Showing posts with label Spirituality. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spirituality. Show all posts

Thursday, December 17, 2020

What is your interior spiritual life like?


What is the good life?

Recent science offers a fresh view of depression as a developmental process, especially in light of what we know about natural spirituality, its development, and its relationship with mental health in adolescence. As we know from the science of the spiritual brain and the adolescent surge: 

• Natural spirituality burgeons by 50 percent in adolescence. The transcendent faculty is kicking in during this window of genetic expression. 

• Once spirituality surges, harnessing it into a transcendent relationship is more protective against depression than anything known to medical or social sciences. 

• Spiritual individuation helps build relationships based on commitment and love and work based upon calling. This is a blueprint for a life of thriving, meaning, and purpose.

Miller, Dr. Lisa. The Spiritual Child (p. 277). St. Martin's Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

A few years ago I had a 17 year old male client who was in twelfth grade, failing all his courses even though he had been on high honor roll, experimenting with drugs and alcohol, defiant of his parents rules, staying out all night, etc.

I had met with him three times at his parent’s insistence although he had no use for counseling and even further had a disrespectful, scoffing, and ridiculing attitude toward me and therapy. In our third session, not knowing what else to do, and maybe inspired by the Holy Spirit I asked him an impertinent question I had never asked a client before. Out of the blue I said, “So Jake, what is your interior spiritual life like?”

Jake looked at me stunned and like I had three heads. His whole demeanor changed. He became pensive, the cocky, know-it-all attitude immediately changed and after a few moments of silence and stuttering he finally said, “I don’t know. That’s a really good question.”

We were at the end of our meeting time, and for the first time he said he wanted to make another appointment and come back. When we got together the next time, he had given the question a great deal of thought, and he told me he wanted to finish up high school even though it was “bull shit” and go to a college in the midwest. I saw him a couple of times and his parents told me they were amazed at his change, positively, in his attitude and behavior.

I told this story to my adult daughter and she said, “Dad, nobody talks with teenagers about what is really important to them in life. The whole question of ‘what is the good life?’ never gets discussed. You’d think it would be #1 on the curriculum wouldn’t you?”

Yes, you would. It is interesting how adults have abdicated this role of discussing what is the good life to advertisers, marketers, and drug dealers.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Problems can have multiple dimensions: physical, psychological, social, spiritual

Andrea was insecure and this is what Greg loved about her. Greg believed that Andrea would love him because he could take care of her and make her feel safe. As Andrea felt more secure and confident, Greg became increasingly anxious and depressed. Greg went to see his doctor who told him he was suffering from depression and gave him antidepressant medication. The medication helped a little bit, but Greg still felt "off" as Andrea seemed to be doing well and didn't need him anymore.

Greg's doctor told him his neurotransmitters were not working properly and were flooded with Serotonin. Whatever the cause, Greg was not feeling much better and decided to see a psychotherapist. The therapist asked Greg after a few meetings if Greg thought that maybe he was suffering from a spiritual problem? Greg responded that he had no idea what the therapist was asking him. What kind of a spiritual problem could it be?

The therapist offered the idea that Greg was dealing with a sense of shame, a sense of innate defectiveness and inadequacy which he tried to overcome by taking care of, what Greg called "love", people so that they would love him back.

Greg acknowledged that this unconscious dynamic may be at play. The therapist then asked Greg where he thought this sense of inadequacy and defectiveness had come from? Greg said he had felt this way since he was a child and his mom and dad divorced when he was three and he missed his father and his mother started drinking and leaving him with a sitter to go out with other men. Greg said that he always wished his mom and dad loved him more and were there for him. He found that by being very good and trying to be helpful seemed to make his mom and dad like him better. Greg said that maybe his whole life was based on a belief that if he was nice to people they would like him so he has striven his whole life to be what his best friend called "being a people pleaser."

The therapist suggested that his whole life has been based on this belief that he is inadequate and defective in some way and that he would be all alone unless he was able to take care of and please other people. The therapist asked if this was the basis of his "love" for Andrea? Now that she was more secure and confident rather than being happy for her, Greg was getting fearful and depressed believing that Andrea wouldn't need him any more and leave him?

Greg started to cry and said, "I'm really messed up, aren't I?"

The therapist said, "Not at all. You are perfect just the way you are, you're just learning that Life wants you to be happy and have a high quality life just because you are alive and part of this wonderful universe."

Greg smiled and said, "Thank you."

The spiritual problem is one of shame which is the innate belief and feeling that we are inadequate and defective in some way. Further we think that it is only a matter or time and circumstances before this supposed fact comes to light and we are found out to be the shameful creatures which we believe we are. As Christians tell us we all our sinners if not for what we have done, at least because of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden for which Jesus died on the cross to assuage the anger of the Father God who is mad about our disobedience.

This belief in our sinful natures which requires sacrifice and suffering for exoneration and redemption is the Great Lie of the ego. The spiritual fact is that God loves us unconditionally and it is we, humans, who create our own guilt and hell because we have separated ourselves from the unconditional love of God by our willfulness and drama.

If we could overcome and rise above our own drama, we could create heaven on earth. Greg has created his own hell believing that he is unworthy and can only be whole if he sacrifices and suffers, what he calls "love.". Nothing could be further from the Truth and it is Greg's false spiritual belief which has placed him in his own hell. Heaven, however, is within his grasp once he realizes that he is okay and will be okay just the way he is. He is loved by his Creator.


Monday, February 27, 2017

The examined life is the beginning of a spiritual life

James Fowler has described a model of the development of faith. Readers were encouraged to assess their own level of faith. It was speculated that most people who were reading the article would be at least at stage 4, Individuative-Reflective, where a person is struggling with his/her religious beliefs. At this stage, the person is genuinely questioning his/her religious beliefs and the person becomes aware of conflicts and paradoxes and begins to doubt. At this stage many people "lose their faith" and traditional religious churches are threatened and suppress the expression of these doubts with many tactics. Often, the doubter drops away and stops attending the church and gives up the faith that the person was raised in.

Mainline churches are losing members and many sit mostly empty on Sunday mornings with only a handful of attendees most of whom are over 50. On Pew, and other surveys, increasingly Americans report that they have no religious affiliation and the "nones" as a group is rapidly growing in the United States as it has in Europe. The percentage of Americans who now say they have no religious affiliation is at 23% and is higher in younger age groups with Millennials at 36%. For more click here. Increasingly people say that they are "spiritual" but not "religious," but many seem to have some difficulty describing what this means other than that they do not participate in any organized religion.

If people are identifying as "spiritual" rather than "religious" what does this mean for them and for our society? If a person is to progress in his/her spiritual life to move up Fowler's stages of faith development what can a person do?

Spiritual health is a comprehensive idea which includes body, mind, spirit, and what some people call the shadow or the unconscious. The model is very rich in possibilities for spiritual development. In this article we will focus on the mind and the shadow. We will do this by asking what appears to be a very simple question but actually is very deep if a person wishes to explore what makes him/her tick. The question is: If you have or will have children of your own, how would you raise them the same and differently from the way you were raised?

We all grow up in our family of origin from which we inherit, at first unconsciously, but hopefully as one spiritually matures, consciously, our psychological legacy which is made up of the values, beliefs, opinions, practices, and rules of our family of origin. We realize as latency age children that there is the Smith way of doing things, the Pakula way of doing things, and the Vacarelli way of doing things. As children and young adults we assume, not consciously being aware, that this is just how things are, the way things are done.

When we consider having or have children of our own, we now have to decide, if we are conscious, whether we want to pass these values, opinions, beliefs, practices, and rules on to our children or do we want to chose some different values, opinions, beliefs, practices, and rules. Some of these values, opinions, beliefs, practices, and rules, we may decide were good for us and we want to pass them on to our children, and other of these values, opinions, beliefs, practices, and rules were abusive, or unjust in some ways and we tell ourselves, "I am not treating and raising my kids the same way I was raised." The degree to which a person makes these conscious choices is the degree to which a person is psychologically and spiritually mature.

In making these conscious choices, one might ask how these decisions are made? How does a person decide what a good life consists of and how it should be lived? Some of the information and criteria may come from reflection on the person's lived experience and the lessons he/she has learned, often the hard way, from suffering as well as from satisfying achievements and experiences. Socrates said that an unexamined life is not worth living. Are you living an examined life? If so, what are the practices that you utilize to engage in this practice? Some people journal. Some people talk with family and friends in an intentional way about their questions and concerns. Some engage in social support groups whether it is clubs, organizations, churches, AA, classes of one sort or another, etc. Some seek out professional assistance whether it is psychotherapy, pastoral counseling, and/or spiritual reading.

When it is appropriate I sometimes ask my friends and clients, "What is your interior spiritual life like?" I am always pleasantly surprised with answers I receive. There are many other questions which we don't ask in polite company, but maybe we should like "Why do you think you were born?" "What do you believe is the purpose of your life?" "What gives your life meaning?" "What do you think happens when you die?" Lately, I have been asking people who are entering their second adulthood, 50 - 80+, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

These questions, unfortunately, are rarely asked in churches because churches try to provide institutional understandings and answers to these questions often based on some text that is claimed to be the authoritative word of god. In our postmodern age, this doesn't work any more for increasingly numbers of people who have moved on to stage 4 and 5 in Fowler's stages of faith model. Religions have not kept up with the evolution of our human consciousness. Many people at stage 5 would say, "My god is too big for any one religion."

If you considering developing some deliberate spiritual practice to enhance your spiritual life, you might consider describing your psychological legacy. What were the values, opinions, beliefs, practices, and rules you were brought up with. To what extent has your psychological legacy become conscious for you? To the extent that your psychological legacy has become conscious, what have you decided to keep and what have you decided to change? Journal about this or find someone to discuss it with for at least 60 minutes over the coming week. This may become an ongoing part of your spiritual practice to which you devote yourself on a regular and continuing basis. This reflection and consequent change in thinking and behavior will improve the quality of your life.

The pursuit of spiritual development involves more than just individual effort. It requires social support. What social resources nurture spiritual development since churches no longer seem to meet people's needs for spiritual growth in our postmodern world?