The Inner Journey: Psychology And/Or Spirituality

Fraser Watts Girl contemplating spirituality on swing
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In talking about the inner journey it is helpful to draw on the perspectives of both psychology and spirituality.  Keeping both perspectives in play gives us a kind of ‘binocular vision’ on the journey. Looked at in one way, it is a psychological journey of personal growth. Looked at in the other way it is a journey into greater spiritual depth. Because it is both of these things, we miss out if we adopt just one perspective and not the other.

In our present situation is doubly important to use both languages. Neither the language of psychology, nor the language of spirituality works for everyone. We live in a fragmented society in which different people look at things from different perspectives; we can no longer rely on a single way of understanding things and expect everyone to understand.

The Downfalls

There are pitfalls in the journey inwards, and it is easy to make mistakes. For example, your journey inwards can really be going rather well. But then you can start to feel pleased at how it is going, and your pride in that can spoil everything.

It is easy to get so caught up in the journey inwards that you become blind to such traps. Keeping the perspectives of both psychology and spirituality in play reduces the risk of being oblivious to such pitfalls. Having two perspectives gives you a double chance of realising when things are going off track.

There has been much interest recently in work on the interface of science and religion, and what I am advocating here is one example of that, applied specifically to the journey inwards which is, at the same time, both a spiritual and a psychological journey.

The Different Views

I am not suggesting that the two perspectives are identical, or that what we take to be spirituality is really nothing more than psychology. I take both perspectives seriously on their own times. Each is can shed light on some aspects of the journey more than others, which is why we need both.

In my view there is no incompatibility between the two perspectives. Most contemporary psychology simply ignores religion; it is neither for it nor against it. Some psychologists have been against religion, most notable Sigmund Freud. However, I think that was just a case of his personal opinions influencing what looked at a glance to be his professional work as a psychologist.

Perhaps the most important contribution of psychology to understanding the inner journey is to recognise that it does not involve everyone conforming to same template, but of each person realising their own distinctive potential.

Jesus plays an important role in this process. He is a model of someone who fulfilled his own potential and destiny, and is available as an inspiration and support for anyone who embarks on this journey of personal transformation for themselves. Being inspired by Jesus and becoming our true selves are not in tension with each other; they turn out to be just different aspects of the same journey.

– Fraser Watts