Today’s blog explores how the spiritual is often overlooked, even shunned by some of the helping professions and why this hampers our road to healing and recovery.
Faith-based vs. Spiritual
I was recently contacted by an organization looking for a presenter for a support group of individuals in various stages of recovery from trauma. The concern was raised that my work is “faith based” and the organization is not allowed to discuss or implement any “faith based” materials. Sadly, many in the helping professions are still operating with the misconception that faith and spirituality are the same. As such, many people are prevented from receiving the healing and support they need when facing recovery from trauma, addictions, co-dependency, abuse, rape, incest, chronic illness, etc. etc. etc. because the spiritual is never addressed. While the physical might be addressed through medical treatment, lifestyle changes or medication and the emotional and mental might be dealt with through therapy or recovery programs, the spiritual often gets left on the shelf because using the “God” word might offend…or because the person receiving treatment has been so harmed by someone else’s use of the “God” word, that they cannot be open to anything that might resemble “God.” The end result is that healing is hampered and full recovery thwarted.
God is Bigger than the Boogieman
In my world, God is way bigger than any lame human attempt to define. As such, I do not have a problem with the “God” word. Unfortunately, this is not true for all. While in MY world, our spiritual self cannot be divorced from God (because I truly believe them to be one and the same)…..that does NOT mean that “God” (by someone else’s definition) HAS to be part of the spiritual approach to healing! In fact, we would do well to come up with a new definition of SPIRITUAL that doesn’t use the GOD-word so that the spiritual no longer offends and so that people can get the help they really need to heal.
Toward a New Defintion of Spiritual
With the help of my self-appointed board of directors, I have come up with a new definition of the SPIRITUAL that speaks to the universal search….but doesn’t include the “God” word:
The spiritual is that which compels us to search for and obtain:
And when accomplished, we are contented and fulfilled.
We are wounded spiritually by anything that threatens, hampers, harms, thwarts or causes us to doubt or question this search for meaning, purpose and connection and by anything that hinders our feelings of contentment or fulfillment. Anytime we are made to feel unsafe, insecure, afraid or threatened, our spiritual self is wounded and retreats. Anytime we are made to feel “less than”, a part of our spiritual self shrivels up. When we feel betrayed or experience a disappointment or loss, the hope that is inherent in our spiritual self deflates. When we are ill and unable to function at our normal capacity, our spiritual self grows restless and impatient and if not tended to, eventually grows tired and despairing. Anytime we experience a loss, a trauma, a diagnosis, a disappointment or a tragedy, it is perhaps our spiritual self which suffers the most….and yet, it is the part that is either last to get addressed or altogether forgotten.
The Greatest Irony
The greatest irony in our quest to ignore the spiritual is that if we could address the spiritual FIRST….we might not even need to address the emotional, mental or physical, because the deepest wounding lies at the spiritual. If we can do the work of allowing the spiritual to find healing, the emotional, mental and physical often take care of themselves. What would happen, for example, if instead of having surgery for back pain we acknowledged all the places in our life where we were punished for asking for our needs to be met and all the places we were told that our needs did not matter? And what would happen if we allowed ourselves to feel the frustration in the face of these obstacles to getting our needs met and then released these wounds through tears? What would happen if instead of numbing our anxiety through anti-depressants, we recognized all the places in our lives where we were told we were unimportant or not of value or that someone else’s wants were more important than ours, and then grieved the pain we carry in our hearts over all these nonloving messages? What would happen if instead of having knee surgery, we started to name and claim our own needs or became more open to movement and change in our lives? What if instead of medicating our “fretful mind” we searched our lives for all the places we felt unsafe and began to recognize how we had turned to anticipatory thoughts to try to create a “safe” and “predicatable” world, then wrote a letter releasing all of the anger, fear, frustration, sorrow, we experienced in those places of danger, and then burned the letter in a ritual of release?
Reclaiming the Spiritual
I’m not saying that addressing the spiritual will cure all disease or unrest in our lives, but it goes a long way toward healing us where we really need to be healed – in our hearts. As such, my challenge to those of us in the helping professions is to reclaim the spiritual and open the door through which profound and enduring healing can take place. While we can separate the religious, we are never separate from the spiritual…it is an integral part of our journey toward wholeness and like our body, mind and emotions, it is part of our very nature and not something to be ignored.