Can Spirituality and Psychology Coexist?
Let’s say I walked into a psychology conference and as they were introducing the next speaker, who was scheduled to give a talk on, say, how to reprogram memory cells in the brain, I stood up and took over. And instead of talking about the brain, I gave a talk that touched on transcendence, the spirit realm, the divine feminine, and mindfulness. What kinds of reactions do you think I would get from that audience of psychologists?
The opposite is also true. Let’s say I walked into a metaphysical retreat, where a dozen people were getting ready to be guided through a group meditation. And I told them that I would get to the meditation in a second, but before I did, I wanted to spend some time talking about the science of brain injury, aging cells, nanoparticles, and brain diseases. What kind of reaction could I expect from those people?
I’m probably not going to be making any friends in either case, right? And it's not just because of my bait-and-switch approach to sharing information. It's because psychology and spirituality are seen as two very different things - almost as though they’re mutually exclusive. There is a division between hard science and the “woo woo” world.
So — can these two very different fields coexist? I certainly believe so.
I’ve been into psychology for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until I had terrible postpartum depression after my daughter was born and I realized that science alone couldn’t help me that I began to integrate my spiritual beliefs into psychological practices and had incredible results.
And now my life’s work is centred around blending metaphysical approaches with more traditional psychology-based modalities in order to help other women live their best, most authentically aligned lives.
I’m endlessly fascinated with how the human mind works. Why do we think the things we think? Why do we say the things we say? Why do we do the things we do? And why do we believe the things we believe?
Those questions drive a lot of my own research, my deep, provocative questioning into these topics. And what I’ve found is that, as much as I wish the answers could be plucked out of a scientific study that tells us how the brain works, there’s so much more to us, as people, than science can explain.
Both of these fields - psychology and spirituality - offer an incredible depth of knowledge, and to dismiss either one of them means doing ourselves a big disservice. I’ve spent the past few years studying, listening to lectures, reading every book I could get my hands on in both fields, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s immense power in blending the two for self-development and personal growth.
And yet, the fields are populated with people at very different ends of the "belief vs reason" spectrum. You’ve got your academics, who perceive spirituality as esoteric, not scientifically quantifiable, and in no way to be given any credence. And then you’ve got spiritual gurus, many of whom frown upon the heavily researched, traditional medicine based science and psychology approach.
Here’s a bit of interesting trivia for you. The word “psychology” comes from the Greek: “psyche” is the word for “mind” or “soul”, and “logos” means study. So we’re talking about the study of the mind or the soul. Modern psychology is preoccupied with the study of the mind, and completely ignores the soul. Spirituality, on the other hand, focuses on the soul — it’s a tool of transcendence, used to achieve self-development and personal growth. So it helps us go beyond the analytical mind and allows for unseen experiences to have their place in what’s happening to us.
In my opinion, I don’t think we could ever really understand ourselves if we don’t dive deep into both of these fields. Studying the mind allows us to rationalize and ground ourselves in logic and science based understanding. Studying the soul transcends rational thought - which doesn’t make it better than psychology - it just makes it different.
I find that most people are looking for one simple, straightforward, unambiguous answer to life’s questions… but life isn’t that black-and-white. Even as you go through your day-to-day life, there are certain experiences that require you to use your mind, your logical, your rational nature. And there are others that require you to go with your gut, your intuition, and a level of unexplainable knowing. Having both of these options at your disposal allows you to choose between them at any given time, which gives you greater flexibility as you go through your life, and allows you to take action properly. But you can only do that when you allow for the possibility of both science-based decision making, and spiritually-based approaches as you go through your life.
We also have to acknowledge that trauma from the past can have such a deep impact on a person’s psyche that it can interfere with their spiritual growth if not properly treated. This is where modern psychologists and psychiatrists are paramount. I don’t think there’s any amount of spiritual work a person can do on themselves if they haven’t properly dealt with those issues.
So, yes, I wholeheartedly believe that spirituality and psychology can coexist - and not just coexist, but complement each other beautifully as we seek to understand ourselves, and the world around us.
So now it’s your turn. How do you feel about the intersection between psychology and spirituality? Let me know in the comments below!