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Spiritual and psychological balance


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Alpha & Omega

José María Pardo Sáenz

Director from Expert Program in... in Psychology and Moral Life

The psychological and the spiritual are like two eyes, complementing each other. One serves the other in the perception of the totality of life and of oneself. But if one eye is not functioning well or is closed, it is difficult to have a realistic perception of life and a proper understanding of the person. By separating the psychological from the spiritual, one is not looking at the whole person. Perhaps for this reason there are many people who suffer unnecessarily.

The harmonization of the bio-psychological and the spiritual is certainly a challenge for the human being. Many of the psychologists specialized in behavioral sciences do not have the knowledge and the training of the spiritual field, while those versed in the spiritual often lack the knowledge and sufficient understanding of the bio-psychological. And this is one of the objectives of the panel 'Balance and psychological health in the priest' that will be addressed in the VII conference of update Pastoral of the University of Navarra, in which the psychiatrists Marian Rojas Estapé and Carlos Chiclana will intervene.

In the Gospels we find a harmony between the human and spiritual aspects of Jesus. In fact, the two are so intimately intertwined that we often do not realize it: Jesus is the teacher of spiritual teaching and also the doctor of human behavior. He confides to us: "Follow me. I am the way, the truth and the life. I am the light. He calls us to follow him emotionally and spiritually.

In the pages of the sacred book we can contemplate Jesus with an extraordinary sensitivity: he weeps, he is sad, he is compassionate, he is angry (wrath, rage), he is hurt, disappointed, prayerful, moved, assertive, affectionate. All his feelings are part of his "spiritual" teaching about love, hope, faith, forgiveness, prayer to God the Father, healing, the withdrawal of material values to seek virtues such as simplicity, mercy, chastity, obedience, love of enemies, peacemaking. By teaching on both planes, Jesus sample us that both merge.

Believing, accepting and trusting in God requires accepting and trusting in ourselves as well. When psychologists tell us to love ourselves, they point to the essence of the emotional and spiritual development . The Greek philosophers recommended: "Know thyself". Freud said: "Be yourself". Christ taught us this and much more: "love your neighbor as yourself". And from there we will love God, the world and others for God.

Psychology teaches us healthy behavior, emotional wholeness and mature growth, and how we can rise above and beyond ourselves. Christianity, theology, teaches us redemption, reconciliation and resurrection. The two, psychology and theology, in a totally compatible way, meet in the human person, supporting and complementing each other.

Psychology can serve to promote a deeper understanding of ourselves, which enables us to better follow Christ. The more we understand the human dimension of existence, the better we will be able to integrate the divine teaching into our lives. We should not, therefore, fear psychology, but listen to it.

I would like to end this tribune with a few words from a man who knew how to harmonize these two dimensions of the human being: Juan Bautista Torelló, psychiatrist and priest. These words are collected in his book Psychology and Spiritual Life (2008). The author confides to us: "Spiritual directors (we could extend this to people who deal with the training and the government) must know the basic springs of psychology and psychopathology. Not because they have to become amateur psychologists or psychiatrists - which would be a fraud for those who seek in them committee precisely spiritual and not so much psychological - but, in the first place, because they deal with people. And people have essentially a psychic dimension, they are not only souls or bodies".