Working in my garden a few months ago, I was taught the most powerful lesson in healing our Soul wounds.
We have quite a large backyard with poor soil due to the previous owner’s misuse of it. Since living here, a ravenous species of weed has invaded the entire place. And due to our busy schedules and lack of time, the weeds keep coming back over and over again. My gardener suggested that I needed to apply pesticides to remove the weeds, but I wanted to try something different.
This got me thinking: what if instead of trying to suppress or eliminate the weeds, I try to strengthen the soil quality instead? I could do this by planting native species to improve the ecosystem so that invader species don’t find as much space in a well established, mature garden.
Later I realized the state of our garden is really only a metaphor for the relationship we have with our inner selves – and some forms of psychology in particular.
Through the years, so many people have told me how inadequate they feel after being treated by certain forms of psychology. Instead of finding a compassionate, balanced and holistic system, these people have been treated by therapists who attempt to suppress or pathologize the fragmented and wounded elements of their psyches.
This has led to countless people explaining to me how deeply inadequate, confused and even more lost they have felt after being “treated” and “counseled.”
While some forms of psychotherapy have done a lot of good for a lot of people, psychology at large has been based on the illusory belief that we are separate from existence.
If you are wondering why traditional therapy hasn’t worked out for you, this article could help explain why.
Why Therapy Doesn’t Work For You …
As an egocentric culture we have a dysfunctional notion of the self in which we perceive ourselves as isolated, separate and competitive entities.
In seeing ourselves as completely separate from each other and nature, we develop a series of common pathological symptoms such as anxiety, depression, obsessions, eating disorders, addictions and mania.
Apart from a few exceptions (Jungian and integrative psychology), the main focus of psychology is on diagnosing and treating the symptoms of diseases and “mental illnesses.” Its priority is to identify what is wrong with you, and make it go away.
In many forms of psychology, there is very little consideration about what is inherently right about humans, and much less about nurturing and encouraging the process of personal empowerment.
Because of this, many forms of psychology has unintentionally blocked our ability to grow and fully blossom into mature human beings. By treating our superficial symptoms rather than our core wounds, it has unwittingly cramped our psychological and spiritual advancement.
For example, some people have shared with me stories of their depressions and how they were treated by therapists. These depressions originated as wake-up calls by their unconscious minds telling them that something was wrong with their lives; something wasn’t fulfilling their soul’s cravings. Yet instead of seeing this deep unhappiness as valuable spiritual calls for growth, it was quick to be labeled, medicated, and eliminated.
Another way ego-centric psychology limits us is by treating our difficulties primarily as the result of troubles within our individual psyches. It ignores the interrelation between our environments and our mental health. The harmonious well-being of our families, the maturity and richness of our communities, and the vitality of our natural environments all play huge roles in our mental wellbeing.
When large groups of people begin experiencing the same psychological troubles of anxiety, depression and loneliness (as we can commonly see in our societies today), we cannot blame solely the individual. It is the responsibility of all of us to make our society more whole, mature and soul-centric.
The current psychological approach of asking, “What symptoms of dysfunction are you exhibiting, and what can be done to eliminate them?” is not enough anymore.
What is Soul-Centric Psychology?
With all of this said, it is clear that we need a more soul-centric approach to psychology.
Soul-centric psychology varies from ego-centric psychology in that it encourages growth within you. It doesn’t aim to remove, cover or suppress that which is within you – instead, it fertilizes your soul.
Soul-centric psychology asks the question, “What qualities are you missing that prevent you from embodying your wholeness, and what can we do to cultivate these qualities in your life?” Your psyche might be craving for example a greater sense of wonder, a deeper body awareness, expressing your creativity, a like-minded group of people to socialize, or a forgotten passion.
By approaching our own healing in this way, we treat our wounds much more holistically. By viewing your dysfunction as unresolved obstacles on your path of wholeness, you are not only curing your depression, anxiety, isolation and existential crisis, you are also ripening and maturing as a human being. This is the essential difference between soul-centric and ego-centric treatment: they both remove the symptoms but one actually does so by achieving wholeness and belonging in the world while the other doesn’t.
In my experience over the years as a “wounded healer,” I’ve come to see that true psychological healing comes from learning how to embrace your wounds and fragmentation from the cultivated richness of your consciously matured Self.
Wholeness comes before healing, not the other way around. Wholeness is the foundation; the soil. Healing is the sprouting seed that will later blossom.
If you’d like to learn more about soul-centric psychology, we explore it further in our spiritual psychology article.
Gardening Your Soul
Once we get started in our “wholing” process, we can then begin self-healing. Self-healing actually accelerates our ability for wholing. In fact, wholing and healing compliment and reinforce each other.
Our human psyches possess incredible capacities and resources that Western psychology barely even acknowledges. It should be a priority within psychology, education, religion, medicine and personal development to reclaim these capacities. Only once we embrace these latent resources will we empower people to awaken, rise up, and become genuine catalysts of cultural transformation.
Much of what mainstream psychology labels as a “pathology” such as anxiety, depression, manias, phobias, personality disorders, and even the ability to hear or see things other people don’t (which is common among many shamans) are not necessarily problems themselves. Instead, they might be underdeveloped psychological resources or inborn capacities of the unconscious mind that are awaiting cultivation within us.
These symptoms might best be alleviated, not by trying to destroy them, avoid them or mask them, but by developing our deeper resources. These resources include inner gifts of empathy, sensitivity, compassion, openness, creativity, insight and much more. In fact, our dysfunctional symptoms might be making themselves known not so much because we are broken or disordered, but because we’re deficient in our embodiment of wellness, health, or wholeness.
By eliminating these symptoms without cultivating wholeness, we still have an unwell, unwhole and fragmented part within us that will soon enough sprout new weeds and new symptoms.
Finding wholeness and healing, however, requires more than just exploring parts of ourselves. It requires developing mature and reciprocal relationships between ourselves, others and existence. For me, nature has provided that depth of connection. I always feel the most whole when planting a tree, restoring a habitat, nurturing a plant, or eliminating waste and pollution.
So my main message is this: psychology isn’t the only way. And if you’re currently struggling with therapy and don’t know why it’s not working for you, it could be because the whole system is flawed in the first place.
Dousing yourself with pharmaceutical pesticides and then therapeutically weeding them out is not the only option. The other option is to enrich your soul with wholeness.