Greetings of Peace. This blog contains selections from my correspondence and other sources on a variety of subjects related to religion, philosophy, and spirituality. I hope that they may be of benefit to the interested reader. Concerning the title of the blog, read this entry.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Psychotherapy and Tradition

Thank you for providing with the helpful video by Rama Coomaraswamy and also for your inquires which happen to coincide with my own present line of thought concerning psychotherapy. Our society is not founded upon traditional principles including a knowledge of the reality of God and the orientation of life toward the achievement of salvation. As such, all occupations that are provided within it, excluding work for religious organizations and certain teaching professions which I have excluded as a self-imposed limitation, are subject to a secularized world-view and aims that are primarily psychological, material, and social in nature. I have accepted this situation as the condition in which I would be carrying out any activity if I am to live and work within our society.

As far as my chosen profession is concerned, I am interested in entering into the field of counseling psychology with the particular occupation of psychotherapy which essentially involves sitting down with people on an individual basis and helping them to give full consideration to their problems and undertake suitable steps to solve those problems. Most of these will be of a psychological, physical, and social nature and can be dealt with using the variety of techniques and internal and external resources at my disposal.

In this work I will encounter a variety of different clients, some who are religious and some who are not. For those who possess faith in God and are concerned with immortality, therapy can be based upon a mutual understanding of the full condition of the human being as Spirit, Soul, and Body. For those who are not, their receptivity to this perspective will be limited and it will be my job to communicate with them in such a fashion that they will not be resistant to the therapeutic process, even if it means limiting the explicit communication of certain ideas that may be valuable under other circumstances. As an individual, my knowledge of the human condition, my method and its intended effect will always be informed by traditional principles, regardless of whether or not I am actually giving voice to them. I believe that this the best that can be done under existing circumstances. In short, the process will always be rooted in tradition, whether or not the client is aware of it. It is impossible in any case to directly cause faith to blossom in someone's heart. That is ultimately a choice that rests with them. All we can do, in a profession such as this, is to set up the the best conditions possible for that to happen and provide the best guidance and direction that we possible can.

By not wanting to infringe upon the domain of tradition I was concerned specifically with not usurping the role of the shaykh. Traditional psychotherapy is not necessarily something that is practiced as an isolated science like modern psychotherapy, but a process that occurs organically through one's relations with the shaykh, his teachings and methods. If I encounter a person who is spiritually inclined and who desires guidance on the spiritual path, I feel equipped to assist them in obtaining such guidance while overcoming psychological obstacles to its achievement, but not in administering such guidance myself. In this as in all problems, you can only lead someone to the door. It is they who must make the decision ultimately to take it or not.

Just to give you an example of basing therapy on traditional principles without talking directly about them, consider my own problem of deciding upon a career. If someone asks me how they can determine what kind of work they should pursue, I can provide them with the three criteria that I worked out and that Schumacher teaches. These are essentially based upon the biblical injunction, "Whichever gift each of you may have received, use it in service to one another, like good stewards dispensing the grace of God in its varied forms." (1 Peter 4:10) These criterion of good work are firmly rooted in the perspective of tradition but, without necessarily drawing attention to this for those who are at present resistant to tradition, it is possible for them to apply and benefit from them.

I realize, like Coomaraswamy said, that most people will be entering into therapy to solve practical problems pertaining to the psychological, physical, and social domains. By resolving these problems, they will be in a better position from which to consider their most important spiritual needs. At that point I can only offer to introduce them to that domain by continuing therapy with the discussion of the fundamental considerations of human life, meaning, and purpose. It is up to them to accept that offer and consider these needs, and their frequent refusal to do so is one of the limitations of the profession that I am willing to accept.

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