P is for Psychology

August 5, 2012 at 10:50 am Leave a comment

Psychology can be useful in understanding of our spiritual and emotional development. Spiritual practices such as yoga, meditation, prayer and spiritual communities can be of great help in maintaining and recovering mental health. Yet practices that fall outside the “mainstream” may be seen as evidence of insanity- such as: communication with spirits, ritual possession, journeying to the otherworld.

There is a point at which these types of practices can become unhealthy, but it may be tricky for a therapist to tell unless they are familiar with the person’s religion.

In the past, shamans* often lived on the edge of society, and due to their way of life, may not have supported themselves economically- so the community supported them. In modern society, such people may be seen as mentally ill, and our society is not set up to support them.

Erynn Laurie, Celtic Reconstructionist author, gives an example of this in her description of the “geilt” of the Irish.

There is a concept in some cultures called “soul loss” which corresponds to our idea of depression.  I believe there can be bio-chemical causes of depression, but I also think the stresses and spiritual alienation of post-modern societies contribute as well. Sociologists speak of “anomie” a state of normlessness- alienation, purposelessness, a lack of social connection,

We don’t have roots, we don’t know we are. We aren’t connected enough to our families and communities. We change jobs, homes, spouses. We have more choices and seemingly more freedom than our ancestors, but we don’t know what to do with it.

We often too easily trust that anyone with a Ph.D or medical degree is an expert that will have all the answers. As one who has had many dealings with mental health practicioners, I have at times, found them to be wrong after doing my own research and following my own reason and intuition. We need to find a balance between accepting guidance from psychology and trusting our own spiritual truths.

 *Note: I am using the term “shaman” for lack of a better term across cultural boundaries. I mean no disrespect.

This post is part of the Pagan Blog Project

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Entry filed under: Concepts & Definitions. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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