INTERSECTIONS: SPIRITUAL GROWTH AND PSYCHOTHERAPY

If you hold my teachings you are my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” This is the bold claim of Jesus in John 8. So why is that so many Christian seem to be restricted in their living? Is it possible that they do not have the truth in some way?

My answer to that question is a loud yes! Many parts of the Bible confirm that as well. In Romans 7 for example, Paul writes about doing things he doesn’t want to do and not doing things he does want to do. He feels lost in the conflict within himself about what he wants. He describes a dynamic that in psychological language could be translated as a classic conflict between the conscious (that which we can identify as our own thoughts, feelings, behaviors and self perception – what we might call our “self”) and the unconscious (parts of our persons that are in some way still our “self” but remain outside our awareness).

This split we all experience in ourselves between what is conscious and what is unconscious means that we don’t yet know the full truth about ourselves. I would argue that this is another result of sin. In very simple terms, orthodox Christian theology goes something like this: Sin entered the world and humans participated with sin and so became separated from God.

The result of this separation is profound brokenness in our relating to one another. I’m saying that sin also cut into the heart of us to separate us from ourselves, to fragment our experience of ourselves so we are now beings who know parts of ourselves in conscious experience and who do not know parts of ourselves, the unconscious. This creates a situation in which we are not free to act and think as we wish, but are at times surprised at what we do. In order to move toward freedom we need to know the truth about ourselves, that is we need to know what is going on unconsciously within us to motivate our choices. This is what I believe good therapy is all about.

Therapy is about making what is unconscious in us conscious. If we are to be free, we must know the truth about ourselves and this in turn will help us to see more clearly the great good that is offered to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Bible is filled with material like this that demonstrates profound psychological insights although the language of psychology may not be employed on its pages.

Psychotherapy that is attuned to Christian spirituality can bring biblical truth into our experience and help followers of Jesus to know more of the freedom Jesus came to offer us.

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