Wisdom encompasses possessing a level of knowledge that is acquired through many life experiences and exercising sound judgment and understanding. Hailed as being a product of spiritual or intellectual enlightenment, wisdom is widely regarded as one of the highest virtues a person can attain. In psychotherapy, wisdom is often expected in the role of therapist, and is sought after and cultivated in the person seeking therapy.
Conventional versus Eternal Wisdom
Wisdom appears in different forms. Conventional wisdom, also regarded as commonplace knowledge, generally refers to ideas and beliefs the majority of people in society hold as true. These ideas have not necessarily been researched or explored in any deep, meaningful way; they simply are honored because so many adhere to them.
For example, up until the sixteenth century, conventional wisdom held that the sun and the other planets in the solar system revolved around Earth. The geocentric (Earth-centered) model was considered absolute fact until the Polish mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus came along and proved otherwise with his mathematical model that demonstrated the heliocentric (sun-centered) truth.
It is largely believed that there is another form of wisdom, often referred to as eternal wisdom, which transcends time, culture, and physical experience. This wisdom is spoken of and written about in various religions and philosophies; and though it may be seen as something reserved for sages, mystics, saints, and philosophers, most believe this esoteric wisdom to be accessible to all if they choose to seek it, with seeking and desiring it being the key components to finding it.
And of course, there is wisdom that any person may acquire simply through living and experiencing. For some, aging brings wisdom. For others, taking risks and learning from mistakes brings wisdom. Acquiring knowledge and devoting oneself to studying a particular subject may also bring wisdom. Incorporating practices such as mindfulness meditation may also bring a person to a place of inner knowing and awareness—otherwise known as wisdom.
The Role of Wisdom in Psychotherapy
Possessing the ability to discern wisely and make fair judgments and assessments is essential for successful psychotherapy—on the part of the therapist and the person receiving therapy. However, it is up to the therapist to guide that process.
Many believe that wisdom is an important aspect of the therapy process. The Wisdom Therapy Institute, based in Palo Alto, California, describes wisdom therapy as a comprehensive approach that encompasses principles of cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, and the cultivation of humility. Empathy and compassion are also key signifiers of a therapeutic technique that demonstrates true wisdom.
Ultimately, wisdom in therapy should reflect understanding and insight as to what is best for a person seeking treatment.
- The Wisdom Therapy Institute. (2008). What is wisdom therapy? Retrieved from http://www.wisdomtherapy.com/wisdom-therapy
Last Updated: 08-28-2015