This is a guest post by Paul Maurice Martin. Paul is the author of Original Faith: What Your Life Is Trying to Tell You. He has master’s degrees in religious studies and counseling and blogs at www.originalfaith.com. Paul is participating in the WOW! Women On Writing Blog Tour.
How can you tell the spiritual you from the psychological you? Both concepts refer to inner life and there’s certainly some overlap. However, recognizing these four major differences can be important to your personal development.
Egoism vs. the Greater Self – Egoism has myriad manifestations, but is basically a distorted view of self that produces negative effects on self and others. For example, it may lead us to place a higher priority on personal convenience or luxury than on the real needs of other people – or, in a self-deprecating mode, to judge ourselves more harshly than we would ever judge others.
Psychology works primarily with the ego and how it becomes elaborated as we defend and justify it. In contrast, the spiritual self is a greater self that’s as much a part of being human as egoism. It’s the self that keeps us in perspective and places our desires in the context of the greater good.
Past vs. Present – Psychology is about how our past lives on in our present. Included are old wounds from childhood that add energy to our egoistic desires and anxieties, and long established patterns of thought that are self defeating and harmful to others. Spirituality is about finding out what we’re like when we leave the past behind.
Complicated vs. Simple – Psychological work is complicated. It involves insight into past events, how they affected us, how this is reflected in our current patterns of thought and behavior, and unlearning those patterns. In contrast, spiritual techniques such as meditation and mindfulness are simple. The greater self to which they lead us is also simple in the best sense of the word.
Others vs. Life Itself or God – Psychology focuses primarily on how we experience ourselves in relation to other individuals. Although spirituality has profound implications for how we relate to others, its focus is on how we experience ourselves in relation to life as a whole, or, according to our beliefs, God.
Spiritual practices like sitting meditation and mindfulness techniques aren’t remedies for levels of anxiety, depression, or neurosis that seriously impact our day-to-day functioning and satisfaction with life. Whether we are able to do it on our own or with professional help, we need to do the heavy lifting of addressing any seriously self-limiting psychological issues that we face before spiritual experiences and practices can transform us into the person of our best intentions and our highest aspirations.