A recent copy of the Psychiatric Times reported that efforts are underway to incorporate spiritual offerings into medical practices as research shows that they are healing for many people. Some people are uncomfortable with the idea of religion, even in their personal lives.
My client Drew who recently survived a major setback said,
“I don’t know how to be religious but I want to. I’m having trouble getting over what happened to me. One of my friends, she also went through some major ---- said that the only thing that helped her was developing a spiritual life. I want to find a way into the world of thank you, trust, faith, where people are at least encouraged to do right. I know that all do not abide. I have been in a backstabbing, cutthroat world for so long, I don’t even see it anymore. But it feels very negative.
There’s this non-denominational church in my neighborhood. The back row is good but I feel funny kneeling and praying. Still, the whole thing makes sense somehow. It’s calming and quiet. I like the music and the stained glass windows. I mean if you want to be encouraged to be your better self, not alone, happier even, there’s an opportunity there. I’m a seeker but I just want it to feel natural.
I just don't know how to make it natural and believe from the bottom up because I have doubts. I hear people rant about the hypocrisy of religion in my mind. A few of my friends are cynics, people who describe themselves as 'in recovery,' from religious childhoods where dogma, guilt, and fear dominated. Then there’s the child abuse, wars fought for religious reasons.
Because of my secular upbringing I am awkward when the minister addresses me. I think maybe I am not supposed to be there. When I was young I occasionally went to church with my grandmother. My parents were opposed to it but gave in. I liked it.
My friend David says, it is not about the institution, or the rules, but rather just having a relationship with a higher being. He talks to his 'God,' when he runs in the park. He told me he just says ‘thank you’ sometimes.”
Efforts to integrate spirituality into psychiatric healthcare were reported in recent issues of the Psychiatric Times. “A patient’s spiritual 'framework' can hold the key to therapeutic breakthroughs.”
Religion in medicine is a controversial subject but introducing possibilities is not the same as pushing dogma. Awareness of alternatives that help different people is a practitioner’s responsibility. Maybe it is prayer and spirituality. Maybe it is running through a park or walking in the woods. Maybe it is getting a dog or starting a garden. These life styles offer comfort, especially if they become habit.
Encouraging people to draw upon any means of strength and support that works for them is part of one’s job as a healer. “According to Gallup polls, 92 percent of Americans believe in God. And 80 percent believe in the power of God or prayer to improve the course of their illness.”
Even if one is not a believer, it is interesting and useful to know what works for others. As a professional, friend, or neighbor, you never know when an informed response, an incidental comment or gentle suggestion can make a big difference.
For the record, my father was an atheist, professor, and loyal friend who taught that being ethical, generous, and open minded was a good thing.