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5.0 out of 5 stars A courageous appeal to reconcile religion and psychoanalysis, 12 Aug. 2005
This review is from: Emotion and Spirit: Questioning the Claims of Psychoanalysis and Religion (Paperback)
Psychoanalysis (with Freud as its founder) has refused to acknowledge religious values; equally is religion reluctant to accept and integrate psychoanalytical practices in counseling. Symington says that if religion is to address the emotional needs of people, especially in intimate relationships, it is to make use of psychoanalytical practices.
Symington appeals to both, religion and psychoanalysis to combine forces: religion in the purpose giving task to pass on meaningful values and psychoanalysis in sounding out the depths of ones own potential for good and vulnerability to evil.
In the pursuit to sound out depths of psyche or soul, the searching person, for whom religious practices, i.e. catholic confession or evangelical quick-fix, are too ritualistic or too superficial, will certainly find this book helpful.
Besides, I found that Symington was helpful in clarifying the differences between guilt passed down to us by others (superego) and guilt originating from suppressing our own conscience: Symington says that if we ignore our own conscience we are to conjure up [true] guilt. As tension between true guilt and false guilt can cause serious illnesses, religion should welcome the tools of psychoanalysis. I think Symington is right, because religion with its devotional and membership orientated structure can provide a long-term support for people with profound needs. However, religion, especially if it's too dogmatic, struggles with the idea of encouraging the individual to listen to his own conscience, rather than to religious teaching. In their zeal to save people, some see psychoanalysis as some kind of an anti-Christian worldly threat. Symington does not argue his point from a specific religion's point of view. If he did, he would have found a rich contribution from Jesus' insight alone; after all wasn't it Jesus who, long before psychoanalysis was discovered, spoke (a propos judging others) with authority at looking into our own dark corners. (Mat.7:1-5)
The non-judgmental aspect of religion is especially important, because without it, religion can easily take the place of an intimidating authority, leaving us with a burdening legacy (superego), which can blur our view to distinguish between indoctrination and conscience.
Accepting people the way they are (non-conditional love) has always been one of religions virtues contribution, but I think I can hear Symington say, that religion could do more for those who are ready to receive more than merely being paternalised and consolidated.
Symington's controversial conclusion of his fascinating study is that psychoanalysis itself is spiritual in character. Symington says that, like all developed religion, psychoanalysis is distinctly different from primitive religion and, like Jesus or Buddha, seeks to balance harmony between inner peace and peace with others, by focusing on the essential that can not be separated from deeds of virtues.
Any one convinced that spirituality is part of being human, like a vessel; in need to be filled with meaning and, that the psyche or soul is worthy of profound examination, this book is an absolute must!
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