The Psyche & the Soul

Today’s society has become entrenched between dynamic polarities; the search for the soul through the incorporation of spirituality, the development and overindulgence with the self, and belief and understanding there may be neither. In the modern Western, secular society, the soul has been replaced with the self and the measure of humanity is based on personal autonomy, self-sufficiency, individuation, differentiation form others, and self-fulfillment (Boyd, 1996). As the word “self” has become the modern replacement for the word “soul,” the rich history of the soul through the context of past traditions, cultures, religions through the vertical transcendence; a belief that hierarchically all things have their own origin in the domain of the sacred (Goodenough, 2001). As the culmination of embracing the spiritual within the ideology of the self has amassed a shift with modern society, the path toward enlightenment, knowledge, and the search of truth comes to fruition through the focused and concentrated efforts of a horizontal self-development. While on the surface these goals appear to be endowed with the wisdom of sage’s past, the self will leave individuals no closer to understanding themselves, others, or the ultimate truths of the human condition.

The concept of truth can be as allusive as the concept of the soul, but mirrors many of the difficulties experienced by the earliest founders of the discipline of psychology. As psychology separated and diverted itself from its philosophical and theological beginnings, the pursuit of psychology changed in methodology and pursuit. As a result of the claim to empirical science, the field of psychology began to embrace a pragmatic view of truth. The value of truth belief became affiliated with validity based on the compatibility of its predictions and its results instead of a truth embodying the personal, subjective authentic experience of an individual (Yadlin-Gadot, 2017). In the process of seeking validity and scientific status, quantification and the positivist view of the truth increased the separation between the knower and the known, and knowledge became grounded in positivism and the scientific practice of tracking the sensory experiences (Tafreshi, Slaney, & Neufeld, 2016). As a result of the positivism, the study of the soul morphed into abstractness, and the will to truth was reduced to a view of the soul into a scientific methodology of measurement and quantification of the visual. This movement would become one of the biggest contributions to nihilism, and the redirection from the traditions and beliefs of the past to the human condition represented through the concept of the self (Richardson, 2011). The process of the transformation of truth in the discipline of psychology can be attributed to the foundations of quantification in the late 19th century Germany, and the incorporation of the positivist view of knowledge. The concept of truth through a scientific lens will only narrow our understanding instead of expanding possibility. In reconciling the claims of science, the pursuit of truth must incorporate the claims of the various religion and morality in order to encapsulate the complexity of truth, and its relationship to the application of the human condition.

Since the inception of the field of psychology, and its original understanding and study of the soul, the focus of study has changed in such a dramatic fashion. Prior to the late 1800’s, psychology focused on the study of the psyche, or the soul, in relation to the human condition. During the late 1800’s, a significant change occurred when William Wundt, who is often credited to the founder of the science of psychology (Gare, 2019), established the first experimental psychology laboratory, rejecting the existence of the soul and attributing the understanding of the human condition to physiology; the body, brain and nervous system. The removal of the soul created the way for psychology to embrace the possibility of becoming a science and embraced a natural scientific understanding of the human being (Citizens Commission on Human Rights, 2018). This view of the human condition has continued, and modern psychology continues to rely on psychiatric and biological models, which is one of the greatest barriers for psychology and expanding rather than reducing the understanding of the human condition.

The term “soul” derives from the ancient Greek word “psyche” and was embraced in antiquity by philosophical thinkers. The soul is that entity within a person that integrates all the components of a life into one’s own, singular life (Willard, 1998). If the field of psychology continues to reduce the human being into empirical and quantitative statistics in order to enhance the understanding of the “self,” than the subjective meaning of life will continue to be overshadowed by the reductionist approach to science. The removal of the soul from the human condition occurred in psychology after the development of a secularized era of the “self,” and the separation of the philosophical and theological understanding of the human being through the lens of a natural science. In order for the discipline of psychology to continue to expand from it’s foundations, it must be able to understand the essence of the human condition in relationship to the natural world in which it exists within. This is where vertical transformation and the hierarchical system of body, mind, soul, spirit and Absolute can provide the answers to the human achievement, potential and optimal health.

Transformation

dsc_0654-1I have begun the process of metamorphosis.

The transformation of my soul,

As the dragonfly evolved from the dragon.

Skin shedding from the body, as I climb from the past,

Silver wings protrude from below the darkness that attempt to control their escape.

My mind seems to wander, into places of obscenity,

As my brain balances the obscure with the mundane madness of sanity.

Enlarged evil eyes as they interpret the glory of fear,

As the trodden path follows to balance my outward crawl,

I hear cracklings of fire belching from within.

The staunch taste of death rises,

As the unknown slithers near.

-Devin Olio

via Daily Prompt: Transformation
Transformation

Secrets of Fear

dsc_0097You are only afraid if you are not in harmony with yourself. People are afraid because they have never owned up to themselves.”

-Hermann Hesse

Fear. That was my secret. I have seen it in all its splendor as it rendered me motionless time and time again. I was afraid. Afraid of myself (not as a danger too self or others, but as the potential to fail), my insecurities, inadequacies and frailties; I was afraid of the vast, endless amount of possibilities, the decisions, and the contrast between each possible path. I was paralyzed in the future, while having little presence in the moment. As I look back now I have no idea why? Why others have the uncanning ability to appear as if they motionlessly float throughout life without a hair out of place, while the rest of us rejects stumble upon pebbles. I know I was living in fear, but I learned that it was the fear of life itself that crippled me. Life is scary and painful. No…life is terrifying! There is so much that is out of your control, and little you have control over. Youth offers the illusion of possibility, while age slowly rips it from your grasp. Each misstep adding to the one before it as you build a future without even knowing where you’re going.

Looking back now that was the scariest thing of all. I didn’t know who I was. I realize now looking back few of us really do, ever, and we spend our whole lives in fear of ourselves, and the inability to own up to where we are in the current moment. We all struggle at one point or another with the paradox of confusion; not knowing who we are, but living a life that has created where we are. Does your life mirror your ideal self? A life that measures up to who you feel you are as a human being? Does your exterior reflect your interior value and belief systems, morals, desires, aspirations, and needs? My soul wasn’t in harmony with who I was as an individual. I was running from the person I was creating, at the same time getting further and further from the person I truly was. I wasn’t ready to own up to myself, and wouldn’t be for several decades later. Afraid no more, but still in search of the harmony that comes with the journey of self-ownership.

Reflection

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For myself, the journey began not long ago when I caught a glimpse of the reflection of my true self; a silhouette that illuminated tiny shards of a person I once knew. I was shaken, confused and utterly terrified at what I saw; a slow, steady stream of pictures of my past which shaped the person I am today. I felt as if I was the only person in a dark theater observing a movie through a dimly lit projector; no sound, special effects, or actors. I was the protagonist, and there were no other distractions to appease my avoidance of what I saw. I was watching a movie in real time of my past, each event unfolding as if it happened yesterday. As I watched in horror at what I saw, my immediate reaction was to disassociate myself, and hide as far beneath my mind as possible, as if I could somehow continue to hide the truth I always knew was lingering within my soul. How did this happen? Why did this happen now, and why did I allow myself to be subjected to such a vulnerable state. As each day passed from then, as much as I tried to ignore the visions of that day, the more I was thrust into the horrifying reality of what I saw. I had been thrust into the undeniable reality that I was living a lie, and the more I tried to participate in the trickery of presentation, the shallower and empty I felt. Believe me…I tried. I wore every mask that I had ever created, but it was as if they had lost their power. For the first time in my life, I was faced with the sickening reality that the masks I had used since I was a child to fool the world around me were useless because of the power I had lost in myself. I was now faced with the truth that I hadn’t fooled the world, I had only fooled myself, and was now lost in my own devastation that I had created for so many years. I realized I wasn’t hiding from the world around me, I was hiding from myself; the culprit all these decades wasn’t the exterior world that I was so attuned into playing a fool. I was the only actor, and the only fool.

The Authentic Self

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It takes courage to grow up, and become who you really are.

-E.E. Cummings

We live in a world that is infatuated with presentation; how we dress, appeal to others, speak, behave and the multiple ways in which we are labeled, and therefore judged, by those we come in contact with. Who am I, and how would I authentically like to been seen by others? How am I supposed to behave at work, school and social events? How do I want family, friends, in-laws and peers to view me? We spend countless hours contriving ways to provoke the world to respond to us only to be left with the foolishness of what we’ve created. After the required energy spent to deceive others into believing what we portray, there is little energy left to acknowledge our authentic self. This concept mirrors Victor Frankl’s assumption that happiness, much the same as authenticity, cannot be pursued, but ensued, and will continue to allude the seeker the greater one focused on that outcome.

While I spend the majority of time in an occupational field that stresses presentation as a means of attaining clinical outcomes,  I have found the less I concern myself with the way others may perceive me, and more time I spend on behaving in a way that brings me intrinsic joy, the less the issue of extrinsic perception matters. I have come to believe that individuals want to see the authentic you, the person that doesn’t have to portray a mirage of stimulation or colorful disguises in order to connect with another human being, or strains to search for an authentic self. Authenticity displays truth. Others prefer to see your weaknesses along with your strengths, your insecurities along with your self-efficacy, and your doubts and fears along with your certainties. That is authenticity, for authenticity if found in our ability to share with others our true self, without the perception of uniqueness or difference. If we spend our time hiding within the fallacy of the perception of someone else, we may just lose sight of who we are becoming in the process. Don’t waste your time on fooling others for you will slowly become the only fool. Become the author of your own story, own it, and share it with the world. Shine in your own splendor! Spend a little time within yourself, get comfortable with the uncomfortable, and find the aspects of yourself you cherish, and let them out in all their glory. Authenticity is not necessarily authentic, but authentically unique, and we are all unique in our own way.