It is not only our thoughts that block the natural flow of positive energy. It is also a lack of attention to physical and spiritual concerns, that can be an obstacle to achieving sustainable psychological well-being. For example, I have encouraged meditation, contemplation, and yoga as adjuncts to addressing client needs.
While a religious communal environment can provide important support, it is one’s own spiritual belief system that is pivotal in times of crisis. There are lessons to be learned from both Eastern and Western philosophical/spiritual traditions.
With regard to the former, books such as Tao Te Ching contain much practical guidance to assist us in both understanding and addressing our personal needs. Western spiritual texts can be important sources of wisdom as well. The spiritual mystics from both traditions challenge us to reflect deeply on our engrained or automatic reflexive thought patterns. The allegorical interpretations derived from reading spiritual literature often offer a key to understanding what appropriate action may be beneficial in the prevailing circumstances.
Existential well-being – a sense that one’s life has meaning and purpose – is also an important ingredient to achieving a sense of self that can help form a foundation for growth and development. I believe the therapeutic process should be a holistic one, addressing body, mind, and spirit; a balanced approach.
Each client’s personal challenges have likely been faced and often resolved by those who have preceded them. A sense of Universality- our connection with all of humanity – can be an important ingredient to understanding one’s problems. Carl Jung’s concept of the Collective Unconscious and the Archetypal Patterns of experience excellently articulated by Joseph Campbell’s “The Power of Myth” underscore this powerful bond. Lessons derived from these sources can help one feel more connected and accepted and less alone. In the end, it is the self in all its aspects that needs to be addressed. We are all unique in some regard, but also part of the universal human experience. The therapeutic process works best when this is recognized and valued.
Many theoreticians and practitioners have said that spiritual growth can be, for some people, the key to overall mental health. In many respects, I endorse this suggestion. We are part of something much bigger than ourselves. If we can acknowledge this connection with others it can help ameliorate and overcome a sense of isolation, aloneness, and despair.