This chapter focuses on consideration of two kinds of abuse: abuse that takes place within a church and abuse that takes the place of a church. In the first, the pastor is usually unaware of the abuser, and in the second, the pastor often is the abuser. The spiritual ramifications when trusted religious leaders use people for sexual gratification are enormous. Gartner described how children abused by spiritual leaders can develop a crisis of faith, believing that somehow they have betrayed God. There is also a problem of the heterosexual abuse of children and adults by clergy of all denominations. Psychotherapists can perform preventative and even ameliorative work in churches by meeting with church leadership to help train them in identifying and dealing appropriately with sex abuse in the church. With regard to spirituality and religion, it’s important that the abused person is treated psychologically and also spiritually.
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The complex situation is filled with this kind of overflow of experience, and this situation has been called various things. Couples therapy often starts off with one person blaming or being blamed, which is a simplistic, one-person approach that does not take into consideration the complexity of the situation. “Situation” is a term referring to the complex set of factors related to a biopsychosocial system that is self-adapting in nature and comprising both ontic and phenomenal features. Although people would like to reduce complexity down to more simple chunks and organizational structures, the working alliance is a two-person field that is related through extra-therapeutic common factors to larger and overlapping fields in the lives of both therapist and client. A working relationship in psychotherapy is an ontic field with phenomenal features. The relational matrices in the church interact with the levels of spiritual maturity in the people and their giftedness.
Spiritism, spiritualism, and the occult often get mixed up. In fact, spiritism and spiritualism are often used interchangeably, with the most notable difference being that spiritists believe in reincarnation, while not all spiritualists do. Both spiritists and spiritualists believe that disembodied spirits can communicate and carry on relationships with incarnate human beings. Spiritists, though, are empowered to make their own connections with God apart from the work of priests or others invested with spiritual authority. From a Christian perspective, spiritists have made a science, with its own philosophy, out of wizardry and the occult. Occult practices, in general, are regarded by many to be a legitimate aspect of mystical spiritual experience; indeed, modern spiritism is regarded to have emerged from the ground of Swedenbor-gian practices. Psychotherapists do not operate primarily as theologians, evangelists, or apologists for any given spiritual or religious group.
There is the rub between religion and spirituality that brings many people to divide them into a polarity, with a structured religious institution at one end and a spontaneous and creative flowing in contacting between the whole person and something of greater meaning and/or organizing influence at the other. This chapter is an investigation of this polarity people create between religion and spirituality, as well as a look at spirituality and religion from a psychological stance, a philosophical stance, and a theological stance. Spirituality generally refers to meaning and purpose in one’s life, a search for wholeness, and a relationship with a transcendent being. The psychology of religion is a huge subject. It includes anything a person might think of in the field of psychology pointed toward an intersection with religion and spirituality. Religion and spirituality are simply socially constructed to serve human needs in social conditions.
Many of the people who come for psychotherapy do not mention God or spiritual issues. Some identify themselves as atheists, and for them spiritual issues would be not simply irrelevant but inappropriate. For others, though, they are dissatisfied with God. Their dissatisfaction with God is unhappiness, disaffection, and disapproval. It is often seen in spiritual dullness and malaise, because the dissatisfaction, like unaddressed doubt, is never dealt with and worked through to either a strengthening of faith or a complete disillusion and rejection of God. Show off the client’s dissatisfaction with God through experiments that put the client’s relationship with God on the line or that explore the value of the spiritual disciplines the client does or does not practice. For a client to conduct an authentic conversation with God in which he or she expresses the dissatisfaction that plagues him or her can be a healthy thing.
The theological study of endings is called eschatology, and it includes the end of times in the culmination of history when God brings it all to a head in the re-creation of the world and the personal end of times for each person when that person dies. Eschatology is a perfect reason for people to argue, because the arguments are about things that cannot be proven. Religious people have claimed to have received revelations and visions about what is to come in the world and also about what heaven is like. The most common theory among Christians about what happens at death is that the Christian who dies goes immediately into the conscious presence of God. Personal eschatology is not just about what kind of ending a person has, but what kind of transition a person experiences moving from this life to the life after death.
In Chinese philosophy, legalism is a term indicating a focus on laws, methods for employing them, and the legitimacy of the roles of law enforcers. Legalism in Christianity refers to the thinking that adherence to the law is sufficient to obtain salvation or spiritual benefit. Legalism is often experienced as rigidity regarding expectations that manifests in binary appraisals of people. While rigidity is not strictly a spiritual problem, rigidity and legalism are problems to spiritual people. When people set up extra rules, those that go beyond the ones obviously found in the Bible, and then hold rigidly to their applications, this is called legalism. Legalism in the form of public policy dictated a smaller birthrate, while on the other hand a cultural legalism in the form of social expectations called for a larger birthrate. No spiritual leader or psychotherapist can turn around an ingrained legalism by simply pointing it out.
There are many kinds of relationships, but there is a commonality that helps to define what a relationship is. A relationship is “contact” over time. A quality therapeutic relationship is critical to positive outcomes in psychotherapy. Two factors contribute to the quality and nature of such a relationship: impact that is the intensity or significance of any given point of contact and frequency that is the actual number of points of contact. Spirit is the medium, and faith is the means by which one establishes and develops a relationship with God. Spirituality as relationship includes meetings between self and other over time and with impact, where “other” is understood to be a transcendent other or focus of ultimate concern. Spiritual relationship is the feelings and attitudes that flow between a person and a transcendent other of consideration in which there is the potential for interpersonal knowledge and intimate contact.
The concept of enactment is not the term as understood in psychoanalysis the actualization of the transference, or the patient’s efforts to persuade or force the analyst into reciprocal action. Some therapeutic approaches, like gestalt therapy (GT), have made use of enactment for decades, while others have done so more recently. The movement to enactment is the transition from talking about something to the actual here-and-now occurrence of events that comprise one’s sense of being alive. Qualitative research data substantiate that people have a more comprehensive learning experience through enactment learning by experience that tends to be holistic as opposed to learning terms, theories, and/or principles alone. The process of engaging in actions that build up a person spiritually and for which that person does not condemn him- or herself is a struggle. The spirituality of the therapist is quite relevant.