Utne Blogs > Mind and Body

Is Psychoanalysis a Spiritual Belief?

 by Bennett Gordon


Tags: spirituality, religion, psychoanalysis, self knowledge,

At its core, psychoanalysis is a quest for self knowledge, in some ways similar to religious study. Patrick Lee Miller writes for the Immanent Frame that psychoanalysis is a “source of self,” borrowing a phrase from author Charles Taylor, and is able to “enrich our lives with meaning, arrange our activities to serve higher goals, and thus motivate us at times to act beyond our narrow interests.” And if psychoanalysis is able to generate wisdom and reveal meaning, why can’t it be considered alongside other modern worldviews and religions?

matt foster
8/25/2008 2:15:37 PM

Doesn't one psychoanalysis doctrine recommend that "If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him?" I think if one truly evaluated Buddhism, they would see that it is, in many ways, a religion of psychology. You can completely not adhere to the mythology and history of Buddhism and still have it effect your life by acknowledging the four noble truths. In my opinion, you don't even need to follow the eight fold path in order to deal with your relationship with reality although it's hard to imagine that a single individual could come with something better than the milleniums of philosophical study that Buddhism represents. Still just learning the truths and using them to adjust perception can do a lot for an individual. And from what I can tell the adjustment of perception in order to possitively effect the patient is what psychology and psychoanalysis are aiming for.


steve maxcy, anthropologist
8/21/2008 9:08:11 AM

An old Zen saying suggests that 'one must find the self to lose the self'. In seeking that self, one often finds spirituality. Psychoanalysis is merely a bridge for individuals to cross, a tool in the bag, one particular tip-toe in the tulip field of spirituality. Psychoanalysis presumes itself a science, and thus contains scientific flaws. Spirituality seeks to increase the fields of possibility; science limits. Science is a discipline; spirituality a search. Psychoanalysis is a review and analysis of what has happened; spirituality is a hope towards what might happen. One discovers with psychotherapy, but illuminates and radiates that self (discovered) only through spirituality. Medicine is merely a practice, often backed by spirituality. Spirituality is sometimes the ultimate suggestion of psychoanalysis [Jung], and must not be seen as 'path'. Analyze this: "Behold, I stand at the door without knockers..." Maxcy


rodney drake m.d._3
8/20/2008 1:59:50 PM

I undertook psychoanalytic training 28 years ago. In the Washington, DC area there are now 5 psychoanalytic institutes providing training in psychoanalysis as well as in psychodynamic psychotherapy. The experience that patients have from this is simply invaluable. It is NOT a religion, it does NOT depend on faith, therapists so trained to NOT tell the patient how it is with him or her, there is no appeal to a higher power other than the self and the results are remarkable. People think psychoanalysis had died and are so surprised to learn it is both alive and well. Our society is so constructed sadly today to want instant gratification via drugs, "meds", quick fixes through cognitive behavioral therapy which limits the number of sessions once started, usually to around 12. Psychoanalysis takes what many of us in this country no longer understand or want and that is time, time to listen to oneself carefully and deeply. We surround ourselves today with cell phones always on, with ipods, with iphones, loud music, drugs (both illicit and prescribed) and the inner self is essentially denied access. Psychoanalysis explores this part of the self in a patient, supportive, protected enviroment. The process does take time and it is a wonderful use of time. Many argue that it is a treatment only for the rich. This is nonsense. Candidates always offer treatment at a reduced rate that will fit the financial restraints of the patient and graduate analysts will usually comprimise on a fee with the patient, again to fit the financial level of the patient. I could say so much more but I have already used up so much space.


rod paynter
8/20/2008 10:54:56 AM

psychoanalysis and psychological growth aren't spiritual beliefs, they're spiritual practices. They enhance life and are useful no matter what one's spiritual beliefs.


gary ashcraft
8/19/2008 4:34:19 PM

Spiritual, it might be? But to place it on parr with Religion? I DON'T THINK SO !! It has all the same edifying effects of cosmetic surgery. Gary Ashcraft


matt foster
8/18/2008 2:56:46 PM

I really like how this thought track seems to be heading toward a unified field theory.