Is it possible to combine Spirituality and Psychology?

Woman practicing yoga on pier
Woman practicing yoga on pier

This month’s article was inspired by the thoughts of Dr. Itai Ivtzan, a positive psychologist, in a recent Huffington Post article. Why was I inspired by this concept?

I remember teaching Psychology a few years ago and there was one model called ‘Parapsychology’. I absolutely loved it! The idea of Pseudo psychology fascinated me. It led to the most interesting class discussions as many of the concepts were quite difficult for some students to wrap their heads around, understandably so. What is a pseudo-science? It is a discipline that cannot be falsified (as well as many more specifications that I won’t go into now). One of the participants who completed this month’s poll left this quote, “Hidden or not, God is present” by Erasmus (popularized by Carl Jung). Using this idea, even if we can’t prove certain Spiritual concepts don’t they still exist?

spirituality vs psychologySubjective or not, 100% of the people who completed this month’s poll all said it was possible to combine the two. This is why I believe you can!

Who we are is not just one entity. We are made up of numerous ‘parts’ that continuously dance and flow amongst one another. One of these many parts I call the ego. The ego (the lower mind/the mind) is part of who we are. It is made up of all the belief systems that society has conditioned you to believe over your life span. These belief systems have been thought for so long that they have formed neurological traces within the synapses of your neural network. This is important to understand because a great deal of who we are is an unconscious, reaction to situations. When we are seeing or processing life through the ego we see the world through these reinforced views. This is the part of us that gravitates to Psychology. Psychology has done a wonderful job at helping us ‘understand’ how the mind works. An example is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which helps us understand how our thoughts create our behaviour. Personally, I take this idea one step further by saying your ‘conditioned’ thoughts create your behaviour.

People often hear me echo the words of Louise Hay, “It is only a thought and a thought can be changed”. Dr. Itai Ivtzan says that awareness is freedom. What an amazing idea. I share with my clients and workshop participants that awareness is always the first step. When you are aware of what your thoughts are, then you can change them.

just_married-wallpaper-1366x768Let’s go one step further still. A Course in Miracles and Louise Hay agree when they say, there are only two main emotions, love and fear. On an unconscious level every one of us has two original source thoughts for all our reactions. They are either, “I am good enough” or “I am not good enough”. These initial source thoughts, I believe, arise when we are really young. Someone says something to you or does something to you and you think, “Ah, they must have said that because who I am isn’t good enough” (as a very basic example). This then becomes your source thought. These source thoughts then lead to unconscious belief systems about yourself e.g. I am not creative enough, I am not intelligent enough, I am not heard etc. No matter what the limiting belief system is it stems from an original source thought created when you were young. This belief system then is reflected in your everyday life from then on as your many daily thoughts. All those thoughts you think every day, you are not even aware of, are affecting you. These thoughts then become emotions.

An example:

Original Source thought – I’m not good enough

belief system – I am not appreciated, I get taken advantage of

daily thought – ‘Obviously I get asked to get the coffee because they think that is the only thing I’m good at’ ‘Why can’t I produce work that is as good as my colleagues’

emotion – Fear ‘Scared of being fired, laughed at, looked down on’

i_love_you_with_all_my_heart-wallpaper-1366x768What about the realm of Spirituality? Yes, we are human and part of being human is that we have an ego. However, I believe we are a spiritual being having a human experience and not a human being have a spiritual experience. Which means that at the core of who we are we are Spirit (heart/ soul/ intuition/ Authentic Self). Your Spirit/ Authentic Self knows that who you are ‘Is good enough’. When you use this as your original source thought, the world before you is reflected very differently. Using Holistic therapy techniques helps people identify who they really are and teaches them how to start to move away from their ego and move more towards their heart.

Why has mindfulness become increasingly popular of late? Well, what it does is move you out of your head and more into your body. This is another aspect of who we are, our body. The body is used to communicate with us what thoughts we are having that are out of alignment with our truth. Once we feel a feeling (based on our original source thought), the more we feel the feeling and think the thought the more the energy of that thought starts to effect the body. Let’s look at ulcers.

Original Source thought – I’m not good enough

belief system – A strong deep fear that you are not good enough

thought – nothing is going well, I do not love myself, I do not approve of what I do, nothing is going right

emotion – Fear … the consequence of staying in this cycle is that your stomach constantly stays in a state of anxiety and starts to ‘eat away at you’ (Louise Hay)

Rev. Robert Meagher recently, after posting the quote below, asked the question, “How important is knowing yourself in spiritual pursuits and practice?”

 “Stopping or being present or practicing awareness may be considered the goal of spiritual practice; like relaxation, a desirable state. But for some the goal is more expansive and presence may be considered merely a necessary preparation. You must know yourself well enough to understand your capacity and your nature. So you can say I am a bear or a cat, a tulip or a daffodil, I am a leader or a helper. Knowing your character is vital to spiritual pursuits and practice. You understand the disguise of your nobody-ness.” (p. 171 of Dharma Sky)

After being involved with the ‘mind of Psychology’ for over 15 years, I started to listen more to my heart. I started to make decisions from my spirit rather than my mind. I opened up my Holistic Psychotherapy practice because I believed that Psychology and Spirituality can work hand in hand.

i_love_you_3-wallpaper-1366x768In my practice I follow the following four steps to healing:

Step one is awareness: Psychological and Spiritual tools are very beneficial in helping one become aware of who they are (on a soul and an ego level) and why they think the way they think.

Step two is acceptance: An essential part of the healing process is love of self. Seeing who you are as an amazing person doing the best that they can. We are human after all. I encourage my clients to always go as slow as the slowest part of them feels comfortable with.

Step three is release: Once you understand your ego and that it has an original source thought of you not being good enough, and you understand that who you are is an incredible person who is ‘perfect, whole and complete’ just the way you are, you can start choosing what you would like to let go of.

Step four is reprogramming: Having let go of the mind you are left with a blank canvas. The white canvas of the heart which knows that the only real emotion is love. Love for yourself. The original source thought of ‘you are good enough’!

Share your story with me 🙂

Bibliography:

  1. The Huffington Post. (2015). Uniting Psychology and Spirituality: Awareness Is Freedom. [online] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tim-ward/uniting-psychology-and-spirituality-awareness-is-freedom_b_6981908.html [Accessed 31 May 2016].
  2. Hay, L. (1987). You can heal your life. Santa Monica, CA: Hay House.

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