Spirituality and Psychology; A shared emphasis?

The connection between spirituality and psychology. 

Being a student studying counselling concepts I am fascinated by psychology just as much as I am about spirituality. When I discovered the counselling modality: transpersonal psychology I was intrigued.

On one end of the spectrum the majority of people specialising in psychology do not concern themselves with issues of spirit and rejects ideas that are not scientifically quantifiable. On the other end of the spectrum are spiritualists who believe psychological work is an indulgent reinforcement of the story of the false self. Then you have people like myself who lie in between, believing that spirituality and psychology complement and support each other. 

Traditional psychology is interested in the continuum of human experiences & behaviour ranging from severe dysfunctional, mental and emotional illness at one end, to what is generally considered “normal”, healthy behaviour at the other end and various degrees in between. Transpersonal psychology is the full spectrum psychology encompasses and then beyond it by adding interest in the transcendent dimension of human experience: exceptional human functioning, experiences, performances and achievements, true genius, the nature and meaning of deep religious and mystical experiences, non-ordinary states of consciousness, and how we might foster the fulfilment of our highest potential as human beings.  
— - The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology


Transpersonal psychology combines a variety of approaches, including CBT & humanistic psychology along with other disciplines of eastern & western philosophy, mysticism, mindfulness and the world's religion. 

There's a famous image used in Buddhism known as the Wheel of Life, it represents the universe, or to be more precise existence itself. At the centre of the wheel is a green snake, a red rooster and a black hog which represent desire, anger and delusion. They are at the centre of this wheel because together desire, anger and delusion prevent us from understanding our true selves, they are know as the three positions,which are considered to be the root of all suffering. 

But what does this have to do with psychology?

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis also used the same concepts. In fact, desire, symbolised by the snake and anger symbolised by the rooster were the first forces recognised by psychoanalysis. However, Freud used Eros & Thanatos (Greek mythology) as representations. Freud argued that these were innate to ALL humans but we repress them and it was this repression that was the primary source of psychological suffering. 

So as much as we know that Freud was not interested in Buddhism there are certain connections between both concepts. 

Professionals in this field understand the body, mind and the spirit work together, therefore, they must be studied together. 

The goal of combing both and becoming a transpersonal counsellor is to help people achieve spiritual well-being as well as mental and emotional well-being. 

Both Buddhism and psychoanalysis can shed light on the ways human beings suffer and how human beings can find freedom from that suffering and a sense of calm.                               

Of course Buddhism isn't the only shared connection between spirituality and psychology but that is what this blog is for. For myself to keep exploring and sharing my findings with you. 

What do you think about spirituality & psychology is there a connection? Would you combine both to improve your self-improvement as a counsellor?