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Resilience Requires Beliefs
Therapy can help us work through our problems, but if relied upon independently from moral or religious belief systems risks creating a self-centered lack of resiliency.
Last Sunday, the Freemen News-letter ran a submission from Senior Freelance Contributor Ben Connelly about some of the key differences between therapy and religion. I’ve had more than a few excellent conversations about the piece this week, and I thought I’d offer one of my brief observations about some of the problems I’ve seen created through an overreliance on therapy for healthy well-being.
I definitely think therapy has a useful place in helping people. There are some problems and some difficulties that need a professional, uninvolved ear to help people get things off their chest. Unbiased, experienced advice can be worth its weight in gold. And, I think helping people work through their issues is a noble vocation.
But I still have certain concerns. I have often observed the creation of a form of philosophical hedonism in those who undergo therapy. They come to see their mental health as the center of their universe, and everything else is measured by either being a help or a hindrance to their mental health.
I've had many conversations with people going through therapy, and I'm shocked how many times I hear people say they’ve severed old friendships, have hesitated to build new ones, engage or don't engage in certain activities, left their marriages, or even completely abandoned previously and deeply held moral and religious beliefs all based on what was "good for their mental health."
As I said, I think there is an important place for mental health considerations, and working through such problems with a professional can be a very productive experience. But I get very concerned when people who think they're improving their lives end up living their lives with a self-centered lack of resiliency.
I know the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" idea is considered a silly cliche by most these days, but I do think there's something to be said about developing intestinal fortitude in the face of adversity instead of organizing life in a way that avoids uncomfortable, uncertain, or disruptive people and environments.
I think religion, or at the very least moral philosophy, provides a much better basic foundation for seeking answers to life’s problems. Such belief systems expand people’s horizons beyond themselves and help them find self-worth and their place in the universe. Resilience to the storms of life is built by adherence to universal truths and observations. Good mental and spiritual health comes through bringing good into the world and helping others, through selflessness, rather than organizing one’s life around a kind of mental health Epicureanism.
Going back to Ben Connelly’s piece from last Sunday, it seems pretty clear that humans require a belief system that attaches them to something bigger and beyond themselves. Therapy can aid people in dealing with specific difficulties as part of such a broader outlook, but if therapy sessions become planning sessions for life rather than a supplemental conversation to deeply held broader beliefs, it can create bigger problems than it solves.
The Daily Saucer is our place for freelance contributors and editorial staff to offer short takes on the news cycle, quick observations on the issues, and brief thoughts on broader topics. The views offered in this space reflect only the personal views of the authors.