Religion, Spirituality, and Mental Wholeness

Spirituality is a key part to our mental and emotional health. Many people find their spirituality in different areas. I find mine through my Christian faith. Having not only been raised in the church, but also the daughter of the church pastor, also known as a “PK” (Pastor’s Kid), I embrace my spirituality through my Christian beliefs.

Although I myself am a Christian, I have worked with people from all spectrums of faith, religion and spirituality, including self-identified atheists. In my professional experience, I have found religion and spirituality to be key aspects for mental wholeness. Why is that?

Well, let me first break down the difference between religion and spirituality.

Religion is a set of rituals, rules and expectations. Hawkins (2005) defined religion as “an outer expression of faith or behavior.” Religion frames our value systems.

Spirituality is the inner peace and feelings that you are connected with someone or something greater than yourself. It gives your life purpose and meaning. Hawkins (2005) defined spirituality as “an inner journey…an experience that takes us to a higher level of function.” Spirituality encompasses love, compassion, hope and/or forgiveness.

Religion and spirituality can exist separately. However, I am a believer that the two together form a stronger base. For me, my religion forms my values and personal belief system. My spirituality drives my spirit and inner peace, empowering me to love others, have compassion and forgiveness for myself and others, and to have hope for tomorrow.

For decades, going all the way back to Freud, psychotherapists believed that religion and spirituality was a symptom of mental illness. Today, however, that is drastically changing. Read more

The Rock of Self-Compassion. The Dangers of Self-Esteem

As a child, I remember my mother teaching me this song:

The foolish man built his house upon the sand. The foolish man built his house upon the sand. The foolish man built his house upon the sand, and the rain came tumbling down.

The rain came down, and the floods came up. The rain came down, and the floods came up. The rain came down, and the floods came up, and the house on the sand went “splat!” (clapping our hands as loud as we could as we would sing “splat”.  This was my favorite part of the song!)

The wise man built his house upon the rock. The wise man built his house upon the rock. The wise man built his house upon the rock, and the rain came tumbling down.

The rain came down, and the floods came up. The rain came down, and the floods came up. The rain came down, and the floods came up, and the house on the rock stood firm!

I had forgotten about that song, until last year when I attended a training on Therapeutic Mindfulness. The speakers included Dr. Ronald D. Siegel, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School. I was surprised to hear, for the first time, that pursuing self-esteem does not work and can actually be dangerous.  Read more