Psychotherapy and Your Spiritual Growth
"Psychotherapy is the Western world's gift to spirituality."
- Lisbeth Marcher *
You may think it's a big jump from the therapy office to the temple (or the church, synagogue, or mosque). We'd like to show you otherwise. We believe that heart, mind and body are integral to a sense of spiritual well-being. We'd like to show you how.
We believe that no matter what concept or practice of spirituality you embrace, whether you follow a traditional religion, a Higher Power, or "spiritual guides", you cannot abide by your principles and insights if you are emotionally blocked.
Our goal is to enhance your appreciation of whatever practice(s) you follow including the beliefs that you hold dear.
We can help you make your way!
While we acknowledge the contributions of conventional western medicine, we believe that the integration of heart, mind, and body naturally leads to contact with the spiritual self, and ultimately lasting health and wellness.
The question we pose is this: how can you live mindfully, in harmony with others, if you are not in harmony within yourself?
How can you open your heart to the creative energy of the universe, to the opportunities for growth that present themselves every day, when you are emotionally closed and defensive in your relationships, or within yourself?
In other words, how can you follow a spiritual path when there's too much confusion, hurt, or feelings of overwhelm inside?
Most people have their own idea of what spirituality is. Those who actively follow a spiritual path speak in many different ways of what is essentially indescribable:
"It seemed as though I had entered into the heart of something much bigger than I was."
"It was very faint yet very clear, this small voice that came from beyond my mind."
"Unlike book learning which comes from outside, my spiritual knowledge comes from within."
Innumerable fears, big and small, block us from trusting others or even ourselves. Yet we must find a place to start. The therapeutic alliance offers this, a place to take that first step. For when you learn to trust your inner voice, your inner self, the world opens up for you because you have opened up to the world.
Spirituality could then be described as life characterized by "unstuckness", a sense of flow, an acceptance of all that has happened, and all that might be.
In accessing the power that's found in the spiritual realm, we become more sensitive to sensations, images, feelings, and intuitions. The language of the body is, paradoxically, the key to the language of the wordless beyond.
I want to unfold,
Let no place within me hold itself closed,
For where I am closed I am false.
R. M. Rilke
So the question is this: Are we able to accurately hear and interpret these messages if our lives are emotionally chaotic?
If we are emotionally blocked, blind to a rigidity of reaction and feeling that has set in over the years, how can we be sure our spiritual yearnings are authentic and not skewed by the effects of unresolved conflicts?
Modern living is filled with distractions. We are easily lulled into believing more possessions and gratifications will lead to real happiness.
But are we obsessed with the glitter of consumerism simply because this is the way we've learned to regulate a deeply hidden sense of dissatisfaction?
We believe the more energy you bring into your life, career, and relationships, the more real satisfaction and enjoyment you'll manifest.
By liberating the huge amount of energy needed to keep painful past experiences tucked away, therapy provides us with renewed strength and motivation, a "new lease on life".
Therapy offers a practical way of finding an inner balance that naturally leads to spiritual awareness. It gives you the courage to open your heart to the world and the chance to finally find, deep inside, that which you have never lost.
In short, we believe therapy is the key to a heartfelt transformation in your life, an invaluable "gift" for all who choose a spiritual path.
Many of us struggle with how to blend our spiritual pursuits with our day to day living. This topic is of great interest to Dr. Carole, a frequent contributor to MyShrink.
If how to balance the spiritual with the physical resonates with you, Dr. Carole would love to hear from you (Questions and replies will be posted below.):
Freeing yourself from past hurts
Why can’t I move forward from past events and why do I lose friends and cannot seem to get along…I know it’s partly ADHD, but I want to dig deeper, my relationship with my mother seems to be the break point, but I’m not sure if I am right or wrong. Angela
Thank you so much for your question. My heart goes out to as you struggle to let go of past experiences and wonder how to improve your connections with others, in particular, with your mother. At times like these we all tend to feel “stuck in our patterns” and are just not sure how to shift things around and into a better direction.
As I begin, I must say that my first response to your question is that it seems more geared towards a psychological resolution than a spiritually-based one…and you know what, I’m very tempted to think that an emotional solution is bang right-on for you at this point in time.
Why do I suggest this? Well, it seems that personal, psychological, and relational “work” tends to follow a different internal process from spiritual development. And though these two paths can compliment each other quite nicely, they require a different course as we move along.
In other words, it is very difficult to move forward spiritually when we have a lot of emotional stuff backed-up inside.
Angela, your question is an awesome one for those of us who need to delve more deeply into our stuck patterns – be they emotional or relationship problems – before considering a spiritual approach to things.
With this noted, Angela, I think you’re right on with your hunch of needing to dig deeper and it’s so good to hear that you’re open to asking yourself a question or two about your part in things.
A metaphor I often use is that in any relationship, there are three “energies”…so, in the connection between you and your mom…there is your energy, your mother’s and what the two of you co-create in the space between (kinda like a mother-daughter “dance” of energies).
At the end of the day, it’s seldom merely about the matter of “right or wrong” when things get to a “break point” in a relationship…rather, it’s much more about how each person is contributing to the flow or disharmony of what’s going on.
So, my simple answer to your rich question is to consider working with a body-based psychotherapist for moving forward into a deeper understanding of your contributions to your relationships with others, options for change, and personal healing.
And, if it fits for you Angela…embracing a spiritual path when your time is right.
Wishing you well on your journey,
How can I enter into my heart Qalb, at the Sufi Light?
Thank you for your question Rahman.
For the benefit of others I’ll chat briefly about the terms ‘Qalb’ and ‘Sufi Light’.
Before doing so, however, I want to let you know that I’m aware that “regular” words pale in addressing the Sufi concepts you’re struggling with. With that noted….
In Sufism, the Qalb refers to the spiritual heart and not the physical body part. The Qalb is a state of deep spiritual intelligence or knowingness - wiser than the conscious brain typically registers. The opening of the heart means coming closer to God.
At the ‘Sufi Light’, all “veils” (or separations) between us and God disappear…it’s a process of self-transformation – a Oneness into the presence of the divine.
As I see it, all spiritual seekers are yearning to connect with their inner selves and divine source. And, they typically struggle with aspirations of faith, gratitude, and generosity to name a few as these mind-body-spirit experiences easily exceed reasonable human consideration.
Regardless of our spiritual perspective, when we arrive at an ever-evolving sacred space, there’s an “Ah!” as we drop in more deeply…we know that we’re on our “right” path!
Rahman, through ‘Sufi Light’ (and the secret of meditation), your heart’s path to the divine becomes more embodied…breathing techniques and prayer guide you forward.
Not surprisingly, an emotional desperation or ungrounded yearning is at cross-purposes for leaning into divine connection.
My musing Rahman is that your question may be about “time” – more specifically, that your timeframe for self-transcendence is not in accord with the perceived pacing of your spiritual journey.
I anticipate that through listening to that small, quiet voice within, you will know if you are pushing into an unfolding that’s not quite ready to bloom. If so, grace yourself with an allowing into where you are at this present moment.
As Rumi so eloquently wrote:
Oh heart, sit with someone
who knows the heart;
Go under the tree
which has fresh blossoms.
My wish for you is compassion, staying with your practice, and trusting the Sufi Light as it guides you forward.
Therapy and Your Spritual life is part of a 3-article series called Why Therapy Matters. I invite you to check out the next article in the series.
* Lisbeth Marcher is founder of the Bodynamic System, probably the most relevant stage theory of development for the practice of psychotherapy i.e. this theory reflects the real issues that show up in therapy offices.