At our core, we are spiritual beings as well as embodied ones. Being bumped around by life can leave us feeling adrift spiritually, questioning any beliefs or relationship with God we may have had. Feeling disconnected in this way may be one of the most distressing ways to live … and we don’t have to live this way.
About 1600 years ago, the great Bishop of Hippo, St. Augustine, wrote, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee” (Confessions).
Throughout human history, we have longed for a connection with the Transcendent, something or Someone, beyond what our eyes could behold or our ears could hear – beyond the realm of our physical senses. As a Christian psychologist/psychoanalyst, I could not agree more with St. Augustine. In fact, as I work with individuals struggling with addictions or destructive habits, I realize that many are turning to substances or experiences that attempt to fill this void. I do not believe that it is coincidental that the first of the Ten Commandments handed down 3500 years ago states, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3 NIV). Other “gods” are not sturdy enough to bear the full weight of our human existence.
The experience of Spiritual Direction has, for many hundreds of years, assisted people in their spiritual journeys, inviting men and women to discover or re-discover an authentic relationship with God. When completing my training as a psychologist, my cohorts and I were required to be involved in two forms of therapy. One of mine was psychoanalysis, but the other was spiritual direction. I found it to be uncanny that many of the issues I discussed in analysis about my human relationships were mirrored in my spiritual direction sessions regarding my relationship with God.
Many, however, have been deeply wounded in their relationships with God. Some feel abandoned by God, ignored by God, even persecuted or hated by God. Others doubt whether God even exists, or if God does exist, whether the form that God takes is even something remotely similar to what humanity has embraced for thousands of years.
Many have been wounded by the church or their religious community and want nothing to do with “religion” because of those painful experiences. When men and women ordained to speak for God act in ways unbecoming, disrespectful, arrogant, demeaning, or abusive, they can easily alienate people not only from their spiritual communities, but from God as well.
You may wonder how therapy or analysis might help at all with this. It might just be that some of your issues with God are tied to painful experiences with others who have been charged with your care or who have been in positions of authority over you. It is important to tease apart what it is that we have transferred onto God that rightly belongs elsewhere. Our work together might also give you space to grieve and face together painful existential realities. We are limited. We do suffer. We will endure loss. We will age and face death. Many of us may, in hopeless frustration, rage at God because of these realities. We can only partially account for why so much pain and suffering and evil exist in the world. In therapy/analysis, we struggle to put words to feelings that seem to have no name, and so to untangle the knot within us, to find peace in the midst of the storm.