connecting psychotherapy and spiritual growth for human awakening
If we are seeking deeper solutions to our personal problems, then spirituality—whatever word we use to describe it—is the kind of depth we have to go to. At their most fundamental, our problems in life are spiritual problems. Through combining psychotherapy and spirituality we have the opportunity to work through unresolved early issues and to confront the human mystery.
Western psychology and psychotherapy gave rise to the Human Potential Movement in the 1960s, which stressed our personal responsibility for well-being and for fulfilling our human potential. This approach in turn gave rise to psycho-spiritual psychotherapy, which recognises our need for spiritual fulfillment. This need for a transcendent experience is seen in all forms of art and in thousands of years of religious impulse.
Relationship difficulties, strong emotions like anger, pain, fear, and spiritual longing—the desire for something deeper than the world of appearances—can be catalysts that stimulate inner life. Therapy at its deepest offers guidance for the inner journey which will lead us to our true nature.
Those who experience personal disappointment or crisis through the stages of their lives can benefit from counseling and psychotherapy. As can those who wish to address the source of their concerns, or seek an alternative to medication. Therapy can also offer guidance to those who wish to embark on the inner journey to realize their true selves.
The therapist creates a receptive “empty space” and receives the client's inner world of emotions, experiences, thoughts and feelings uncritically. In the process of sharing and listening within this space, healing takes place: these inner experiences are “offered up” to make way for new life.
Inner work requires outer support and skilfull guidance. By breaking old habits we are able to relate authentically to others and to the outer world. By shedding the confines of our personalities we become our authentic selves—this is the flowering of inner work.
Therapy may address loneliness, but aloneness is a part of the human condition. We cannot change this, but therapy can help us to feel easier with being alone with our thoughts, feelings and experiences.
Unenlightened contemporary culture ignores the rituals of maturation and illumination. In many other cultures, older people shared their wisdom and experience to help younger people through the different stages of their lives. In therapy, we can share and deepen in our understanding of these stages of transition.
In group therapy it is common to project early family relationships on to other group members. The transference is often reciprocal. With the tacit agreement to heal, group work provides a special opportunity to recognize these issues and enable inner healing.
Personal change is often misunderstood in inner work. We are always changing. By “getting out of our own way”—being less fixed—we can transform and evolve from moment to moment. Our freedom lies beyond fear, in trusting and surrendering to life.
However much we may wish to change spiritually, we cannot have spiritual experiences just because we want to. Very often we may feel we are thwarted by unresolved issues from early life. Exploring personal psychology is therefore often a necessary preparation for the spiritual path.
Therapy and inner work are vital in dealing with global issues in the 21st century. As Human Beings we continually create our world. By taking responsibility for healing ourselves within, we take greater responsibility for the outside world.
If we want to bring about real change in the world and take deep responsibility for our influence on the planet, the place to start is within. We usually need help to do this inner work, free from its associations with illness or pathology. Wise mentoring provides such guidance, cultivates our natural inner abilities, and orients us to the inner and outer world.
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Wendy Tuttle, Spiritual/Lifeskills Consultant and Owner of Soul Blended Solutions