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Spirituality: Perspectives of Sikhism (Part 3 of 5)

Part 3 – Spirituality in Counseling and Psychotherapy

Other Articles in this Series:
Part 1 – The Teachings of Sikhism
Part 2 – My Perspectives on Spirituality
Part 4 – The Experiental Stages of Spirituality
Part 5 – Spiritual Strategies of the Sikhs

It is encouraging to note that recently the role of spirituality in counseling and psychotherapy is becoming more important. For various reasons, such as lack of knowledge, concerns for keeping separation of religion and state, etc., the spiritual dimension of human behavior has not been given the significance it deserves in counseling and psychology.

Since psychology is presented as a scientific approach to study human behavior, only “seeing is believing” has been considered as valid information. On the contrary, I believe that in case of spirituality, “experiencing is believing.” If one’s spiritual experiences can’t be shown, that does not mean that they are not valid.

It was perhaps Binswanger (1962) a Swiss psychiatrist, who first coined the three words Umwelt to describe the natural environment and the experience of it, Mitwelt to describe the interpersonal (social and cultural) environment, and Eigenwelt to describe the sense of identity arrived at by a full appreciation of ones, mind and body and role in life.

Without the spiritual dimension, human life seems incomplete. There is something very significant missing without spirituality. To fill this void in vocabulary, Emmy van Deurzen-Smith (1988) coined another word, Uberwelt (overworld – i.e. the spiritual world.)

For too long, human experience has been presented as unidimensional (biological) or bi dimensional (psychosocial). It was Engel who, in 1977, proposed three dimensions of human behavior to conceptualize it as bio-psycho-social. Five dimensions of human behavior: biological, psychological, social, moral, and religious or spiritual were proposed by Wilber twenty years later in 1999. 

I believe that human behavior is multi-dimensional (Sandhu & Aspy, 1997.) In addition, I believe that humans are not only psychosexual (Freud) or psychosocial (Erickson,) but they are also psycho-spiritual. Unfortunately, the spiritual dimension of human behavior has been overlooked for too long. I consider spirituality to be an indispensable dimension of human development. A person is not whole or holy without it. In addition to physical development, cognitive development, emotional development, moral development, and psychosocial development, it is imperative that mental health professionals place the necessary emphasis on their clients’ spiritual development. To me, spiritual development is the ultimate human development.

Spirituality as a Fifth Force in Counseling

The psychodynamic, behavioral, humanistic and multicultural, are generally identified as the four forces that come to bear in counseling and psychology (Essandoh, 1996.) By force is meant that each of these perspectives has impacted a wide variety of helping professions, such as counseling, psychology, social work, and nursing. They have also influenced many other fields including education and medicine. It must be noted that each of these forces are not only pervasive and potent, but also prevalent on a continuing basis.

Abraham Maslow is credited with identifying and naming the first three forces: psychodynamics, behaviorism, and humanism. Multiculturalism was first named by Paul Pedersen (1991) as the fourth force. I take a great pride in suggesting for the first time that spirituality should be identified as the fifth force. (Sandhu, in press; Standard, Sandhu, & Painter, 2000.) Again, I am very well aware about the assertions made by Pate and Bondi (1992) and Frame and Williams (1996) that spirituality is an offshoot of multiculturalism. But I believe that spirituality as a force is so pervasive, extant, potent, significant, and towering by itself that it can stand independently as the fifth force in counseling and psychology by its own right (Sandhu, in press.)

Fortunately, the psychospiritual dimension is increasingly becoming a strong force in the view of human personality. There has been an increase in interest in spiritual matters and this has been reflected in both popular and professional literature in America (Richards & Bergin, 1997.) The present book with nationally known authors and its editor, Dr. Oliver Morgan, is another example that reflects the zeitgeist of the new millennium.

It is clear that spiritual issues are coming more into the focus of other disciplines as well such as medicine (e.g., Daaleman & Frey, 1999) and nursing (e.g, Narayanasamy, 1999) to name a few. Thomas (1999) reported an increase from 4 of 135 to 40 of 135 medical schools offering a course on religious and spiritual issues. Since 1996, psychiatric residency programs in the United States are required to formally address religious and spiritual issues in training (Brawer et al., 2002.) The American Psychiatric Association (2000) includes “Religious or Spiritual Problem” as part of its section on “Other Conditions That May Be a Focus of Clinical Attention” (p. 313.) Richards and Bergin (1997) write that the spirit of the times is ripe for bringing spirituality into mainstream theory and practice. Therefore, the recognition of spirituality as a fifth force, can no longer be ignored or dismissed.

From the perspective of Sikhism, spirituality is the be all and the end of all human life. It is the highest goal to which one should aspire. Gurbani asserts that “Bhai parapet manukh de huria, Gobind milan ki eh teri baria” – “This human body has been given to you. This is your chance to meet the Lord of the Universe.”

The human birth is an important milestone in the progress of a soul to achieve union with the Supreme reality. It is only possible if we make spirituality the primal force in our lives. (Molla V, p. 11.)


Other Articles in this Series:
Part 1 – The Teachings of Sikhism
Part 2 – My Perspectives on Spirituality
Part 4 – The Experiental Stages of Spirituality
Part 5 – Spiritual Strategies of the Sikhs

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