Psychology and Spirituality

Not so long ago psychology and spirituality were not discussed in the same breath - at least in any way that was complimentary. Like science and spirituality the two subjects where thought to be mutually exclusive in many circles on both sides. But the more we have learned about the Mind-Body connection the more the question of spirituality arose. Today it is as if a rift never existed. Even the Dahli Lama is participating in scientific research, helping to demonstrate the neuro-plasticity of the brain.

It was not until I gained a thorough understanding of Transactional Analysis (TA) principles regarding ego-state structure and functions that it occurred to me how well this model of personality fits my own psychology and spirituality. Being a Christian, I became fascinated with the parallels between psychology and spirituality through TA and Biblical principles. I'd like to share a few of these observations here for those who care to examine them.

Psychology and Spirituality Ego-State Map

Before presenting my psychology and spirituality ego-state map, a refresher on the basic ego-state structure and functions are in order. (Learn more about ego-states).

Parent Ego-State: The Parent part of our personality has two primary functions - To nurture and protect. Parents are all-about-the-kids and this part or our personality is all-about-our-kids as well as all-about-our significant others.

Adult Ego-State: The Adult part of our personality is the "computer" part of our brain that gathers information, extrapolates outcomes, chooses the best options, problem-solves and makes decisions - all without emotion. This is the part of us that that organizes and carries out our daily "to-do" list and gets the job done.

Child Ego-States: As we have explored on the many pages of this website, the Child ego-states are the "all-about-me" ego-states. This is the location of what I want, what I need, and what I feel. It is therefore also the part of us that carries the wounds of abandonment, shame, and contempt.

In an attempt to reconcile my faith with my training, something that struck me about what I have learned of psychology and spirituality is how well the TA ego-state model lends itself to a description of the Holy Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Somewhere around 800 years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah wrote:

    "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isa. 9:6-7, KJV)

It is crystal clear to me (and many spiritual authors) that these passages were an early reference to the birth and nature of Jesus Christ -- 800 years early. Emmet Fox, 1930's pastor and author of the classic "Sermon on the Mount", wrote an essay called "The Wonder Child" in which he interprets these passages. He makes the following general observations that fit with our topic of psychology and spirituality:

    "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given": Fox compares the story of the birth of Christ as symbolic of what happens in both our psychology and spirituality when we accept Jesus into our lives. Jesus was born into a stable while one would think the son of God would be born into a palace or temple. The Bible refers to our bodies as being "God's Temple" (1 Corinthians 3:16). Fox makes an excellent point by proposing that most often when we accept Jesus into ourselves we are more like a stable than a temple at the time (with all the aromas thereof). By the influence of this "Wonder Child" living and growing within us we are eventually transformed into a temple.

    "And the government shall be upon his shoulder": There are hundreds of governments in the world - so which one being referred to here? Fox points out that it is self-government that will be on "his shoulder". Fox states, "You are tired, and driven, and worried, and weak, and ill, and depressed because you have been trying to carry the government upon your own shoulder; the burden is too much for you, and you have broken down under it." He goes on to say when you turn over the government of your life over to the Wonder Child "...your difficulties have seen the beginning of the end".

    "And his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace": Fox explains that in the Israel of those days the word 'Name' referred to the nature or character of what it describes. In this case, Isaiah outlines five names of the Child. The diagram below is based upon my observations regarding those five names and their functions:

    The functions of the Parent ego-state are to protect and nurture: "Mighty God" would be an adequate Protector just as "Everlasting Father" who will "never leave, nor forsake" us would more than fulfill the nurturing function.

    The Adult ego-state functions as the problem-solver and decision-maker of our lives. With the Holy Spirit serving as our "Counselor" we are tapped into the infinite wisdom of the universe. "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things..." (John 14:26, NIV)

    The Child ego-states are the parts of us that carry all the turmoil of abandonment, shame, and contempt. We live in a broken world and there are not many of us that come through it unscarred. Jesus Christ was called the "Prince of Peace" and one of the last things he told his disciples was "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you." (John 14:27, NIV)

    As to the name "Wonderful"; Fox points out that in the Bible, the words 'signs and wonders' and 'wonderful' refers to miracles. All three of parts of the Holy Trinity function to produce miracles in our lives, especially when we live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

    Psychology and Spirituality & other Interesting Passages:

    Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:20-21, NIV)

    But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Luke 18:16-17, NIV)

    ...because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5, NIV)

    Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; (1 Corinthians 6:19, NIV)

    "It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me." (Daniel 4:2, NIV)

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