“A total restructuring of our knowledge is required once you accept this new definition of a person: A person is a relationship of which the other is infinite. What will the Psychology Department make of that?” — Dom Sebastian Moore
My vocational mission includes what psychology departments will make of personhood, when the person is understood to be more than the sum of physical, emotional, mental, and even spiritual parts. Moore’s new definition has long been my favourite quotation, and I’ve always been fascinated by his use of the preposition “of” rather than the grammatically more suitable “in” within the line, “A person is a relationship of which the other is infinite.” It not only implies that in our very being, we are deeply relational. It also points toward experiencing ourselves differently, without self-ownership.
Given the intimate link with the infinite (which we are given in baptism), our minds are being thought through; our hearts are being loved through; our lips are being spoken through; and “laying on of hands” is made possible when we offer our helping and healing hands as a channel of Christ’s mercy. Applying this to psychology involves recovering the original meaning of the term — psyche (soul)-ology (knowledge) — in other words, soul knowledge. And knowing ourselves on that level comes from all the ways in which we are being known, moment to moment, by that which we call God, the very source of our created-ness.
This “total restructuring,” of course, changes all our other personal relationships, because it starts from a place of unconditional love and belonging. It frees us from the compulsion to depend on others for our sense of self-worth, as much as that may be damaged or enhanced in our human involvements. When we are worthy by definition (good in God’s sight) then we can exercise the three Cs in relationship: courage (to be vulnerable and imperfect), compassion (to be kind, turning a soft gaze upon flaws and faults), and true connection (replacing a trade-off of needs with wholehearted self-giving).
The relatively new movement of positive psychology makes room for all this. In a nutshell, it’s more about what’s right with people than what’s wrong with them. I was once in a holistic health clinic filling out their intake form, and since the questionnaire didn’t have a lot of soul, so to speak, I did my best to hold onto mine when answering (bracketed below):
o Do you have any recurring emotional states? (love & joy)
o Is there any situation suppressing you? (the human condition)
o Are there any areas in your life that are problematic? (focusing on problems)
o What do you worry about the most? (straying from my destined path)
Compare that approach with what would be the kind of intake questions assessing the soul knowledge of therapy clients needing to learn more of their deepest values and purpose:
o In what moments do you usually feel most at peace within yourself?
o How do you best connect with others; what do they love about you?
o What book, piece of music, movie, or art work touched your heart? Why?
o What personal qualities have equipped you to overcome obstacles and resolve problems in the past? What specific strengths have brought you this far?
Speyer is a Benedictine Oblate as well as an author, subject matter expert for e-therapy, clinical consultant and director of InnerView Guidance International (IGI). He also directs a documentary series entitled GuideLives for the Journey: Ordinary Persons, Extraordinary Pathfinders. http://www.guidelives.ca/ Connect with Cedric on https://www.facebook.com/cms94 or via firstname.lastname@example.org