From an outside glance, psychotherapy, spirituality and social change appear as very different animals. But if one looks beyond their operational veil, they all have the same compass: human happiness, alleviating suffering, compassion for all beings, and creating a more sane, enlightened future for our children.
The human evolutionary journey has two main approaches: transformation and healing and secondly liberation and enlightenment. Psychotherapy provides the strongest platform in the West for healing emotional wounds and trauma, while purifying our perceptions to see the truth more clearly, providing the ground for spiritual liberation.
As transpersonal psychotherapist John Welwood said back in the early 1980s, we would be spiritually bypassing “to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks.” As the saying goes, you need a healthy ego before you become selfless.
Fundamentally, psychotherapy is working with compassion, whether that is being modeled through transference or taught in practical skills. Compassion opens our eyes to our own suffering, which can then expand and radiate to other beings. Working with compassion is deeply spiritual work. Similarly, social change originates with caring about other people, and becoming alive to the suffering of others. The world religions all point to examining our own actions and results such that they cause no harm. Self love provides the seeds for compassion.
When we invited our community to join in this conversation, we were not sure what to expect. We know that we are passionate about the intersection between psychotherapy, spirituality and social change, but it felt vulnerable to ask others why it mattered to them.
Specifically, we asked:
- Why does the intersection between psychotherapy, spirituality, and social change matter to you?
- How do you see the field of psychotherapy being influenced by spirituality and social change, especially in light of the dramatic events of 2020?
- How has the intersection between those three shown up in your office?
We have been delighted by the response. The essays, stories, and heartfelt reflections in the pages that follow are by turns provocative, hopeful, critical, simple, beautiful and full of nuggets of wisdom. They are grouped very (very) loosely by common themes, and otherwise arranged in no particular order. Our hope is that you will take your time to read and digest each one.
As Abhishek Dutt reminds us, “To be a therapist is to be an expert in the process of change.” And to be a therapist witnessing the extraordinary change unfolding in our world today is a thrilling responsibility.
Thank you for all that you are holding; thank you for being a part of this community.
May we all be of benefit.
Brian Spielmann & Ian McPherson
Co-leaders of Academy of Therapy Wisdom