Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Deep Calls to Deep: Healing and Renewal at the Crossroads of Psychoanalysis and Spiritual Formation

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Deep Calls to Deep: Healing and Renewal at the Crossroads of Psychoanalysis and Spiritual Formation

Article excerpt

When working at the crossroads of psychoanalysis and spiritual formation, we may witness or be party to various types of collisions or collusions that lead to impasses or ruptures that may or may not be worked through or repaired. To traverse these crossroads in a constructive way that facilitates healing, we believe it is crucial to consider how both psychoanalysis and spiritual formation contribute to the process and outcome of psychodynamic psychotherapy or psychoanalysis. The particularity and integrity of each discipline's models and methods must be respected and kept in mind so that points and principles of resonance and dissonance may be identified, integrated, and applied to clinical encounters as they unfold.

This article will begin with a summary of what we believe are some key areas or points of resonance and dissonance between psychoanalysis and spiritual formation. These are not intended to be exhaustive lists, but rather serve as a backdrop for discussion of a clinical case so that nuances and complexities of the case may be explored.

For purposes of this article, the articulation of resonance is based on a historical understanding of the roots of psychoanalysis; evolutions in theory and practice will be noted when relevant. Spiritual formation is conceptualized as a process initiated and sustained by grace from God, resulting in progressive transformation of the whole person (internally and interpersonally). Following presentation of a clinical case by Anita Sorenson, Theresa Tisdale and Earl Bland will offer reflection on, and discussion of, the case utilizing and integrating concepts from both psychoanalysis and spiritual formation.

Areas and Points of Resonance Between Psychoanalysis and Spiritual Formation

Both psychoanalysis and spiritual formation share, in some form or expression, the following principles, methods, and/or practices:

* Both are processes that potentiate deep change

* Both acknowledge the holistic nature of human beings (all aspects in mutual, reciprocal relation)

* Both are mediated through relationship

* Both require the skill and guidance of an other

* Both have time-honored rituals, methods, and practices considered to facilitate deep change

* Both require surrender

* Both acknowledge conscious and unconscious mental life

* Both require self-awareness and a willingness to become aware of what is unconscious

* Both involve knowing and being known at a deep level

Areas and Points of Dissonance Between Psychoanalysis and Spiritual Formation

At the same time the resonance between psychoanalysis and spiritual formation is considered, distinct difference or areas of dissonance must also be acknowledged. While these distinctions are substantive, we do not consider them impediments to engaging both psychoanalysis and spiritual formation when working clinically. Rather, we strive to identify whether, when, and where the two may be brought together in mutually animating and constructive ways for the benefit of our patients whose suffering inevitably is both internal and interpersonal as well as physical, psychological, and spiritual in nature.

Some key areas of dissonance we have identified are:

Psychoanalysis as established by Freud (1927) defined health as being free of religion, which he understood to be the product of the wish to avoid the grim realities of existence in favor of escaping to a benevolent other who would remedy all ills and cure all injustice. This foundational belief by Freud has gone through extensive revision within psychoanalysis, beginning with some in his inner circle, most notably Jung (1933). In sharp contrast to dismissing God and religion, the central focus of spiritual formation is connection to, and relation with, God. Spiritual formation results in ever-increasing depth of communion with God.

The goal of Christian spiritual formation is to bring every area of life into relation with God (Willard, 2002). …

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