Psychiatry and faith offer complimentary insights into the human condition and can help us to lead healthier and more satisfying lives, we learned in our seven-part series with Laity Leadership Institute Senior Fellow, Allan Josephson, M.D.
Integrating Faith &Psychiatry
In the first article, we learned that the influence of Sigmund Freud’s atheism was pervasive in the psychiatric field when Josephson began his career 30 years ago, but that influence has since waned.
“The view that our field obviously holds—that our religion is a childhood wish, a substitute—is simplistic and not consistent with accepted developmental theory. In fact, I believe the evidence is overwhelming in the other direction. … The God of this creation, as revealed in Jesus Christ, is worthy of our faith,” he explained.
Scriptural Principles for Growing Healthy Children
In the next article, Josephson shared eight principles of healthy child development that reflect God's character and purposes. Those principles include security: the need for someone to be there and to know the world is a safe place; freedom: the development of self-reliance; boundaries: the need for structure; friends: the need for social relationships; competence: the need to compete; identity: the need to define oneself; intimacy: the need to know and be known; and, relationship: the need for others.
“In understanding our natural world there are only two options--we are either the product of time and chance or part of a created order,” Josephson said. “It stretches credulity to believe that anything but a personal God could be the source of these behavioral phenomena.”
In the third article, Josephson educated us about the rising problem of narcissism. He said the hallmark of narcissism is a lack of empathy, or the ability to put oneself in someone else’s shoes and try to understand what their world is like.
“Narcissists can’t do it. It’s like they have a mirror in front of their face. At this extreme, the narcissist’s view is all that matters. ‘It’s all about them,” he said.
Narcissism & Relationships
Dealing with the narcissists in our lives is never easy, but there is hope for improving these difficult relationships, Josephson said in a follow-up article. Because narcissism develops out of early relationships and is sustained by subsequent ones, it’s important to nip the problem in the bud, he said.
How one does that depends on the nature of the relationship, so Josephson offered suggestions for dealing with three kinds of relationships involving narcissists: parent/child, husband/wife, and employer/employee. If narcissists can look at what’s happened to their relationships, recognize the destruction that they have caused, and consider their part in it, then something positive can happen, he said.
Work & the Self
Disordered thinking about the relationship of work to self and God can lead to both personal and professional problems, we learned in this article. The need for balance between work and family and between work and rest is essential, Josephson said. We can’t truly flourish if we are only developing in one area. A self-test was included to help us discover whether or not our own work/self thinking is disordered.
Finding Balance Between Work & Family
In this follow-up article, Josephson offered suggestions for balancing work and family responsibilities. Doing things of substance requires enormous commitment, he said, but as long as we keep our own values in mind and recognize that parenting responsibilities generally decrease as children get older, we should be able to achieve a measure of balance for ourselves and our families.
“When I look at many of these folks who have challenging jobs, it’s devastating when they come home to a hellish environment or relationship,” Josephson said. “But if you come home to a family that can nurture you, that’s an important part of dealing with the workplace.”
In the final article, Josephson offered suggestions for managing technology responsibly. Rather than direct us away from technology, he reminded us that these tools facilitate our work, but are not an end in themselves.
“If you’re not sure who you are, someone will tell you, and if you’re not sure how you’re going to use your time, what your goals are, or why you’re using technology, it has the potential to consume you,” he said.
I appreciated so much of what Dr. Josephson shared with us that it’s difficult to say what I’ve found the most valuable. How about you? What have you taken from this series?
Read other parts in our series on Integrating Faith and Psychiatry:
Allan Josephson, M.D. is Vice Chairman for Adolescent Psychiatric Services at the University of Louisville School of Medicine and author of three books, including the Handbook of Spirituality and Worldview in Clinical Practice, a text he edited and contributed to that is used in psychiatric residency programs to help psychiatrists understand the diagnostic and therapeutic implications of their own and their patients' worldviews. Image by Julien Harneis. Used with permission.