you reacted, all that matters is that you reacted. This point is subtle but powerful. Rather than knowing that you reacted to a certain situation because you grew up in an abusive household (for example), knowing that there is an observer inside of you that saw the ego react gives you a greater sense of control. The awareness is the key. Also recognizing that good and bad situations have nothing to do with “you”, but they have everything to do with ego (yours and others).

I invite you to read a more authoritative article on this topic from Mariana Caplan, PhD entitled “Psychology and Spirituality: One Path or Two?


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