Lesson 1 of 7 - free your true Self to guide you

Spirituality - Essential for
  Personal and Family Health?

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council

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The Web address of this article is https://sfhelp.org/gwc/spirituality.htm

Updated  02-04-15

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      This is one of a series of articles in Lesson 1 in this Web site - free your true Self to guide you in calm and conflictual times, and reduce significant false-self wounds.

Faith is the daring of the soul
to go further than it can see
- William Newton Clark

      This YouTube video previews some key ideas in this article:

      This article invites you to reflect on and discuss a vital element of your and your family's wholstic health - your spirituality. We'll explore...

  • a definition of spirituality;

  • perspective on spirituality and human needs, including typical spiritual needs;

  • common stages of spiritual growth;

  • perspective on nurturing spirituality, and spiritual neglect, abuse, and addiction;

  • opinions about why some people "aren't very spiritual";

  • why spirituality is relevant to your health, longevity, and family welfare; and...

  • a closing status check.

      This article is not about religion or adopting a particular belief system. It explores how faith in and relationship with a benign Higher Power can promote personal healing, effective parenting, and nourishing family relationships.

      This article assumes you're familiar with (a) the intro to this Web site and the premises underlying it, and (b) self-improvement Lesson1.

      I write this as an ex-atheist who is learning to experience a Supreme Being as the core of my  recovery from a very low-nurturance ("dysfunctional") childhood. My parents and grandparents were very wounded, unaware college graduates who weren't taught that spiritual awareness and development were essential for wholistic health and wellbeing.

      I'm a student of spirituality, not an authority. I offer these ideas to promote your reflection, awareness, and discussion. This article comes from interacting with 1,000+ people I've met as a teacher and family-systems therapist since 1981, reading many teachers who have gone before, and from my own inner-wound healing since 1986.

      Let's start with a vital question...

colorbutton.gif How Spiritual Are You?

      Any person, like you, fits somewhere on a line between "not spiritual" and "very spiritual." If the line was divided 1 to 10, where would you rank your spirituality currently? See what you learn about yourself from mulling the following statements. T = True, F = False, and "?" = "I'm not sure, have no opinion, or don't care."

      Options: print this and use it as a discussion-starter with one or more family members; and/or re-read this periodically to see if anything changes in you and/or others over time.

1)  I can clearly define spirituality out loud now  (T  F  ?)

2)  I can clearly describe the difference between spirituality and religion now. (T  F  ?)

3)  I believe without question that a Higher Power (a) is aware of me, (b) cares about me, and (c) guides my life directly and indirectly. (T  F  ?)

4)  I relate best to people with similar spiritual views to mine. (T  F  ?)

5)  People with different spiritual beliefs than mine are wrong. (T  F  ?)

6)  I believe personal spirituality ranges between toxic to nourishing, and I can clearly describe the difference.  (T  F  ?)

7)  I believe responsible adults patiently encourage spiritual curiosity, awareness, and growth in minor kids; and that not doing this is spiritual neglect. (T  F  ?)

8)  I believe prayer to a personal Higher Power is often effective. (T  F  ?)

9)  I believe nourishing (vs. toxic) spirituality is an essential part of personal and family wholistic health (T  F  ?)

10)  I can clearly describe the three conditions required for spiritual abuse. (T  F  ?)

11)  I know how to resolve serious interpersonal values conflicts over spirituality and religion now, or I'm genuinely interested in learning how. (T  F  ?)

12)  I must help non-believers find and accept the spiritual Truth (T  F  ?)

13)  I believe it's impossible to know God without studying a (or the) Holy Book or Scripture and (b) having a wiser person guide me in interpreting it. (T  F  ?)

14)  I'm convinced that some people and/or powers are truly evil, and that I must be constantly on guard against them. (T  F  ?)

15)  We have no serious spiritual problems in our family now. (T  F  ?)

16)  My true Self is responding to this status check now. (T  F  ?)

      Now I'm aware that...

 

 

      For perspective, a survey of 36,000 Americans by the Pew chat on Religion & Public Life published in June 2008 found that "92% of respondents believe in God or some universal spirit."

colorbutton.gif What Is "Spirituality"?

      Recorded history richly demonstrates the universality of belief in spirits - non-human entities that can affect persons, clans, and the environment. Get quiet and reflect: if a young teen asked you to define spirituality, how would you respond? Try saying your answer out loud now.

      Did your response include "church" and/or the name of an organized religion? My experience is that many people casually confuse spirituality with religion - a human organization and code of moral and worship beliefs and rituals based on a hierarchy of officials and a venerated Holy or mystical scriptures like the Bible, Koran, Bhagavad-Gita, Talmud, Upanishads, or Buddhist Tipitaka.

      A religion has a name (Hindu, Christian, Muslim, animism, Wicca, Buddhism, Voodoo, Baha'i, Shinto...) while spirituality usually doesn't. Exception - some types of spirituality have distinguishing names, like Gnosticism. A pious or religious person or family may or may not be spiritual.

      Premise - Spirituality refers to (a) the faith-based beliefs and (b) relationship a person has with some invisible "force(s)" which may guide, intercede, comfort, and inspire him or her in calm and troubled times. Faith means "Trust based on subjective experience beyond any meaningful proof." By definition, spiritual "force" can only be described indirectly in metaphors, parables, and symbols.

      I believe it was Hugh Prather who observed metaphorically that unthinking Christians worship stained glass windows (religious dogma, scriptures, relics, and rituals) instead of the Light illuminating the windows (God).

      If spiritual beliefs and practices have been universal across cultures and ages, that implies something about...

colorbutton.gif Spirituality and Human Needs

      Premises - needs are physical, emotional, and/or spiritual discomforts. At least four factors may promote the primal human need for spiritual faith across all global cultures and millennia:

  • daily life in a dangerous, unpredictable, uncontrollable, unexplainable world and cosmos; and...

  • the terrifying, incomprehensible nothingness of death; and...

  • the ceaseless inner and social struggle between love, charity, and good; and selfishness, cruelty, and evil; and...

  • the reported and/or experienced reality of miracles and curses. .

The political, economic, and military power of faith-based religions also shapes personal and cultural spiritual beliefs and practices.

      A term often occurring in self-help and wholistic-health articles and programs is "spiritual growth." See how your definition of that compares with this one...

colorbutton.gif What is "Spiritual Growth"?

      Premise - Every newborn child has the potential to develop personal spirituality. Between birth and death, every person - like you - goes through a unique, decades-long automatic process of increasing intellectual (mental) and sensory awareness. Common stages of this process include...

  • forming initial ideas about living things, the world, "spirits," and "gods."

  • beginning to form basic questions about life, health, relationships, "fate," and death; and encountering a range of different answers to them from family members, friends, mentors, authors, teachers, and the media;

  • deciding in an over-stimulating world whether or not to give priority to personal reflection and intentional spiritual exploration or not,

  • gradually testing different answers for credibility as knowledge and personality develop, and evolving a set of stable personal beliefs (faith) about spirituality and religions; and...

  • deciding on the credibility and utility of one or more religious scriptures in developing personal and family spirituality, and..

  • re-examining personal spiritual beliefs in the light of (a) aging and (b) major traumas; and...

  • deciding if, how, and when to revise these beliefs, based on new perceptions and experiences; and...

  • deciding if, how, and when to encourage kids and other adults to become aware of, and motivated to explore, this life-long developmental process.

      Would you edit this proposal of the normal spiritual-growth process? Can you place yourself in these stages? Some people equate spiritual growth with the slow, natural maturing of their soul. Some people equate their evolving true Self with their soul. There is no "right answer" or "truth" here - only evolving personal opinions and faith.

      An implication of this slow, natural process is that some people are more spiritually aware and mature (developed) than others, regardless of their age and education. Many believe that living simply in Nature promotes spiritual awareness and growth, and that hectic urban life hinders these. How do you feel about this? On a scale of one (very undeveloped) to ten (highly developed and mature), how would you rank your current spiritual growth? Would others who know you agree?

      Would you agree that the effects of spiritual attitudes and beliefs on persons, families, and society range from nourishing to harmful? Which describes the effects on you and your family? Here's some perspective...

colorbutton.gif Toxic vs. Nourishing Spirituality

      Let's define nourishing as "significantly helping a person meet their current primary mental + psychological + spiritual + physical needs." In contrast, anything that hinders a child or an adult from filling their current primary needs is toxic.

      Would you agree that spiritual beliefs and practices can help or hinder the people in your home and family in filling their current needs? Toxic spirituality will lower a family's nurturance level and raise the odds of psychological wounding. Paradoxically, such wounds + unawareness will promote toxic spirituality. For more perspective on the effects of your spirituality or religion, see this worksheet when you finish this.

      Have you met any people who describe significant positive or negative impacts of spirituality in their lives and families? There seems to be good reason for the slogan "the family that prays (shares spiritual faith) together stays together."

      There are at least three ways adults' spiritual beliefs, priorities, and practices can reduce your family's nurturance level: spiritual neglect, aggression and abuse, and addiction. Let's look briefly each of these:

Spiritual Neglect

      In a family context, neglect means "not taking responsibility for filling family members' needs effectively." Do you feel that children's' and adults' spiritual needs are an important part of their wholistic health? What are "spiritual needs"? How about the needs to...

  • experience the calming, centering effect of quiet meditation and prayer;

  • trust that a benign, attentive, caring spiritual Power offers wisdom and reliable guidance via a "still small voice within";

  • find personal courage, serenity, and will to continue amidst major life stresses, including natural or human disasters, terminal illness, and death;

  • experience the reassurance, fellowship, caring, and community that comes from sharing spiritual beliefs with other people; and the need to...

  • perceive the inherent worth, beauty, dignity, and promise in every person, as a co-equal child of God.

      Can you think of other spiritual needs? How well filled are each of those needs in your life, so far? Notice that until a person experiences each of these needs, s/he cannot recognize and validate their existence and value. The universal phenomenon of (spiritual) rebirth, or awakening, testifies to the human capacity to experience these needs and value satisfying them. Do you know anyone who has awakened?

      Ranking these needs as important in a child's development implies that caregivers share responsibility for valuing and identifying their and their kids' spiritual needs, and working to fill them together. Premise - scorning, ignoring, or minimizing this responsibility is spiritual neglect, ineffective parenting, and a probable sign of unawareness and false-self wounds.

      Such neglect leaves kids' discovery of a nourishing Higher Power to chance or to God. People with strong spiritual faith would liken this to ignoring a child's need to learn to read, problem-solve, and communicate. How important was it to the adults who raised you to nourish your - and their - spiritual needs? When the young people in your life are grown, how will they answer that question?

      A second way spirituality may impact your family's wholistic health and growth is...

Spiritual Aggression and Abuse

      Three conditions must be clearly present for behavior to qualify as abuse - otherwise it is aggression. Have you ever been abused? Have you (your ruling personality subselves) abused someone else? Do you have strong opinions about abuse and abusers?

      Based on interviews of over 1,000 men and women since 1981, my perception is that well over half of typical adults in troubled relationships and families survived significant childhood neglect, abandonment, and abuse.  ("trauma"). Paradoxically, our (wounded, ignorant) society disapproves of and passively condones these three stressors, and accepts them as normal. Irresponsible child conceptions and epidemic child neglect are irrefutable symptoms of the [wounds + unawareness] cycle that is silently crippling our society.

      Knowledgeable or intuitive observers can clearly identify true physical, verbal, and emotional abuses. Spiritual aggression and abuse can be much more subtle. Can you recognize it and its effects? I suggest that family adults' spiritual beliefs, values, and behaviors that promote psychological wounding are abusive (vs. aggressive), because they can significantly harm vulnerable children who can't protect themselves.

      Consider this innocent prayer traditionally taught to young Western children:

"Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.
"

      Would an average four-year-old child know what a "soul" or "the Lord" is? Would s/he know that the odds of dying while sleeping are close to zero, unlike the European bubonic-plague era? Does this nightly prayer encourage a child to feel subliminally safe in their bed, home, and life? Thoughtlessly modeling and requiring a young child to believe in and repeat a prayer like this can be abusive.

      A more vivid example of spiritual abuse is a wounded, overwhelmed caregiver trying to get obedience by telling an impressionable child "You are going to burn forever in a lake of fire. Demons will torture you forever!" How about "God sees everything you do, think, and feel. If you're not a good child, (a stern, punishing) God will do (something unspeakably awful to you)!"

      Countless millions of people have learned to believe in the Christian/Hebrew Old Testament. It portrays a schizoid, jealous God who lovingly provides for his children unless they disobey Him - i.e. conditional love. That contributed to the torture and death of thousands during the European Inquisition and the Christian Crusades.

      Puritans and other sects were taught to be "God fearing," which increased their personal and social anxieties and bigotry vs. their serenity and harmony. The American Salem witch trials traumatized many New England families and communities - self-appointed officials hysterically judging innocent women to be controlled by Satan (a spirit) and maliciously "witching" others. American Navajo children were taught to fear evil "skinwalkers" - witches. Most (all?) cultures have similar malevolent spiritual entities that scare - abuse - young kids.

      If the Christian concept of "original sin" is over-emphasized or not responsibly explained, it can promote significant shame, guilts, and anxiety in impressionable young girls and boys. So can the Buddhist and Hindu concepts of Karma and dharma. Beliefs like these can transcend logic, promote false-self formation and dominance, and can shape adults' lives for decades.

      Zealous promotion of "spiritual warfare" with malevolent, insidious demons led by the Devil, and some occult beliefs and practices, can create a toxic psychological environment by significantly disturbing adults' and kids' security, harmony, and serenity.

      Sternly instructing children that one religion or spiritual view is "the True Way" and that "unbelievers" must be converted, pitied, scorned, shunned, or killed, is undeniably abusive and toxic. Your childhood experiences and current environment may cause your ruling subselves to disagree. In my experience, spiritual rigidity and bigotry (superiority) is a sure sign of significant unawareness, psychological wounds, and denials.

      Do you agree that spiritual aggression and abuse is just as real and harmful as physical, verbal, and emotional abuse? Do you know anyone who has suffered spiritual abuse? Can you describe its effects?

      The third form of toxic spirituality is...

Spiritual Addiction

      True addictions are progressive and life-shortening. A common addiction is compulsively seeking an emotional state, like rage (power), sexual arousal, and spiritual-religious ecstasy. Details vary widely, but the theme is constant: people (i.e. their false selves) use these states to reliably numb or distract (self medicate) from in-tolerable inner pain.

      Does anyone in your family use spiritual/religious beliefs and activities to self-medicate? Do you? Episcopalian priest Leo Booth's thought-provoking book "When God Becomes a Drug - breaking the chains of religious addiction and abuse" is a compelling first-person description of spiritual/religious addiction, typical effects, and effective recovery from it.

      Note the distinction between religious zealotry or fanaticism and spiritual obsession. Current media headlines focus on the violent proclamations and actions of some Islamic fanatics. Other headlines focus us on the toxic or bizarre beliefs and behaviors of religious cults in America and other cultures. 

      Bottom line: some people use spirituality to nourish - i.e. to build awareness, wisdom, patience, confidence, hope, compassion, and love. Others use spirituality in a way that harms themselves and/or others, like neglect, abuse and addiction. Still other people seem indifferent, and do neither of these.

      If average people have spiritual needs...

colorbutton.gif Why Do Some People Reject Spiritual Faith?

      Think of the people you know best, starting with yourself. How spiritual (vs. religious, devout, or pious) would you say each one is? Answering means you have some criteria for "being spiritual." Have you ever explored why some people have firm, thoughtful spiritual faith, and others feel no interest in developing that?

      Why are some people "believers," and others are agnostics ("I don't know if there's a God") or atheists ("There is no 'God', and 'spirituality' is con and a crutch.")?

      Premises - (a) all people have spiritual needs (above); and (b) in traumatic times, spiritual faith can reduce local fears, confusion, guilt, shame, and emotional overwhelm. If so, then something blocks some people from developing a meaningful spiritual faith and encouraging their kids to do the same.

      Do you have faith (trust) that the sun will rise tomorrow? That your body is composed of atoms which you'll never see? That you have a soul or spirit? That evil or angels exist? When you were one year old, did you have those faiths? Six years old? Thirteen? How and when did you grow such assumptions? Think of the most spiritual person you know. Can they say when and where they "got" their faith in a Higher Power?

      I suspect our core beliefs come from two sources:

  • unconsciously adopting the faith of one or more people we trust and admire ("My grandfather believed so strongly in God and an afterlife it never occurred to me to question that."); and...

  • direct experience -  "I felt a protective Presence as I went into surgery, and I knew I was going to be OK." Aging and facing certain death often invites spiritual wondering and discovering.

      If this is so, then people who have little or no nourishing spiritual faith were probably raised by adults with little or no faith, and/or haven't had any significant spiritual experiences. If you know people who "aren't spiritual," see if these premises hold true.

      Spiritual indifference or skepticism can come from a low-nurturance (traumatic) childhood. Significantly- wounded adults tend to be skeptical, cynical, numb, pessimistic, distorted, distrustful, distracted, biased, closed to other ideas, indifferent, ("Who cares?"), and/or rigid in their spiritual values and beliefs.

      That may cause vulnerable young kids to develop similar "faithless" attitudes, or to form a secret spiritual faith as a way to survive daily fears and pain. Which of these describes you?

      Many psychologically-wounded adults learned to survive low-nurturance early years by numbing or ignoring their emotions, and developing constant mind chatter. These make it hard or impossible to experience spiritual needs and realities, and to accept that inner peace and serenity is real, healthy, and personally attainable.

      The popularity of various "retreats" in many cultures suggests that for most of us, meaningful spiritual awareness depends on periods of undistracted inner and outer quiet and contemplation. That's a rare condition in typical low-nurturance homes and environments. How common is it in your home now? What would your kids say?

      Related factors that probably hinder spiritual awareness and growth in your home are...

  • the relentless busy-ness of American (Western) lives and communities, and...

  • the ceaseless stimulation and distraction from TV, PCs, pagers, phones, electronic games, CD players, and media articles and ads.

       Harried or wounded parents who regularly model, condone, or encourage kids to spend hours focusing on these distractions don't provide incentive for meditation and spiritual curiosity and awareness. Balancing activities and undistracted meditation is the key - and our true Selves are naturally adept at providing such balance in an overstimulating world.

      How do these ideas compare to your views on why some people have little or no spiritual faith? Perhaps more to the point...

      The ideas and premises on page 1 are intellectual and abstract. You may be wondering...

colorbutton.gif So What?

      Intentionally nourishing your personal and family spirituality has at least five benefits:

  • controlling (vs. "curing") any addictions, and...

  • reducing underlying psychological wounds; and...

  • strengthening your primary relationship as the core of your family; and...

  • promoting healthy grieving of major losses (broken bonds); and most of all,...

  • intentionally protecting descendents from the lethal [wounds + unawareness cycle and reducing the cycle's impact on society.

      Let's look at each of these briefly...

Controlling Addictions

      An addiction is an unconscious attempt to mute or distract from intolerable inner pain. From 36 years' clinical research, I propose that such pain always comes from too little nurturance in early childhood. I also propose that most personal, family, and social problems - including epidemic divorce - are symptoms of an unseen [wounds + awareness] cycle that is relentlessly crippling our families and society.

      Since the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in 1935, global reports consistently attest that faith in a benign (vs. vengeful) Higher Power is essential for lasting sobriety. Participants in the many offshoots of AA continually testify to the same conclusion. It's also significant that attempts to apply the 12 AA steps without spiritual faith (e.g. Alcoholics Anonymous for Atheists and Agnostics - AAAA) have relatively few members and chapters.

      My clinical and personal experience since 1981 strongly suggests that admitting and managing addictions (preliminary recovery) is essential before permanently reducing toxic psychological wounds (full recovery). Prevailing lay and clinical thought often stops short of this, focusing only on "addiction recovery" (sobriety) and ignoring the family dysfunction and resulting unawareness, wounds, and inner pain that promote addictions.

      Bottom line: motivation to evolve a genuine spiritual faith and turn over control of one's life to a benign, responsive Supreme Being seems to be essential for successful management of any toxic compulsion. Paradoxically, such motivation depends on reducing false-self dominance and freeing the resident true Self to guide other subselves in all situations.

      For more perspective on addictions and addiction management, see this series of articles when you finish here.

      Another major benefit to evolving and living by personal spirituality is in...

Reducing Psychological Wounds

      A central premise in this nonprofit Web site is that typical survivors of early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse (trauma) develop a system of interactive subselves which promote up to six significant psychological wounds. Lesson 1 in this Web site is devoted to explaining this premise, and assessing for and reducing these wounds.

      I have been proactively reducing my own wounds since 1986, and have worked clinically with hundreds of people wanting to reduce theirs since then. My consistent experience is that firm faith in a benign, responsive Higher Power is essential for meaningful wound reduction. Many of us survivors lacked such faith from childhood.

      We needed to hit true bottom - usually in mid-life - to dissolve protective old denials, accept our powerlessness, and seek recovery help from a caring, reliable Supreme Being and other people. I have rarely met or heard of people in successful wound-recovery who had no significant spiritual faith. Most primary personal-health and relationship problems stem from (a) these pervasive wounds, and (b) significant unawareness of them and some key topics.

      Would you agree that adults recovering from psychological wounds get more effective support from other recoverers? That suggests that if any of your family members are trying to reduce psychological wounds, their odds rise if they develop nourishing spirituality together. That may or may not manifest as shared religious beliefs and practices.     

      To learn more about psychological wounds and wound-reduction, study Lesson 1.

      The third practical benefit from wanting personal spiritual growth is to...

Strengthen Your Primary Relationship and Family Unity

      Many people believe that family health and security are directly proportional to the health of couples' primary relationships. Do you agree?  If you are or were in a committed relationship, how has personal spirituality affected it over time? What would your partner say? Mate's and relatives' spiritual beliefs can strengthen marital resilience and commitments a little or a lot.

      The opposite effect occurs when mate's spiritual beliefs and practices differ radically, causing stressful values and family loyalty conflicts and relationship triangles. Typical mates guided by their true Selves can discuss and accept major spiritual and religious differences peacefully, without trying to "convert" their partner.

      Pause and reflect on your definition of family unity (bonding and loyalty), and what factors promote it. Then reflect on your definition of the opposite of family unity. Can you think of examples on both ends of the "unity" spectrum? Where would you place your own family on that scale? In your experience, how significant would you say shared spiritual beliefs are in promoting family harmony and unity?

      As you reflect on this, recall the difference between religious beliefs and practices, and underlying spiritual faith. Also recall the difference between toxic spirituality, which promotes bigotry, anxiety, guilt, conflict, aggression, and shame; and nourishing spirituality. The latter promotes fellowship, compassion, empathy, love, acceptance, and harmony. Implication - shared spiritual faith may or may not improve a marriage's and/or a family's wholistic health and nurturance level...

      Another benefit to steady spiritual faith is to...

  Enhance Personal and Family Mourning

       Recall the last major loss your family endured. Is nourishing (vs. toxic) spirituality part of your family's grieving policy? Nourishing spirituality can help kids and adults mourn their losses (broken bonds) throughout their lives.

      For some people, believing that major losses are part of a Supreme Being's unknowable plan can foster acceptance, if not comfort. People of faith also may need to progress through the spiritual phases of their grief for full loss-acceptance - i.e. losing and regaining faith in a caring God despite what appears to be senseless or cruel losses and tragedies.

      Venting to an attentive Higher Power (and other people), and/or asking for Divine help to endure or heal major pain, can be a major support in times of personal and family loss. Praying is one form of this support.

      An important element of personal spiritual faith is an attitude about the effectiveness of prayer. Attitudes range from "Prayer always works (fills local needs)" to "prayer works sometimes, for some people" to "prayer never works for me." Where do you stand on this spectrum? Where do other key people in your life stand? Has your attitude about prayer shifted since you were a child?

      One requisite for healthy grief is the "loser" describing each major loss and it's real or probable effects, over and over again ("venting") until reaching stable acceptance. Whether people are available to listen empathically and patiently to these repetitions or not, being able to describe them to an attentive, caring Spirit Guide, Higher Self, Guardian Angel, and/or Higher Power can provide real relief.

      Tho not scientifically proven and widely accepted, recent studies seem to suggest that personal and group prayer and underlying spiritual faith can help to  reduce or heal psychological and bodily afflictions. Positive effects seem more likely among those expecting prayer to work than among skeptics. This may vary with the way people interpret perceived results from praying.

      A final way personal spirituality can be a major benefit is...

Breaking  the [Wounds + Unawareness] Cycle

      My clinical work since 1979 strongly suggest an epidemic bequest of [psychological wounds + unawareness ] passing down the generations in our society. Once understood and looked for, evidence of this cycle and its effects is compelling. Despite this, our wounded society currently needs to deny and ignore it. Two of many symptoms are the global AIDS epidemic, and our ignoring the obvious degradation of our global environment. 

      Once people...

  • learn about family nurturance levels, personality subselves, psychological wounds, and wound-reduction, and...

  • hit true (vs. pseudo) personal bottom, and...

  • commit to freeing their true Self to guide and harmonize their inner team, they can become motivated to...

  • break this toxic cycle in their families, communities, and society.

Their ability to do these depends partly on their cultivating nourishing personal and family spiritual beliefs and practices. For more perspective on breaking the cycle,  this..

      We just reviewed five practical benefits to intentionally seeking personal spiritual faith and growth. How do you feel about them in the context of your life and family? Who's answering that question - your Self, or ''someone else?''

      Pause, stretch, breathe, and let go of all these details. Learn about yourself with this...

Status Check

      Where do each of your family's adults stand now on spirituality vs. religion? Use T(rue), F(alse), and "?" again to decide. Notice how you feel as you answer these statements...

1)  I'm comfortable enough now with (a) my attitude about my personal spirituality and (b) the priority I give it in my life. I don't need to change anything now. (T  F  ?)

2)  I believe that my current spiritual attitudes and practices are consistently nourishing, vs. toxic to me and those I care about. (T  F  ?)

3)  We family adults have an effective way of resolving major values-differences among us about spiritual and religious beliefs, priorities, and practices now. (T  F  ?)

4)  I'm comfortable enough now with what our family adults are modeling and teaching our young people about...

what spirituality is and isn't, how spirituality differs from religion, and why that difference is important for wholistic health; (T  F  ?)

the validity of spiritual needs in our kids and adults - and everyone else;
(T  F  ?)

what "spiritual growth" is, and what affects it; (T  F  ?)

how to distinguish nourishing spirituality from toxic beliefs and practices,
(T  F  ?)

how to regard and use Holy Books (scriptures) in a healthy way; (T  F  ?)

how to develop and benefit from their own spirituality, (T  F  ?)

how to recognize and respond to spiritual and religious abuse, aggression, and bigotry; (T  F  ?) and...

how to react to conflicting spiritual and religious beliefs and practices (i.e. values and loyalty conflicts and relationship triangles), (T  F  ?)

5)  We adults have been thoughtful and clear about making nourishing spirituality a meaningful part of our (a) family mission statement/s and (b) parental ''job descriptions;'' and (c) we're consistently acting on those often enough; or  I know why we haven't done this, and I'm aware of my action-options now. (T  F  ?)

6)  Our family adults (a) consistently help each other to identify the primary needs promoting our surface "problems," and (b) we include spiritual needs among our kids' and adults' primary needs. (T  F  ?)

7)  Our adults are (a) aware of our family's nurturance level, and (b) all our adults intentionally include growing and sharing positive spirituality as a significant contributor to our mutual nurturance. (T  F  ?)

8)  Our adults are consistently (a) open and (b) motivated to discus spiritual and religious topics, and (c) we all encourage our children to participate. (T  F  ?)

9)  I'm confidant that each adult in our family would answer each of these as "True." (T  F  ?)

10)  On a scale of -10 (very toxic) to +10 (very nurturing) I would say that our family's spirituality has been a ___ factor for us all in the last year.

11) My true Self is responding to these items now. (T  F  ?)

      Pause, breathe, and reflect - what are you aware of now? If you don't answer all of these as "True" now, note that people change some core beliefs as our experiences and awareness change. You may know some "non-spiritual" people who became "believers" in a Higher Power for various reasons. Each member of your family can shift their spiritual faith when "the time is right."

      Overall, can you describe a family "spirituality policy" that consistently promotes a high nurturance-level and wholistic health and growth among your adults and kids now?

colorbutton.gif Recap

      A consistent theme in all human cultures and ages has been the need of average people to develop and express their spirituality - an awareness of, and reverent interaction with, the unknowable aspects of Nature and the universe.

      This non-profit, non-sectarian Web site proposes that personal and family spirituality (vs. religion) are essential ingredients in (a) recovery from addictions and psychological wounds and in forging (b) high-nurturance marriages and families. Another premise is that personal and family spirituality ranges over time between nourishing (promoting wholistic health and growth) and toxic (hindering those).

      This article invites your family adults' awareness and discussion of...

  • what spirituality and religion are, and how they differ;

  • what spiritual needs, neglect, abuse, and addiction are; and...

  • how your individual and collective spirituality can help or hinder the evolution of high-nurturance relationships, and prevent outcomes like these in and among your relatives' homes.

      If your family members are troubled by significant values conflicts over religion now, see this article for perspective and options. If you're conflicted over other prejudices, see this.

For more perspective, read these articles on toxic and nurturing spiritual / religious beliefs, and how clergy and church officials can prevent family stress, wounds, and (re)divorce. Also experience this thought-provoking video "Interview With God."

      Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or ''someone else''?

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