There is a term in Vendantic (Hindu spirituality) literature referred to as vasana. What it is basically is /are unresolved childhood traumas, desires, habits and unresolved issues. I was recently told by a spiritual acquaintance that “psychology is the old paradigm.” He has vasanas. But those of us not as spiritually evolved have unresolved issues, both of which need to be cleared from the psyche or the soul. I really see no conflict or severe disagreement between psychology and spirituality. If one has done their inner work, they will progress. If not, they will become stuck.
Spirituality can be a natural outgrowth of psychology. If one is self actualized, a psychological term, those individuals are most likely self aware with an inclination to want the greater good for mankind as well as themselves. If one is spiritually evolved, the want the same thing but they include a belief in something greater as well. People can be both psychologically aware and have a belief in a higher being or force. So where then is the distinction?
Perhaps it begins with a regular spiritual practice: prayer, meditation, or a commitment to helping others. Perhaps it is all three or any combination them. What both psychology and spirituality ultimately teach is the need for and the power of forgiveness, the acceptance of others, behaving honorably and ethically, and existing from a base of love and compassion. Both schools of thought focus upon behaving cooperatively rather than competitively but do not dismiss the discovery of oneself. Self discovery and self knowledge are important processes in both psychology and spirituality. As with both, one never gets there or arrives completely. It’s the journey rather than the destination as they say.
Problems can and do arise when one has left an area of his or her growth neglected or unresolved to some larger degree. That’s when we see self-help gurus and spiritual leaders “fall” into some financial, sexual, or other scandal. They have not mastered their vasanas. In other words, they are still trying to prove something through their actions that was left unexamined and not worked through. To put it more bluntly, someone can still be highly evolved but can still be a jerk. You can even search by ‘can someone be enlightened/spiritual and still be a jerk,’ and an entire menu of sites pop up! au.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090112160633... So that does exist, too.
The point is that if we choose to seek higher ways, we still need to examine ourselves, our motives, and our thoughts and actions. In general, how do we really feel? What can we do to make the necessary changes within ourselves? We are all works in progress and will always be such. Traditional psychology doesn’t have to be nor is it devoid of teaching higher consciousness and mindfulness. In addition, the branch of Transpersonal Psychology does emphasize ways to higher consciousness and very much akin to a spiritual path. Transpersonal Psychology seeks to integrate the spiritual with the physical, intellectual, and emotional. It also focuses on ego transformation and transcendent states.
Granted, there are schools of psychological thought that are focused on goal setting and meeting the client’s needs without attempting to elicit personal growth. Their focus is narrow and concentrates on developing certain basic skills that are geared toward improving a particular life circumstance…kind of like life coaching. These therapies if you will, are not what I am referring to. Any of the therapies that focus on personal growth almost always take into account, or at least inquire about one’s spiritual life because it is relevant to the process as well as a heightened outcome.
The debate over psychology versus spirituality does not have to cancel out one or the other, for they embrace and even reinforce many of the same principles. In many cases the search for self understanding and self discovery naturally progresses to a greater awareness and a desire for spiritual understanding. Combining psychological processes with an ongoing spiritual practice will most likely yield the optimal results.
For more information on this discussion go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mariana-caplan-phd/spirituality-and-psycho...