Does Mental Health Have to Include Spirituality?

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The intersection of supernatural beliefs and mental health has been a prickly topic for me in the past. When I first moved back to Alabama, I was given a book about how one particular deity could make me happy. It was given to me as a comfort, but it was given to me at a time when I was losing all faith and reliance upon my religion. While I understand the sentiment behind such comforts, they don’t help people who don’t share the same articles of faith or spirituality.

My problem is that sometimes people can get a little pushy when they recommend some kind of treatment plan or self-help. I’ve been told many times that my problem isn’t one of mental health; I need improved spirituality. It’s like people are picking and choosing when to believe me. They get that I might be mentally unstable, but they don’t believe me that my beliefs in the supernatural didn’t do me any favors. Somehow it’s my problem that they couldn’t follow me to my conclusions.

Are they right somehow?
At the outset, this is a broad question. Some people just believe in spirits or in human spirits or in nature spirits. Others believe in eternal spirits connected with religious worship or some belief in a deity. Personally, I just tried out the Lutheran strain of Christianity. Why should I write off any other form of spirituality?

My short answer (that isn’t depressing) is that mental discipline is part of my treatment plan. Over the past few years, I’ve been having to learn coping strategies to deal with depression and the invariable suicidal planning and urges that go along with it. Inherent in this process is some of the mental discipline I learned in law school. I have evidence that some spirituality will interfere with my well-being; I do not have any evidence that spirituality will actually help my well-being.

This distinction can sometimes get lost on people who might consider their brand of spirituality as helpful to others. What I generally try to point out here is that my situation and brain chemistry isn’t the same as anyone else’s. For reasons that are not known, I cannot force myself to adopt something and pretend it is going to just work for me.

The bigger issue here is whether anyone can impose their well-being onto others.
Just because someone believes something doesn’t make it true for everyone else. It’s why I do my best to give people who have had success with spirituality a wide berth. If it helps them get through tough times or personal pain, it obviously must be doing them some kind of favor.

I just wish that I’d get the same benefit of the doubt. As it stands, when people deride my coping strategies, medications, or other help I get, they’re attacking what keeps me from killing myself. It would be dreadfully inappropriate for me to do this to other people. Sadly, some people wear blinders that prevent them from seeing what they’re doing.

It’s on me to diminish the friction this causes for myself.
This might sound rough, but I think of it as a challenge to be overcome. I don’t want incessant demands that I try some new belief system out to get at me. Part of the solution I think is recognizing that I don’t have to go back at all. Nobody can put me at risk like I’ve been in the past. They only get what I give them.

Mental health and well-being doesn’t require spirituality to work. There are plenty of well-adjusted non-spiritual or religious people out there. I might not be one of them, but their success means I can try. Looking at that goal ahead of me is healthier than looking behind.

31 thoughts on “Does Mental Health Have to Include Spirituality?

  1. Mental health and well-being doesn’t require spirituality to work.

    AMen and AWomen to that!

    In fact, nothing in this life requires spirituality. It’s a CHOICE that may work for some, but not for all.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Lets say I’m alcoholic. AA helps a lot of people. Can’t really argue with that, but the Jesus-cult aspect of it would make me agree to lie to myself to get that to work. After following you a while it seems religion is a big reason for your struggles. I don’t think you need to be fake to get better. Hang in there buddy

    Liked by 2 people

    • Even years after saying goodbye to faith, I’m still unpacking the problems it caused for me. Some of it regards the actual message of Christianity – an undeserving humanity which owes its creator a debt it can’t pay. But other parts of it regard reliance on divine intervention when I needed natural methods.

      Sometimes I do liken it to an addiction, except I have to go around seeing the substance offered everywhere without any warning labels.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I was a medic for 15 years. Not very many people took mental illness very seriously, like people could just snap out of it if they want. Not so easy though. It’s is a really hard problem to solve and a lot of guessing going on. All the best to you on your journey. Hope you can find the answers. We’re here for you to sound off whenever you like. Regards

        Liked by 2 people

      • And I’m already a sinner because I’m born into it. As a little baby I was born a murderer because I put Jesus on the cross 2,000 years before my existence. Too much shit, not enough shovels.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s like pressuring someone to return to an abusive lover, parent or spouse. All the while being gaslighted that you’re either the shit person or it was all just in your head….or both

        Liked by 1 person

      • Making your “mark” feel undeserving of the service you offer is part of the con. We are told that when we die, we will be rewarded and out enemies punished. But while we are alive, for Heaven’s sake, don’t rock the boat. There are way too many secular and religious elites who are benefiting from your servitude to have you messing up the works. Of course, those elites do not feel obligated to follow the rules formed to control our behavior, those are for the rubes (you and me).

        In the Mafia, a racket is known where a business is expected to pay for “protection.” For a small fee (or large) the business will be protected from … who? The Mafia, of course. Does this sound familiar? In Christianity, Hell is the wages of sin and we are all defined as sinners (sketchily–this is not supported by scripture). To protect us from that horrific fate, all we need to do is give our lives over to Jesus and do what “they” say (not Jesus, but Jesus’s representatives).

        Accepting Christianity as a n expression of one’s spirituality is a bit like seeking depression as a manifestation of goodwill toward men. It helps neither you, nor mankind in general.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think it was in “The God Virus” that I read about a description similar to the Mafia one you’ve just given. It was applied to more religions than just Christianity, namely that people go back to their religion of childhood because it’s what created the problem in the first place.

        You’re right in the analogy, and sadly there are so many more out there which are appropriate. They all involve abuse to certain degrees.

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  3. As a counselor, telling someone “do this it works for everyone” is a sure fire way to cause harm. You have to find what the person has done, haven’t done, what has worked and what hasn’t and build from that. Saying, “this worked for me!” in anecdotal and not helpful.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I think part of the problem is that not everyone fully grasps mental illnesses. They view it as a mundane problem (or a spiritual one, as some people have decided to tell me). Advice is fair game. It’s like giving someone a home remedy for cancer.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. In general you are likely right. Though my experience with faith has helped my mental state. Of course the deity I follow does not damn any of his children to hell, nor are there 72 virgins waiting if I am good. So how has faith helped me. Knowing there is more beyond the energy I am now and when I die (physically) my energy will be returned and perhaps recycled (Just like every living thing). No horrible judgement awaits me. I don’t fear I will be punished or tortured for not believing and I don’t worry my friends who don’t believe will be either. No just like me I believe your energy will be returned and recycled the exact same as mine will be. My deity loves his children and would never punish any of them.

     

    For me knowing this helps me be more stable. I also know my deity does not cause harm to any and helps me focus on what I have. I am thankful for my wife, my family, my children, my health and so much more. Does he directly give me these things? No. I have to work to be faithful to my wife, be a good mother, be a good sister, daughter and friend. I eat right, work out and take care of myself. Yeah it’s work. I still thank him. Why? Because it helps me personally focus on the good things I have and commit anew to preserving those same things. He didn’t give them to me, he won’t take them away from me, but he can help me stay focused on the things that matter. How? Because I use him to do just that.

     

    But faith is not for everyone and should never be pushed on another. Why? Because faith that is forced upon you is not one you will keep. I do hope you find peace in your mind and find all the coping tools you need to stay happy and healthy. For me faith is a coping tool that helps me but only because I choose faith. Hugs and love my friend. You’re not alone, I am always closer than you think. 😀❤

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I agree, SB. I am not into words like religion, spiritual or spirituality. They are still triggers for me. Quite frankly, I don’t see myself ever using them again. I will be moving soon and there’s a Unitarian Universalist congregation near my new house. I don’t know about attending though because they use such words, as well as other churchy sounding words.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. There’s that mushy vague word “spirituality” again. I’ve never had a theist be able to give me a coherent definition of that word. Sometimes they will just refer to “things of the spirit”, but that’s pretty circular, since they then have to define “spirit” too.

    Before I could even consider whether “spirituality” would be helpful for some condition, I’d need a good description of what it’s supposed to mean.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was struggling with trying to corral a good meaning when I wrote this, and I had to settle for any sort of beliefs which include some sort of supernatural essence which can’t be quantified. That’s as broad as I can make it without going into other kinds of woo, but the way it gets used often fits. Even among Christians, it gets used many different ways.

      Perhaps that vagueness contributes to why I really get uncomfortable whenever people try to sell me on anything strange that requires special beliefs.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t say what a theist might define spirituality is, as I’m not one. However, where I live, spirituality is about relationships. We all understand what it means, but putting it into words is rather difficult. The following explanations might be helpful:

      (1) Spirituality is the capacity to have faith, and to understand the links between people and the environment. It doesn’t necessarily mean having a religious belief, although for many people this is an important part of their spirituality.

      (2)Spirituality is having to do with deep feelings and beliefs, including a person’s sense of peace, purpose, connection to others and beliefs about the meaning of life.

      (3) Spirituality connects a person with humankind and the universal mystery, with intuition and creativity, and is integral to wholeness. It becomes evident through the expression of awe, wonder, trust, faith, hope, love, and peace.

      For many here, spiritual health is one of the four cornerstones of total health, the others being mental health, family health and physical health. Does that help or hinder your understanding?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Well, if you can get the theist who is insisting that everybody needs “spirituality” that this is an OK definition to work with, then this would help. I’ve never gotten anything that coherent from a theist so far.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. That’s terrible that people deride what helps you. It doesn’t make sense to me when spiritual people treat spiritual healing and science-based mental health as mutually exclusive and even as opposing fields. If you believe in a higher power that is the source of life, it should follow, logically and by definition, that you believe that same higher power designed life around a pattern that we call the laws of science. For spiritual people to tell you that you don’t have a mental health problem is therefore to say that their higher power doesn’t align with observable, evidence-based advancements in the fields of science and psychology, and is therefore not all that logical or powerful. Instead, spiritual people should love psychology as a field that explores the structured, intelligent, and organized product of their own higher power’s creativity. Focusing on your mental health is therefore important no matter what you believe and I hope you find the best approach that works for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Definitely agree with this for sure. I mean, I am a Christian but I have always separated the two. My personal belief is that God allows me to experience this so that I turn to Him, however I appreciate not everyone shares that worldview and that is why I separate the two. Some, like myself, can find healing in faith and others must rely on the healthcare system. I definitely think that regardless, the drive to heal oneself must come from within.

    Brilliant read!

    Like

  9. Life and death should tell you that there is indeed a God. I dreamt of where and how my mum would die and it happened. I’m a Christian and prayers has been a key point in my life. I saw both my parents after their deaths and I’m 100% sure life continues afterwards. If you don’t believe in spirituality I feel sorry for you

    Like

  10. Pingback: Does #Mental Health Have to Include #Spirituality? #PageofCups — Amusing Nonsense – Ola Queen Bee of Astrology

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