In this first post on this subject I’m looking at an overview of how we might see Jesus Christ as relevant to psychotherapeutic explorations. The priest Harry Williams did some thinking on this and directs us to the most obvious ways one of which is Jesus’s statement that …’I am the truth’ and to his disciples that ‘You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.’
This can be understood as the need to get behind the persona or the false self to see what else is going on in our inner world. The persona helps us function but sometimes it can seem as if that is all it is, but it costs a great deal to keep everything else out of the picture and the more aware of this we are the easier it is to know what’s going on.
Here’s an example: I run into two people who are being very social, very upbeat and chatty. I become very social and upbeat and chatty to keep up with them. Once they have gone I feel enormously tired physically and mentally.
Another example: a woman approaches me in the church setting with a fixed smile she asks me to take on the responsibility for something which I don’t want to do (although in the past I might have agreed out of guilt and done it in bad grace!). In this instance the woman turns away and the smile is switched off and her face crumples.
Social and community life demands that we play certain roles but both Christ and psychotherapy ask that we don’t confuse what we really are with the roles which we sometimes have to play. We identify who we are with the part we have to play and in this identification we disguise our true feelings from ourselves. We imagine that those feelings are appropriate to the roles we have assumed and think of as us.
Jesus Christ when he drove the money changers out of the temple displayed ‘righteous indignation’ and it may be that I too can feel that or more likely it may be that what I imagine as righteous indignation is really something else: rage at my inherent inability to enjoy myself as do those I condemn. As Harry Williams reminds us what I am thinking of as righteous indignation is in fact a feeling of impotence, with anger and jealousy or envy resulting.
Similarly searching for the truth can bring us up against something I’ve covered many times on other posts – projection. As Harry Williams writes about it: I can be on a crusade against what I see as the pretentious ignorance of Mr Big but this may be in fact something I despise in myself – an infantile projection of the first Big I came across (Mrs Big this time): my mother for not loving me as I wanted her to.
So depth psychotherapy shows up the sham and false feelings of which we are the victims and brings us into a realm of truth which sets us free in a very obvious way. I might still have the feelings but hopefully I am not blinded by them or in slavery to them.
The light of Christ shines in the darkness: ‘Thus it is God we meet whenever we meet something of our true selves, however unpleasant that something might be.’