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Psychology and Spirituality I


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Published in: Spiritual
  • as far as the goals of psychology and religion are concerned both disciplines offer objective knowledge of how mankind seek to better their lives and provide ways to make human lives easier yet they also have a degree of uncertainty on understanding complex issues like revelations and the creation of the universe
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Psychology and Spirituality I

  1. 1. Psychology and Spirituality Janet K. Ruffing, RSM July, 2009
  2. 2. How Do You See the Relationship <ul><li>Between Psychology and Spirituality? </li></ul><ul><li>Partners? </li></ul><ul><li>Rivals? </li></ul>
  3. 3. Spirituality is itself Interdisciplinary <ul><li>As a field: “it seeks to understand [Christian experience] as it actually occurs, as it actually transforms its subject toward fullness of life in Christ, that is, toward self-transcending life-integration within the Christian community of faith.” (1998). </li></ul><ul><li>Sandra Schneiders </li></ul>
  4. 4. Intrinsic Relationship Between Psychology and Spirituality <ul><li>Both Fields: </li></ul><ul><li>Concentrate </li></ul><ul><li>on human interiority and its patterns of </li></ul><ul><ul><li>deformation, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>development, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>integration, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>and its relationship to the sacred </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. <ul><li>Spirituality is described in texts going back to the NT and earlier, long before the discipline of psychology emerged in the late 19 th and early 20 th centuries, first with depth psychologies followed by developmental, behavioral, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>These historical texts need to be interpreted in relationship to their own historical world views. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Psychologists are Intensely Interested <ul><li>In spirituality and want to introduce it into their practices </li></ul><ul><li>What is happening here in the Philippines? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the interest? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the approach? </li></ul>
  7. 7. In US: Assumptions <ul><li>Create generalized definitions of measurable aspects of spirituality </li></ul><ul><li>Emphasize Eastern meditation practices over western one, especially Buddhist but also Sufi and Hindu (also divorced from the religions in which they live) </li></ul><ul><li>Work on a privatized understanding of spirituality detached from religious practice or social ethics </li></ul><ul><li>Assume the independence of spirituality from any specific faith community </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(people are spiritual but not religious) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>or religious but not spiritual </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Mutually Critical Correlations <ul><li>May be the best way for scholars in both fields to approach this relationship </li></ul><ul><li>How does authentic spirituality critique psychology? </li></ul><ul><li>How does psychology critique “bad” spirituality </li></ul><ul><li>What does each contribute to the other? </li></ul>
  9. 9. Scholars of Spirituality <ul><li>Need to be aware of these biases and correct for the way Christianity specifies spiritual life vis a vis </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A Triune, self-revealing, self-communicating God </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The rich story of Jesus in the Gospel and proclaimed in liturgy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Christians develop a relationship with the “persons” of the Trinity and the saints (ancestors in faith) in spiritual community (communion of saints) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Faith and religious experience empowered by the gift of the Holy Spirit </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. A Host of Specific Topics <ul><li>Consciousness studies (brain scans) </li></ul><ul><li>Transition </li></ul><ul><li>Sexual issues </li></ul><ul><li>Forgiveness </li></ul><ul><li>Trauma and its aftermath </li></ul><ul><li>Different therapeutic modalities for different issues </li></ul><ul><li>Alcoholism and other addictions </li></ul>
  11. 11. Definitions of Spirituality: <ul><li>Ewert Cousins </li></ul><ul><li>“ that inner dimension of the person called by certain traditions ‘the spirit.’ This spiritual core is the deepest center of the person. It is here that the person is open to the transcendent dimension; it is here that the person experiences ultimate reality. </li></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>The series (World Spirituality) explores the discovery of this core, the dynamics of its development, and its journey to the ultimate goal. It deals with prayer, spiritual direction, the various maps of the spiritual journey, and the methods of advancement in the spiritual ascent.” </li></ul>
  13. 13. Janet Ruffing <ul><li>Christian spirituality is our way of being, the way we live our lives as a consequence of our experience of God in Jesus. It is how we respond to the “Holy” and how we express the “implications of that experience in our relationship with ourselves, with others, with society, with the creation. It is a dynamic love relationship responsive to the ultimate loving Source of our being who desires for us fullness of life. It includes our reciprocation of that love by our being loving, caring, justice-making inhabitants of our world, appreciators of this beauty and life. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Theological Assumptions <ul><li>the reality of God and </li></ul><ul><li>the reality of spirit in the human person that has the graced capacity </li></ul><ul><li>to move toward self-transcendence. </li></ul><ul><li>Relationship to transcendence imbues life with profound meaning both as belief and as relational experience. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Christian Tradition offers <ul><li>a Horizon of Meaning </li></ul><ul><li>A community of believers </li></ul><ul><li>A way of life </li></ul><ul><li>A history of this spiritual quest </li></ul><ul><li>And practical means to achieve it </li></ul>
  16. 16. It includes <ul><li>not only a privatized realm of personal religious experiencing </li></ul><ul><li>but also actual commitments to love of neighbor as a criterion of our love for God whom we do not see. </li></ul><ul><li>Implied in these definitions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>human life unfolds over time and admits of development. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul>
  17. 17. Psychological Functional Definitions of Spirituality <ul><li>Meaning-making + values and beliefs </li></ul><ul><li>Spiritual experience (religious experience, altered states of consciousness) </li></ul><ul><li>Religiosity </li></ul><ul><li>Religious practices such as church attendance or affiliation </li></ul><ul><li>Reading/study </li></ul><ul><li>Meditation/prayer </li></ul>
  18. 18. Few such definitions deal with or measure <ul><li>Commitment to spiritual practice </li></ul><ul><li>A relational context for mystical experience (personality grows and changes, a real relationship not a projection) </li></ul><ul><li>Behaviors and attitudes that show continuity among: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Religious experience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Worship in a faith community </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Work / ministry in the world </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social justice or works of mercy </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Psychoanalytic Theories <ul><li>Originally, quite hostile to religion focusing on negative aspects of religion but then increasingly offering very helpful ways of understanding psychological processes involved in spirituality </li></ul>
  20. 20. Psychological Research Offers a Great Deal <ul><li>Psychoanalytic theory is now appreciative of spirituality while also critical of its pathological uses </li></ul><ul><li>Developmental Psychology helps us understand the life cycle as well as contextualize the developmental of spiritual (mystical) life. (an understanding of change) </li></ul><ul><li>Cognitive psychology offers a way to reframe or question damaging theological assumptions </li></ul><ul><li>Gender and cultural studies </li></ul><ul><li>Neurological studies of meditation practice </li></ul><ul><li>Qualitative research methodologies </li></ul><ul><li>Psychometric scales for measuring some aspects of spirituality </li></ul><ul><li>Correlations between spiritual practices and physical health </li></ul>
  21. 21. Theories <ul><li>Freudian and neo-Freudian </li></ul><ul><li>Object Relations </li></ul><ul><li>Self-Psychology </li></ul><ul><li>Jungian </li></ul><ul><li>Transpersonal </li></ul><ul><li>Empirical </li></ul><ul><li>Neuroscience </li></ul>
  22. 22. Freud <ul><li>Religion/ Spirituality an “illusion” that people would outgrow </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Religious beliefs derived from the child’s earliest experience of helplessness </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Religion is comparable to a childhood neurosis </li></ul></ul>
  23. 23. Freud’s Contribution: Enormous <ul><li>Model of ego, id, super-ego </li></ul><ul><li>Discovery of the unconscious </li></ul><ul><li>Unconscious conflicts within the psyche with origins in childhood </li></ul><ul><li>Phenomenon of transference and counter transference </li></ul><ul><li>Methods of access to the unconscious </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Dreams </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Slips of the tongue </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Free association </li></ul></ul>
  24. 24. From the perspective of Spirituality <ul><li>I would reject the global reductionism of religion/ spirituality to neurosis or pathology </li></ul><ul><li>However, his work alerts us to spirituality that is either all pathology or a mix of reality and pathology </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We need a critical approach (discernment) vis a vis spiritual teachings that dehumanize, diminish, or distort human flourishing </li></ul></ul>
  25. 25. Modifications of Freud <ul><li>Theory of instincts of sex and aggression within a self-contained autonomous (male) psyche revised in Freud’s followers </li></ul><ul><li>Interest in normal growth and development rather than pathology in Ego psychology </li></ul>
  26. 26. Erickson, Mahler, Anna Freud, Hartman <ul><li>Mahler emphasized the importance of the mother in normal development displacing Freud’s need for protection and dependence on the father. </li></ul><ul><li>God representations and “oceanic experience” are more accurately rooted in the maternal </li></ul><ul><li>Mahler also stressed that dependence is not restricted to childhood and not necessarily always regressed in an adult </li></ul>
  27. 27. Spiritually <ul><li>These theories support the need for both males and females to relate to God through maternal imagery </li></ul><ul><li>Religious belief can be a fulfillment of some people’s adult dependency needs </li></ul><ul><li>Erickson’s basic trust also suggests a non-pathological basis for faith </li></ul><ul><ul><li>His theories have been favored as a dialogue partner with spirituality despite critiques of his schema as demonstrating a male bias </li></ul></ul>
  28. 28. Object Relations <ul><li>Winnicott, Milner, Stern, Mitchell, Kernburg, Bowlby and Stone Center Psyhologists have shifted to the inherent relationality of human development </li></ul><ul><li>Humans are relational by design, by intent, and by implication. </li></ul>
  29. 29. Stephen Mitchell <ul><li>...human beings are simultaneously self regulating and field regulating... concerned with both the creation and maintenance of a relatively stable, coherent sense of self out of the continual ebb and flow of perception, and affect, and the creation and maintenance of dependable, sustaining connections with others, both in actuality and as internal presences. The dialectic between self-definition and connection with others is complex and intricate, with one or the other sometimes being more prominent. Self-regulatory and field regulatory processes sometimes enhance each other and sometimes are at odds with each other, forming the basis for powerful conflicts. The intrapsychic and the interpersonal are continually interpenetrating realms, each with its own set of processes, mechanisms, and concerns. (1988, 35) </li></ul>
  30. 30. Kohut’s Self-Psychology <ul><li>Draws attention to primary narcissism as potentially developmental. </li></ul><ul><li>The parents’ admiring “mirroring” of the child’s perfection as the child idealizes the perfect parent. </li></ul><ul><li>The self object provides an empathic function </li></ul><ul><li>Narcissism is developmental rather than a personality disorder. </li></ul>
  31. 31. Some scholars in spirituality <ul><li>Draw on self psychology to show how significant experiences in prayer can be therapeutic by repairing damage to the self through empathic mirroring. </li></ul><ul><li>Mary Frohlic, CTU </li></ul><ul><li>Kevin Gillespie </li></ul>
  32. 32. Object Relations: DW Winnicott <ul><li>Observations based on mother child interactions </li></ul><ul><li>Theory about these interactions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Facilitating environment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Holding environment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Transitional objects </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Transitional phenomena </li></ul></ul>
  33. 33. Winicott’s theories <ul><li>have been particularly helpful for ways of understanding religion and religious phenomenon in positive ways </li></ul><ul><li>Good enough mother becomes a presence the child can internalized or maintain through a symbolic object </li></ul><ul><li>The space between them allows room for their interaction– self and other can be differentiated and discovered </li></ul>
  34. 34. “Space Between” <ul><li>Grounds the capacity to be alone which first happens in the presence of another and a place for play </li></ul><ul><li>Winnicott generalizes it to realms of creativity and culture </li></ul><ul><li>Meissner, Eigen, and Ulanov </li></ul>
  35. 35. Michael Eigen <ul><li>Uses concept of transitional phenomenon but also </li></ul><ul><li>The “incommunicado core of the self” the location of the sacred </li></ul><ul><li>The necessary “unintegration” that allows new experiences to emerge </li></ul>
  36. 36. Meissner applied this transitional phenomena to <ul><li>Faith </li></ul><ul><li>God-representations </li></ul><ul><li>Symbols </li></ul><ul><li>prayer </li></ul>
  37. 37. Ann Ulanov <ul><li>“ Finding Space: Winnicott, God, and Psychic Reality” (2001) </li></ul><ul><li>Richly describes experience of religion as taking place in the spaces between subjectivity and objectivity that require us to move back and forth between them in order to experience the living God (as real object) and ourselves growing into this relationship (through projection, communal images, and artistic representations) </li></ul>