Plants growing

Planting Seeds of Healing Through Spirituality

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Editor’s Note: This blog post is the third of a three-part series.


In my last post, I spoke about how our belief systems inform the ways in which we navigate our meaning making processes (see post here). Many of our beliefs are rooted in spirituality and/or religion. In this post, I will provide ways in which spirituality can be harnessed as a resource for the self and family in hopes that these seeds of healing may grow. 

Spirituality as a Resource

Spiritual beliefs contribute to how we make sense of our world. They involve transcendent beliefs and experiences that can elicit and foster well-being, purpose, connectedness1. Beliefs distinguish us from one another, and also join us together. In that line of logic, spirituality is inherently relational. It guides our connections with others. It is a relational phenomenon. Spiritual beliefs are socially constructed, developed and nurtured by community, and solidified by language used within your family or social system.

During times of discord and uncertainty, those who have access to and can draw from their resources tend to have better psychological and social outcomes. Spiritualty is one of those individual, family, and social resources that can easily be drawn from during these times2-3. It is free, it can be explored and harnessed in solitude and in relationships, and it can serve to orient the mind and spirit.

Regardless of your religious and spiritual traditions, below are 3 ways in which one can cultivate a spiritual curiosity and foster spiritual growth for the self while in relationship with other.

1. Spiritual Emotions

Pay attention to how, when, and with whom you experience emotions connected to transcendence4-5. You can use these self-transcendent emotions as prompts when journaling and/or in conversation with another. For example: “Recently I felt inspired by ___, which made me feel ___.” or “When I feel gratitude, I am more likely to ___.”

CompassionAppreciationElevation
AweInspirtationLove
GratitudeAdmiration

Exploring and harnessing these emotions bind us to something and someone beyond the self. It is through transcending our previous limitations, striving toward a worthwhile goal, and encountering other human beings that we find meaning and fulfillment in our lives.

2. Spiritual Meaning

During times of extreme circumstances and suffering, it may be useful to draw from the “Meaning Triangle” by the existential philosopher and psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl. Frankl’s Meaning Triangle6 is comprised of three ways by which we can search for a higher order of meaning in our life. They include:

  • Creativity: giving something to the world through self-expression, using our talents in various ways (i.e., the work we do, the gifts we give to life).
  • Experiences: receiving from the world through nature, culture, relationships, interactions with others, and our environment.
  • Change of Attitude: even if we can’t change a situation or circumstance, we can still choose our attitude toward a condition (i.e., often a self-transcending way of finding meaning).

In this exercise, use these prompts to explore your connection to meaning, and your higher purpose. Write down the areas in which you and your loved ones find or would like to find meaning7.

CREATIVITY
In what ways do you give to the world through your work, good deeds, art, music, writing, invention, helping others, sponsored events, voluntary work, charities, hobbies, and/or interests?
EXPERIENCE
In what ways do you received from the world—whether it be nature, music, art, theatre, concerts, galleries, museums, literature, outdoor mindful activity (e.g. awareness of environment), mindfulness, being with others, spirituality?
CHANGE OF ATTITUDE
How are you sensing a need to challenge existing attitudes, change the way we think about life situations, or see a different perspective:
Is there another way of looking at this?
What’s the bigger picture?
How might someone else see this situation?
What advice would I give to someone else in this situation?
What’s the most helpful and best response for me, others, and this situation?

Print this exercise to practice at home here.

3. Spiritual Beliefs

Broaden your experiences, expand your knowledge base, and explore your belief systems. Find new ways to connect with your spirituality to help you explore some of the larger life questions. The following are some of my favorite books that have helped to expose me to broader ways of thinking and have allowed me to examine my belief systems.


References

1. Walsh, F. (Ed.). (2008). Spiritual resources in family therapy. Guilford Press.

2. Boss, P., Bryant, C. M., & Mancini, J. A. (2016). Family stress management: A contextual approach. Sage Publications.

3. King, P. E. & Boyatzis C. (2015). Religious and spiritual development. In M. E. Lamb & C. G. Coll (Eds.), Social and Emotional Issues (Vol. 3) of the Handbook of Child Psychology and Developmental Science (7th ed.). Editor-in-chief: R. M. Lerner. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, p. 975-1021.

4. Algoe, S. B., & Haidt, J. (2009). Witnessing excellence in action: The “other-praising” emotions of elevation, gratitude, and admiration. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4, 105–127.

5. Stellar, J. E., Gordon, A. M., Piff, P. K., Cordaro, D., Anderson, C. L., Bai, Y., Maruskin, L.A., Keltner, D. (2017). Self-Transcendent Emotions and Their Social Functions: Compassion, Gratitude, and Awe Bind Us to Others Through Prosociality. Emotion Review, 9(3), 200–207.

6. Frankl, V. E. (1985). Man’s search for meaning. Simon and Schuster.

7. Wong, P. T. (1997). Meaning-centered counseling: A cognitive-behavioral approach to logotherapy. In International forum for logotherapy (Vol. 20, pp. 85-94). Viktor Frankel Institute of Logotherapy.

About the Author

Stephanie Trudeau

Stephanie Trudeau

Dr. Stephanie Trudeau is a Postdoctoral Research Associate with the Thrive Center for Human Development where she currently studies the intersection of spirituality and thriving. Trained as a Medical Family Therapist and Integrated Behavioral Health Researcher, her academic expertise utilizes a biopsychosocial-spiritual lens in order to examine illness and recovery across family and social systems. She has dedicated her clinical and scholarly career toward developing a deeper understanding how families cope in the face of adversity, trauma, and grief.

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