Religion is psychotherapy


Ozodi Osuji

      The term religion is derived from Latin; religion means people’s efforts to reconnect to their source that they believe that they are currently cut off from. Religious rituals are designed to enable people to return to their source, called God.

     Psychotherapy is secular attempt to help individuals to understand the workings of their minds, their thinking and behaviors and where there are issues to help them to correct them; the biggest issue in therapy is the individual’s false beliefs; generally, each person believes that he is a separated self and that his self is very important and worthwhile; often,  the individual places his worth above other people’s worth and seek that false, grandiose worth. In such situations the individual is either neurotic or psychotic; he is in the process of losing touch with reality.

    All people are parts of one unified life; therefore, people are inherently equal and the same. Psychotherapy aims at enabling the individual to have a realistic self-worth, worth that does not feel inferior or superior to other people.

     In prescientific society, those that used to serve people as their spiritual guides, their priests are no longer accepted by scientifically trained persons as their guides; the later accept secular, scientifically trained psychotherapists (psychiatrist, psychologists, counselors) as useful in dealing with the entangled affairs of their individual psyche.

     The goal of Hinduism, Buddhism, Zen, Taoism, Christianity, and other religions is to replace the human ego separated self with a self that is social serving and loving, variously called Atman, Buddha self, Christ self, and to help people to    reconcile themselves with the unknown aspect of their being by positing God and the life after death that he offers people.

       Eastern religions, especially want to help the individual to eliminate his ego, which is deemed a false, separated self; the real self is considered unified with God. These religions aim at enabling the individual to stop seeing his self as separated from God and to stop defending the ego false self with the various ego defense mechanisms that psychoanalysis identified (repression, suppression, dissociation, denial, projection, displacement, rationalization, fantasy, sublimation, reaction-formation, minimizing, anger, pride, fear, shame, guilt).

      If the individual believes that he is separated from other people and from the whole self (God) he defends his separated self; defense makes the ego real in his awareness and that same defense gives him psychological pain and suffering.

       If people accept that there is one unified life and that it manifests in each person, animal, plant, and other biological lives and not defend it as a separated self they tend to live in relative peace and happiness. Eliminate your ego defenses and live in relative peace and joy, Asian religions teach. 

    The body is a means of making life in each person and animals and trees seem separated from the totality of unified life; body is a means of seeing different individuals.

    Body and social experience, especially during people’s childhood, help shape the individual’s personality, the social mask that one has a different self; without body (that is, matter), space and time, what exists is unified life; living from that unified life gives people peace.

      Those who have reconciled themselves to being part of one unified life, aka God, and believe that in God that they are eternal, permanent, and changeless, and are no longer afraid of death tend to live in peace, what Hinduism calls Ananda; they have no fear of death and live in peace. 

      Where folks insist on living as ego, separated selves, religion helps them to shrink down their egotism by telling them that a greater self, a powerful God created them and that they should always bow to him.

     Ordinarily, people are tempted to imagine themselves all powerful and do whatever they want to do and become deluded and grandiose and are destructive to society in pursuit of false grandiose power. Grandiosely deluded people eventually die as lonely people.

     By accepting that a greater power created them and that they are children of God’s one family, and loving most people, religious folks tend to reduce their existential aloneness, and allied anxiety, and shrink down their egos grandiosity and live more humble lives.

     Secular psychotherapy aims to accomplish some of the goals that religion accomplishes. However, people trained in the sciences do not readily accept old time religion and its punitive God.

     Pure reason does not see how a loving God created people to live in bodies that will age, weaken, and die; only a mad God would create people to live in bodies that would die. A God that created ephemeral and transitory people is not so great and powerful; in fact, he is weak.

     Thus, secular folks embrace evolution theory that claims that nature evolved itself into what people currently manifest as.

  Be the reservation of science as it may, religion has its ego shrinking uses. Religious folks say things like this: thank God for the good that happened to me; thank God for keeping me alive; this sense of gratitude recognize that by ourselves alone we cannot really stay alive or give us whatever we have. The entire universe and society help us to stay alive and give us what we call our personal fortune, health, and wealth.

       It is, therefore, realistic to thank God for giving us health and wealth and not take personal credit for them as grandiose egotists do (and then live in fear).

     If you ask me, I will say that religion is probably the best psychotherapy there is, especially if we see the mission of psychotherapy as shrinking down people’s swollen egos; religion does a better job of reducing people’s egotism.

      Indeed, in our current age, some psychotherapies teach people to seek big egos and blame other people for how their lives turn out. If you retain your grandiose ego and blame your parents and other people for what your life is, you have sentenced yourself to living in psychological pain but do not know it.

     I tend to recognize religion as useful and reinforce it in those who believe in God. I personally do not belong to any specific religion but accept that there is a greater power that affects my life. I define that power as loving and try to align myself with love for it and for all people; doing so tends to give me peace and happiness.

     I must, however, not fail in stating that I embrace science; my culture is called scientific culture in the sense that I apply the scientific method to everything and only accept those that pass the requirements of science (are observable, verifiable, falsifiable, and so on). I am not in the business of having faith in what does not make sense to me.

     I do believe that in the future we shall use the scientific method to prove that all life is unified and that there is life after we die, not life in human bodies but in a disembodied, formless state.

Ozodi Osuji

November 13, 2022

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