“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

- Carl Jung

A belief that I have been forced to confront in my own life, and that I also observe in those I treat, is that a spiritual path can address psychological issues. Indeed, for many people it is the primary motivation to begin a spiritual journey. They enter their chosen path as a reaction to conscious or unconscious emotional pain, but without the deeper awareness that would lead them to address the pain. Because we live in a hyper-individuated post-Freudian culture, most of us have reached adulthood with some insight into the issues raised by our upbringing. However, many of the Eastern systems that have taken hold in our culture are rooted in interdependent societies with a rigid social order that precludes judgment, or even critical consideration, of parental relationships.

The introduction of such systems into our psyches can further confuse the need for psychological work. I have witnessed many teachers, ranging from shamans to yogis, who have covertly discouraged psychological work. They have done so with the promise of salvation if one delves deeply enough into their particular discipline. There is no doubt that any genuine path will soften our ego and possibly rewire our nervous system. However, none can replace the need for addressing psychological issues. This holds particularly true of our unconscious material, which always causes havoc when not addressed. We can nod our head at hearing the word unconscious while remaining completely blind as to the ways in which it shapes our behavior and undermines our lives. We need expert help to observe, dismantle, and ultimately heal these suppressed emotions and issues. The movement towards the light is not enough: we need to shine the light into the deep darkness of our unconscious and illuminate it. Transformation of suppressed material has to be integrated into our chosen path of salvation.

I have suffered as well as observed much heartbreak around powerful teachers and healers. These women and men had much to offer the world, and yet their lack of awareness around their unconscious material seriously undermined their gifts. The big PMS issue in spiritual circles - Power, Money, Sex - can be traced directly back to suppressed and unresolved unconscious material. This is not an issue of being perfect or magically healing all of our wounds. Sometimes gaining awareness around a certain wounding is as far as we can go. But that is far superior to sleepwalking to the beat of our ego’s unseen machinations. Take this as an invitation to deepen your practice by befriending all that you hold at bay in your psyche.