Science, Spirituality, Mental Health and Self Help

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I’ve been thinking a lot about mental health lately because the thought of other people’s suffering really affects me.

The last few papers that I’ve worked on in a few of my classes have largely been on Spirituality and Science (in my principles of science class), the link between Spirituality and mental health (for my Psychology CT class).

I believe in the power of cause and effect, positive thinking empowerment through changing one’s destiny, hence I am quite spiritual.

My meeting with my psychology Professor last year ended up in him telling me that psychology is not guru stuff and that I should stop reading self help books ( I mentioned how I loved Robin Sharma and Marie Forleo) but instead read scientific research papers written by PhDs from recognized institutions. He also said that I can’t do research in order to prove something for one researches something to find out whether their claim makes sense or not and then they accept the outcome rather than them doing research to prove. He challenged my biases by saying that there is some research that says that meditation doesn’t work which almost did offend me. But, he was very right in many ways.

A few questions came to my mind.

  1. First, why am I so hell bent on finding proof of how spiritual practices can help with one’s well being or mental health? Why am I writing all my papers to understand this correlation?
  2. Why does my Psychology Professor want me to stop reading self help books?

The answer to the first question that I realized was that I don’t need proof that spirituality helps with stress, well- being, or the law of attraction is scientific etc. in order to follow/explore it. If I like spirituality, I’ll go for it/practice it anyway. I believe in the law of attraction then I shouldn’t care that much if research doesn’t support it. Why should these researches matter so much? Although most of them do view spirituality in a positive light, but what if some of them don’t? That doesn’t mean that I “should” stop doing it. Those who want to follow these ideas can, and those who disagree, may as well not. It’s their choice.

The answer to the second question would be that though he (the Professor) doesn’t regard self help books, leadership and management gurus as scientific (because they honestly aren’t lol), that doesn’t mean that they don’t help people. A lot of people are in the life state where knowledge about creative and innovate ways of thinking/dealing with their problems empowers them. So though these books may not fit into the framework of “science”, it doesn’t mean that they’re not valued or contribute to society in some way. So if I manage to improve my thoughts and habits by reading Robin Sharma or Dalai Lama books, then my professor shouldn’t consider me crazy. He perhaps just wants me to disconnect them from my understanding of Psychology.

When it comes to the question of Mental Health, I think it’s important (for me) to recognize that one size does not fit all. So if reading Robin Sharma, Spiritual techniques etc. helps me, that doesn’t mean it helps everyone. It’s an individual choice about what source one chooses to turn to. That’s why I believe that it is imperative for people to explore various things, practices etc. in order to figure out what helps them (and that’s really fun too) because the nature and severity of their problem may also be different. The most we can do is suggest (which will inevitably be based on personal experience), and then it is up to the individual to check out what helps them.

At the same time, since spirituality is one of the causes I am passionate about, there’s no harm in me trying to advance it either. It is definitely meaningful, empowering and philanthropic in many ways, so long as it is non-discriminatory and not overreaching about its claims.

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