In our Western culture, we have been taught to get rid of our symptoms rather than attempt to resolve the underlying causes of our issues. Television ads abound with this message. Feeling depressed? Take a pill. Overly fearful or anxious? Take a pill. Trouble sleeping? Take a pill. We have grown accustomed to medicating ourselves to try to eliminate any discomfort we may be feeling.
Instead of utilizing the medical model to treat our ailments, however, a spiritual approach requires us to explore in more depth our emotional wounds and tend to them from a different perspective. We examine our symptoms with curiosity and attempt to understand what they may be trying to tell us.
For those who are interested in deepening their spirituality in the psychotherapeutic setting, selecting a therapist who has experience working from a spiritual perspective is an important first step. In addition, a number of techniques can be utilized with this type of approach:
- Be open and curious about your symptoms. Try to determine what messages they may be trying to communicate to you. Consider if there is anything you may be able to learn from the experience you are going through.
- Take a humble approach. If you are struggling with any type of relationship issue, think about ways in which you may be contributing to the problem rather than focusing on the other person’s behaviors or blaming them. Are there changes you can make that might improve the situation? Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes to attempt to understand their point of view.
- Keep track of your dreams. Doing dreamwork and exploring other symbolic material in therapy can be an effective method of reconnecting with your inner world and bringing more meaning into your life. The imagery presented through dreams and active imagination techniques can be used to help discover deeper, underlying issues that may not otherwise surface.
- Use mindfulness. Try to become more aware of your inner state of being and notice any emotions, thoughts, and sensations as they arise. Try to gradually practice this type of awareness for longer periods of time throughout the day. You might initially start for just 10 minutes twice a day, then set reminders at various times to bring you back to the present moment and focus back in on whatever is coming up. Try to avoid getting attached to the thoughts or feelings; just take note of them as you might do when watching clouds drift by overhead.
- Look at your wounding as a gateway to a deeper spiritual state. Our emotions can help open the door to unaddressed core beliefs and suffering that we have been carrying around, perhaps since childhood. We learn to hide these emotional wounds behind elaborate defense mechanisms that we wear like armor everywhere we go. Our symptoms, however, can actually be used to bypass these outer defenses in order to gain access to our innermost being—a place from which profound healing and transformation can occur. We can then begin to reconnect with ourselves as well as with others from a deep, soul level.
Although utilizing a medical model to treat psychological wounds may at times be necessary due to the severity or overwhelming nature of some symptoms, exploring our suffering from a spiritual perspective can enable us to get in touch with a deeper, more meaningful reality. From this vantage point, we can begin to relate to the world around us from a place of connection, rather than one of separateness and isolation. The healing that occurs at this level can have a life-changing effect for those willing to undertake the journey.
© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Wendy Salazar, MFT, therapist in San Diego, California
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