Archive for the ‘The Psychology of Mature Spirituality’ Category

Authors: Polly Young-Eisendrath and Melvin Miller (Eds)

I purchased this book from Amazon, largely on the strength of the title.  Had I realised beforehand that it has a strong theme of Freudianism and Neo-Freudianism, I probably would not have bought it, as like many (? most) psychologists nowadays, I am of the opinion that Freudian approaches have little utility in modern psychotherapy.    But I am glad I did buy it as it has some excellent articles. (Or, rather, like the proverbial curate’s egg, it is excellent in parts!)

The book has 14 chapters (and an extensive introduction) by different authors and is organised around the three main themes of Integrity, Wisdom and Transcendence.  Some care is taken to define what these terms might actually mean in a practical therapeutic sense.  There is quite a wide range of subjects and some of the chapter headings are:  The place of integrity in spirituality; A Buddha and his cousin; Spiritual abuse; The Tao of wisdom; Psychotherapy’s challenge to Christian fundamentalism, Green spirituality, etc.

The authors do not necessarily agree with each other and the reader will find quite opposing views expressed chapter by chapter.  This does not have a jarring or discordant effect, but rather adds to the richness of the discussion and the interplay of ideas.

Many modern psychologists would, I think, dismiss Freudian or Neo-Freudian thought as being either passe or superstitious nonsense.  This is unfortunate as many of these people (particularly Jung) could be rightly regarded as pioneers in spiritual therapeutic approaches and I can see no reason why their ideas can not be incorporated into modern-day approaches.

As I read through the book I frequently found myself having little “Ah yes” moments, following which I would go off to spend some time thinking through the implications of what I had read, and/or how the ideas could be applied in a therapeutic setting.  It is a book that I will return to and re-read some chapters thoroughly with a stack of “post it’ stickers so that I can make more extensive notes on particular themes.

If I have criticisms they would be that some parts are overly wordy to the point of being rather pretentious.  As some of my old prison clients would say: too many 50 cent words when a lot less 10 cent ones would make it more understandable.  It is not a light read.  I did not particularly like the chapter on Taoism and the psychologies of Jung, Erikson and Maslow.  I think Taoism got a very superficial “once over lightly” cover.  Nor did I particularly relate to the chapter on Green Spirituality, but perhaps that was just me.

Small grumbles aside, this book makes a valuable contribution to a sadly undervalued and neglected theme of psychology.


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