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Psychology is treatment, spirituality is experience

The difference between psychology and spirituality can be difficult to detect at first sight, because both of them deal with human interiority, its contents and its dynamics, or, we can even say, they are human interiority. One may wonder, for example: if someone feels uncomfortable because they struggle to find a meaning to their life, is their condition to be considered mostly a psychological matter or rather an essentially spiritual one? This question can guide us to distinguish psychology from spirituality. It contains two main references: meaning of life and discomfort. In front of them, psychology will address how to resolve the state of discomfort, while spirituality will address the inner experience created by relating ourselves with the sense of our life. I’d like to point out that I haven’t said that spirituality tries to understand the meaning of life: spirituality is not mainly reflection, but experience above all; it does not deal so much with understanding what the meaning of life is, but rather with living the inner experience that meaning of life arouses within us.

Coming back to our discussion on finding the differences, it comes up that psychology is not about finding a meaning for life: this is a job of philosophy; psychology does not pay attention to the inner experience as such; it is more concerned about the distress and the well-being of the person. In this sense it is helpful to note that, from the point of view of the research they make, psychology is like a child of medicine, while spirituality is a child of philosophy. Freud, who is considered the father of psychology, was at first a neurologist who treated his patients and tried to restore their inner well-being.

Unfortunately we can very easily run into people or texts that deal with spirituality presenting it primarily as a way to welfare and happiness. At this point we can understand that this is precisely a clear sign of deception, or ignorance, or falsehood. If the cultivation of a certain spirituality takes happiness and well-being as its fundamental objective, it means that it lacks critical sense, which means that it is not a child of philosophy. Spirituality, in this context, is quite comparable to literature, music, arts: they are practiced at first not for health or happiness, but because they are appreciated as opportunities for growth, enrichment, knowledge. In this sense, it may well happen that artistic experience can even cause discomfort, pain and nevertheless it is chosen and practiced because it is considered a source of cultural enrichment. We can think, for example, of certain pessimistic texts on the meaning of life, like the books written by the philosopher Emil Cioran. Actually, this topic can be bent, by arguing that we read such texts because of the inner well-being that they produce in us by giving us a degree of awareness of getting closer to what we believe being the truth. However, this is nothing but the result of the fact that any topic can always be bent in such a way to make it fit into a perspective. Besides, in this discussion on the difference between psychology and spirituality, we are aware of moving through perspectives; the difference here is that we maintain an awareness of the relativity of any perspective. In fact we are not claiming to separate psychology from spirituality with a clean break, but to take advantage of our question to know them better and make a better experience of them.

Psychology and spirituality can also intertwine and give rise to psychology of spirituality and, conversely, spirituality of psychology. In the first case we have the study of how the practice of spirituality can create well-being or problems to the person, in the second case we will have a research on how attention to psychology can be an experience that can enriches our inner life and give it gains in terms of meanings of existence.

It should be noted that psychology doesn’t deal with those who are ill only: it is also able to deal with the internal dynamics of people, regardless of the research on how to make them feel better. For example, psychology studies certain mechanisms that are triggered by being children of a father and a mother, regardless of any consideration about the related comfort or discomfort. From this point of view, psychology and spirituality are very closely intertwined and difficult to disentangle from each other; I see no difficulty, in this regard, at admitting that, in some particular senses, psychology and spirituality are completely melted, they are precisely the same thing; obviously, the differences emerge once our search gets more detailed: psychology will take, for example, the way of deepening certain behavioral dynamics linked to being children, while spirituality will be interested in how being children can be an occasion for meditation, silence; in any case, it seems clear that, like in everything in this world, there are specific, particular points of contact between psychology and spirituality, where they merge till becoming even exactly the same thing.

Hello, everyone. This video is part of the post for “Difference between psychology and spirituality”.

Now, in addition to what I already said in the post, we will consider some similarities. An essential similarity is creativity. How are psychology and spirituality similar, how are they similar about creativity? I already mentioned that spirituality is connected with creativity in the post “Narrate, not hope” and in the video for the post “Difference between religion and spirituality”.

Now, about the relationship between spirituality and psychology, we will consider a specific aspect of psychology. There is a kind of psychology, an orientation, a way of organizing research and treatment of the patient in psychology. This orientation is called, with a German word, psychology of the Gestalt. What is Gestalt? This German word means “shape”, “form”, or we can say “representation”.
This word means that Gestalt is the way the patient figures his life, his reality, his conceptions, his problems, whatever it is. What’s the importance of this? The importance is in that the psychologist who follows this methodology, when they have to deal with the patient, instead of framing the patient in a specific psychological view and instead of thinking “Oh, you are this kind of person, you belong to these categories, you have this kind of personality”, we understand that this way of proceeding frames, puts the patient like in a cage, putting like a label on his forehead: “You are this”. This means that this way the psychology, the psychologist is not really putting attention to the person, who he is having in front of him, because this way the psychologist, from then on, is, to a great extent, listening to his frame rather than to the person. So, instead, the psychology of Gestalt tries to be more open. The psychology of Gestalt assumes that the psychologist does not know who the patient is, the psychologist does not know what the problem is. So, the psychologist starts from an a position of, we can say, of ignorance and all of his experience and all of his studies need to be reorganized, rebuilt, in order to be adapted to the specific case that the psychologist has in front of him or her. So, the psychologist thinks “I don’t know, I need to rethink all the things that I know”. Every case is, to a great extent, new, so the psychologist needs to adapt himself, his thoughts, his schemes to the new person that is in front of them.

Now, as we said, or going to say, this has to do with creativity, because this way the psychologist needs, as I said, to rebuild, to recreate new schemes, new paradigms, new ideas to really understand, to really figure what kind of personality, what kind of patient he is facing in front of him. So, we can realize this way that creativity and listening are strictly connected. So, the psychologist who is listening, really listening to the patient, is creating new schemes, new frames, new ideas to adapt and to understand the patient. Vice versa, the person who is creating these new frames, is really listening, because this way he is really putting attention to the person, to the new person that they have in front of them.

Now we can consider another aspect of these two things that are connected, creativity, listening and the fact that they make spirituality and psychology similar because of this adoption of the Gestalt in psychology. Another element is that the fact of listening, the action of listening and being attentive to adapt our frames, our mentality to the person that is in front of us, this is of great importance about society, because we know that our existence, our personality, our feeling immersed in a living world, that is society, has to do with listening. We know that the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said that the other people are the hell, because other people have this instinct, like we said the psychologist, to frame us inside their frames. So, when I meet not only the psychologist, but anybody, Sartre said “I feel in a cage, in the cage of the frames of the other person”. But now we see that, by putting in practice this spirituality of listening and spirituality of creativity, we are not anymore just the hell to other people because of our framing the other person inside our categories, our mentality, but, instead, we can become those people who help the other person to exist, because I feel myself existing when I see that people think about me and they adapt their thought according to how I perceive myself and we grow all together, so I feel that society makes me exist.

Together with this, we can say spirituality makes me exist because, if in a society everybody makes a work to practice this kind of listening and creating our understanding of the other person, this means that in this kind of society we let each other exist, we help each other to exist, to build our identity, our personality. So this becomes a resource of spirituality, rather than the problem that Sartre said.

That’s it. So this is what I wanted to show this time with this video: this similarity that makes spirituality and psychology similar, both creative, both listening and both helping to be growing people, existing people, people feeling their existence, thanks to the person that is in front of us. So, see you in next videos. I invite you to the website Spiritual Study and there is the forum available to express your ideas, to be active and to be present, to express yourself. See you next time.