“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” — attributed to Albert Einstein
When is it appropriate for psychologists/psychiatrists to talk about spirituality (if ever)? “Psyche” literally means the human soul, mind, or spirit. Therefore, psychology is the study of these things even though soul and spirit have been left out of the equation and replaced by a more favorable — and predictable — scientific method. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM for short) is hailed as the Bible for practitioners and provides reliable information on how to work with patients who fit in the categories. I’ll echo that: categories.
But it seems as if there is a chasm in this approach. There is a part of the equation that is missing. Some of the ingredients in the recipe for a whole person have been scrapped in favor of expediency.
While speaking with a fellow coach who works primarily with veterans coming back to the States. Upon return, the veterans are assisted with getting a job which, as it turns out, isn’t the primary driver of their wants and needs. He told me that what they are looking for is to belong. To find purpose and passion. “Work” is secondary to that and as a society, we place too large of an amount of weight into the notion that working is the end-all-be-all to a human’s existence.
We need a “why”.
In a recent WSJ article, Dr. David H. Rosmarin, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, writes about his experiences at McLean Hospital, with patients who have approached him asking for him to speak with them about God. While there is no doubt the need for spiritual leaders, what is a person trained in psychological science to do when presented with this request? Ignore or disregard it? Explain it to them in scientific terms? Rid themselves of their patient’s “neurosis” and refer them to someone else?
Dr. Rosmarin didn’t think so, and he is now part of the hospital’s “Spirituality and Mental Health Program” where he serves as Director. To ensure they are following the wishes of the patients, at the beginning of a session, they respectfully ask “Do you wish to discuss spirituality with me?” If the answer is no, they move on. But if the answer is yes, they move into an enriching setting that nurtures the soul. To ensure they are providing value to the patients the program asks the patients to complete questionnaires where is very common that patients rate the discussion about spirituality as the “highlight” of their treatment.
“For many patients, their spiritual lives provide hope, meaning, purpose and a connection to the divine.”
As an executive coach, I draw distinct similarities in my field as I dive deep into the energy around the way my clients are “showing up”. That is, what my clients are either doing, or desire to do in their life, business, or careers. There is no 12-step process or guidebook that works in these scenarios because we are dealing with something much more powerful and enlightening (and game-changing!). Focusing on what motivates people, beginning with an inward to outward approach, has infinitely more opportunity to affect real changes that last a lifetime.