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Can Psychology Help Us Make Sense of the Soul?

Focus on having a healthy life style with lots of social interests, love for others and productivity. Activate your self actualizing tendencies.
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We are living in a time where the bridge between a vague concept of the soul and a logical explanation seems more solid. An intuitive part of us has this knowing. The knowing that it seems impossible to completely comprehend something that seems to be a part of infinity -- until we become one.

At the same time, it is hard for our logical side to fully trust in the concept of the soul based on explanations that seem rootless or outdated. This may create a sense of fear, confusion and anxiety rather than peace and contentment.

If beliefs are not making sense to our continuously expanding brain, they won't be digested. A source of motivation for having these beliefs may have been based on fear or guilt for our ancestors, but we have come a long way since then. We want to be able to connect to the concept of the soul based on an understanding, in order to be able to find a connection with it.

To be able to connect with the soul, one needs to be willing to go beyond the tip of the iceberg -- to the depth. Some tips that may help with working with your deeper side (your soul) are as follows:

1. Finding a balance between your logical and intuitive sides. Some of us are fixated too much on the logical side, completely denying the power of intuition and spiritual needs. But as the world changes, we are getting an internal feeling based on hope and faith even during this age of logic. While we have benefited greatly from our logical side, at the same time we know that we can't feel fully content just based on that.

We may become like the obnoxious professor, who has a lot of information, but does not know how to digest it and to share it with others; she can't connect to others or she simply does not make much sense. It is also clear that while any factual information is valuable, it is only a drop in the ocean. What will happen if you don't learn how to use your intuition, feelings, emotions and spiritual callings in the right way and at the right time; to mix these with your logical side may result in becoming partially functioning, and therefore, partially confused and anxious.

On the other side of this spectrum is the fact that you don't want to be the out-of-this-world visionary, whose logic is so primitive that she almost seems impractical to the world. So, there has to be a balance for a sense of contentment with how life unfolds.

2. Identifying what the term soul means to you. How can spirituality become practical for the modern life and today's busy individuals? Spirituality is not a thing of a few, but open to all who want to experience it. It is also not for an after-life or an out of this world experience. It is a state of self-transformation through a psychological and emotional make over, which makes life easier and more joyful.

A more liberated person who is comfortable to be her own authentic self can comprehend what it means to be spiritual in a profound sense, rather than a primitive one. The more we grow, the more expanded our concept of spirituality and God becomes.

3. Be practical with your soul. Carl Jung described humans as going through an alchemical transformation -- like a metal that has impurities -- but which through stages of transformation can be turned into pure gold. He termed this pure gold a self-transformed and individuated person.

Once an individual discovers all her parts -- including the shadow and the light -- and learns to help these two aspects of the self to work together harmoniously and in balance, that individual becomes her authentic self and functions from the whole rather than from her limited persona. This is an inner transformation that is a process, not a destination. Jung encourages individuals to focus on the single most important element of their life, which is discovering the self.

4. Let go of any fixations with out-dated beliefs. It is not about a particular religious belief, cultural view or ethnicity. You may find it more helpful to focus on the common bond of the collective unconscious we all share -- not the ego and its surface needs. When we are unwilling to objectively connect, but rather get subjectively and anxiously attached to something including our religion, we blind ourselves to the truth. In other words, we lose the ability to be open to observing the whole picture.

5. Become more of your fully functioning self. Someone who is fully functioning functions more from her whole self; in other words, she is more complete. She discovers and finds a balance with all that she beholds, and uses them to become more productive. This means improving her short comings and making her strengths stronger.

Find a balance between your extrovert and your introvert sides, your planner and your spontaneous sides, your feminine and your masculine sides, and your giver and your receiver sides. The more you add to your experience, the more you will expand your connection with your soul, or the depth within you.

To reach a psychological state where you can turn into pure gold, Jung reports the following:

"For fifteen years I studied alchemy, but I never spoke to anyone about it; I did not wish to influence my patients or my fellow workers by suggestion. But after fifteen years of research and observation, ineluctable conclusions were forced upon me. The alchemical operations were real, only the reality was not physical but psychological.

"Alchemy represents the projection of a drama both in cosmic and spiritual terms. The opus magnum had two aims: The rescue of the human soul and the salvation of the world ... "

At the end, work on understanding how to meet your needs responsibly without preventing others to meet theirs. Try to learn what your unconscious resistant styles are, how your past is affecting your present and how to let go of what is not healthy for your authentic self. In addition, focus on identifying any old maladaptive emotions and behaviors and replace them with more adaptive ones.

Focus on having a healthy life style with lots of social interests, love for others and productivity. Activate your self actualizing tendencies. Once you get to this path, every step comes to you at its right time because you are now more aware. Be patient with yourself and find excitement with the process.

Roya R. Rad, MA, PsyD
Self Knowledge Base & Foundation
A non-profit dedicated to public education