Psychotherapy and Spiritual Growth - An Issue of Language and the Tower of Babal

27 Oct

The Greater focus and attention on spirituality in our society is quickly finding its way into the psychotherapy setting. Clients are increasingly interested in their spirituality. It is not uncommon now for therapists to be contested from the first phone contact with a potential client as to whether they're experienced or qualified in dealing with spiritual difficulties. These customers frequently report that they are not interested in intensive therapy per se; they just need to work on their spirituality.

The words religion and spirituality often Create dis-ease and anxiety for people trained as secular counselors and psychotherapists. Many therapists are turning down these"spiritually" focused clients since they work under the illusion and confused belief that psychotherapy and therefore are two different disciplines.

This is unfortunate because psychotherapy is spiritual formation. Since psychotherapy and spiritual creation use very similar targets and methodologies, secular therapists are frequently the best trained spiritual directors and teachers in our Western culture. To put it differently, therapists shouldn't be put off by customers interested in spiritual development.

The Splitting of psychotherapy and spirituality into two apparently different separate disciplines was an illusion created when science and religion parted company hundreds of years back. Science produced a language to study the physical universe and faith claimed exclusive use of theological language to study God. Both agreed to not assimilate into each others realm.

At the time, it is a really Helpful distinction since it allowed scientists to study the physical universe without immediately threatening the theology and beliefs of the Christian church. Obviously it was not long before technological discoveries in astronomy, evolution, biology, and mathematics critically threatened and challenged a number of the ancient theological views of this Church.

Even Now many conservative scientists and theologians continue the struggle to maintain science and spirituality apart. Fortunately, modern quantum physics research is in the process of rejoining the bodily universe of the scientist and the spiritual world of the mysterious into one common merged view of truth.

It's the belief of the author That the disciplines of psychotherapy and spiritual direction have to develop a common language bridge which will allow psychotherapists to correctly and easily reinterpret analytical language and clinical therapeutic process in spiritual terms, and vice versa. Just if this kind of unified language exists, will psychotherapists learn to be comfortable with spirituality, and religious directors less intimidated by psychology.

This article will briefly explore some of the aims And methods employed by each of the areas, emphasize their similarity; and demonstrate how psychotherapy is, in reality, spiritual formation.

In Youth, when we encounter criticism, ridicule, sarcasm, rejection, jealousy, indifference, invisibility, a sense of not feeling heard, or not being known in the things that matter to us, we all experience fear and sadness. There's an anxious awareness of danger. We know that somehow we are being assaulted and wounded by people that are supposed to love us and care for all of us.

Two of the primary survival instincts of a Human being experiencing threat are isolation and fragmentation. When our planet feels hazardous, isolation is the only safe choice. We create a survival ability of spending more and more time alone.

We also Learn to fragment or partition off the debilitating feelings and traumatic memories, and push them deep into the shadows of the subconscious. This survival ability protects us from feelings which are frequently much too painful for us to deal with as a child. To feel secure around the dangerous caretakers in our own life, we learn to behave in ways that appear to please them. We construct a fictitious"self". We construct a fragile identity of beliefs and behaviors according to who we think we are supposed to be. Day by day, outside of our consciousness, our authentic self slowly disappears.

Over The decades of our childhood we become convinced that who we actually are isn't smart, not important, and not satisfactory. No matter how hard we try to be approved, we feel lonely and unloved. We start to shut down our painful feelings and learn how to use just our intellect. We lose the memory of much of our youth. But we have a feeling that in some very basic way, we are not fine. We are not loveable. We don't belong.

Through Varying levels of isolation, so we try to prevent the pain that comes from about other people. However, as soon as we isolate to feel secure, others tell us we're aloof and uncaring. We start to feel guilty and embarrassed. A terrible feeling of emptiness begins to grow in the center of the being. Often it feels like hunger, but nothing appears to make it move away.


When Clients come to a therapist they frequently bulge these painful feelings of childhood under a generalized feeling they call depression and anxiety. They tell the therapist they want to feel more okay (comfy ) about who they are. They just need to get their lives together and be happy. They are tired of being sad and scared. They don't like who they're.

When customers come to a spiritual director These feelings of childhood are embedded in, a longing for more depth; an awareness of unhappiness; a lack of internal peace; a sense of isolation and loneliness; and, a deep desire to comprehend the significance of their lives. They often bulge these painful feelings under a generalized feeling they refer to a sense of being"called" by God to some deeper place. A place of wholeness and peace where they may feel more content with who they are. They tend to be seeking a feeling of wholeness, and happiness in their own lives. They're tired of feeling inadequate and feeling like they do not belong.
If they wish to acquire their lives"together", or desire a sense of"wholeness", the two clients frequently feel fragmented and overwhelmed. They long to feel more complete and authentic. The bottom line is that they want to belong and be happy.

In both cases, the customers have reached a Point where they understand they cannot find the answers on their own. For most people, the decision to ask for help feels like an admission of failure. They often feel inadequate. Asking for help means they will need to be exposed and hope a stranger. For most people, asking for assistance is the most difficult part of the journey to recovery and the wholeness they hunger for in their own hearts. Whether they use spiritual language or secular language is going to be determined by their own background. The language they are comfortable with will determine who they predict; a psychotherapist or a spiritual director.


Thus, The very first work of healing to both the therapist and also the spiritual director will be the requirement to handle problems of trust and vulnerability. Can the customer trust the therapist or the spiritual director? Would they trust God? Will their therapist or spiritual manager still like them and would like to work with them if they are quite honest about who they are, and exactly what they've done in their lives? Is it safe to discuss how they really feel? These are the fundamental questions that need to be attracted to the surface and knowingly dealt with in order to move forward either mentally or spiritually.

Trusting Others won't come easily for many. The telling of the story will require the customers to revisit and discuss uncomfortable memories of shame, humiliation, painful encounters, and debilitating feelings. Sometimes when they were hurt by others. It will be a narrative of their struggle with the world, their own fears; their own feelings; their past; their fantasies and fantasies; and their conflicts both with others and with themselves.

For most clients, Learning How to trust is a long and Difficult task. Learning to trust is the foundational work that will support each the future work of therapy or religious direction. As a result, before the foundational problem of trust is taken care of, clients will be not able to allow themselves the vulnerability required for healing to happen. They'll be unable to be vulnerable and share their story.

As confidence builds and the client Can discuss more And more of the narrative, they are frequently amazed that someone else seems to really understand how painful and sad it is for them inside. They no longer feel alone. Perhaps there is hope. The language of caring and empathy starts to heal.


So How are these aims of trust and vulnerability attained in therapy and spiritual leadership? Simply stated, they are attained while the customer is emotionally"held" by the therapist or the religious director. The customer starts to feel secure only when they experience the therapist or spiritual director softly listening to them with non-judgmental acceptance and experiencing, often for the first time in their lives, another individual empathically understanding what actually matters to them. The customer's story unfolds and deepens.
Listen with no abandoning, critical, judging or impinging, and to re-interpret the customer's story as it unfolds. The client is invited to look within and to recover the painful feelings and memories of these that got split away and buried in the subconscious. As these split parts get re-integrated, the customer begins to experience a growing sense of well-being and wholeness. They start to drain themselves of an identity built around childhood beliefs and move into a more real adult identity according to who they're. They begin to discover their gifts and strengths. Most importantly however, they start to realize that the feelings they have blamed or projected onto others were really their own. They know to look within and explore their feelings. They learn to claim responsibility for their feelings.

Spiritual directors are trained to hear and also to Encourage the client to develop a prayer or meditation relationship with the Creator of the Universe. As they tell their story from the presence of God and the religious director, both of whom are neither left, crucial, estimating, or impinging, the customer slowly learns the way to just"be" who they had been made to be. The customer learns humility and forgiveness. They know to check within for answers.

James Carse (1985) in his Book The Silence of God clarifies the importance of listening in excellent depth. He illustrates that unless someone listens to us and accepts us wholly for who we are, we can not come to be a real self. He states simply, we're listened into presence. This, he points out, is the absolute necessity for the silent listening of God. It's God's compassionate, non-toxic, silent listening that makes all production potential. As co-creators, the creation of the universe unfolds throughout us one tale at a time. If God spoke, our private ongoing creation would cease. Our co-creation with God would become meaningless.

This compassionate, non-toxic, expectant Listening is the primary function of the therapist and also the spiritual director. Both therapists and spiritual supervisors are called to listen their clients into existence so they can experience themselves as authentic, whole, and sacred persons. This is the soul work of both therapy and spiritual direction that can only be done through the quiet non-judgmental listening in a location known as the middlepath.

The Middlepath is a sacred place that emerges only when the ego opinions and beliefs of the therapist, or the spiritual director; have been drained. When ego opinions and beliefs are drained out of the brain, judgment is not any longer possible. Only listening and acceptance remain. Thus, the middlepath is a sacred place where just the language of compassion and acceptance exist. Instead of healing in which the terminology of judgment is not present. A paradoxical place of complete emptiness and the wholeness of overall diversity.


The Therapist and the religious director will hear similar stories from their clientele. The details of course are unique to the specific customer, but the story told will be similar to that of prior customers. A story of unhappiness.
Spiritual manager encourage their respective customers to tell their tales and the job of recovery begins, the primary issue of the customer begins to emerge. The customer has been searching for answers to their own issues out in the world. They've been searching for happiness in the secular language of security, money, prestige, control, and worldly power.

As they listen to this customer, the religious Director and the therapist both begin to promote and support a shift in the customer from an outer focus on the world of objects toward an internal self-focus in their thoughts and feelings. As time passes, the customer starts to shift his or her attention inward about the true sources of their pain. Their self awareness deepens.

Since the Objective of Both areas is a deeper internal self-knowledge and also the ability to listen to one's thoughts and feelings it's not long until a new internal language of feelings, emotions, beliefs, assumptions, values, and meaning starts to develop between the client and their therapist or spiritual director.

As this new inner language interacts, the Client learns that religious growth and happiness is an internal work that may never be attained out on the planet. This insight, that true spiritual growth and happiness come only through self-awareness and self-consciousness, emerges just as the client's language of inner significance grows.


The Primary goal of both disciplines is change. Despite the fact that reality is change, one of the most difficult things for a human being to accomplish is to adopt change in his or her deeply held beliefs, opinions, and certainties. Particularly challenging to alter are the ego beliefs which come from childhood and are part of a person's world view; the way that they see and understand reality.
By Way of Example, in The middle ages, it was a generally held world opinion that the earth was flat. Few questioned this belief, and those that did were ridiculed. Another case of a commonly accepted world view was that the belief that the earth was the middle of the universe.
The scientist's focus on the Information

The tools of the therapist who encourage and facilitate Change in the customer's"self" globe perspective, would be the therapist's ability to listen and gently encourage focus and self-awareness within the customer onto the customer's own thoughts, perspectives, assumption, behaviors, and feelings.

But it is this attention and increased self-awareness As they become more secure in their own authentic identity, they are more able to be open and vulnerable with others and re-integrate back into safe, trusting relationships with others.
that support change in the client are also attention and self awareness. As a client learns to sit in prayer or meditation with their feelings, and pay attention to their feeling bodies and thinking minds, they too begin to develop insight and understanding into how their mind thinks and how their body feels.

Over time, the client begins to discover and understand more deeply the meaning of his or her life.

Spiritual directors call this a connection, or experience, of being one with the Consciousness of the Universe.

The However, the most effective approach to self-awareness and healing happens when both disciplines are practiced together.

Since the source of conflict, pain and suffering for humans is found in the fragmentation of the human psyche and the ego's reliance on a false identity, the goal of all mental health healing and spiritual growth is that of re-integration of the client's mind to a state of wholeness. The person simply learns to pay attention to their thoughts, feelings and the world around them.
communities evolve only when vulnerable hearts connect with other vulnerable hearts.

It is important to note that these Self-consciously evolved individuals consistently report feeling happy and whole, and consistently report that they have discovered the fire and significance of their own lives.

In both psychotherapy and spiritual Direction, the goal is connection with others and self, and also a deeper sense of belonging. The goal of the therapist and spiritual director is to encourage involvement in the larger reality of family and community. Unlike the psychotherapist, the spiritual manager encourages the customer to move beyond community and family into an even bigger context; an awareness of who we are from the context of the Consciousness of the Universe.

The goal for both areas is finally that Of empathy; for people self and others. In both disciplines, the focus is on the practice of healing the mind, the body, and the soul. In both disciplines, the customer's change toward empathy can take place only when the internal language of self awareness was attained.

It is Very hard to care about your neighbor and create compassionate Community with other people whenever you're struggling with pain--whether it be Out of a tooth ache or a soul annoyance.

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