The being who is the object of his [or her] own reflection, in consequence of that very doubling back upon himself, becomes in a flash able to raise himself into a new sphere. In reality, another world is born.”
– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
I cannot remember exactly where I stumbled upon this quote by the late French philosopher, paleontologist, and Jesuit priest Pierre Teillard de Chardin. What I do know is that it was during seminary because before then the only theology I was immersed in was primarily Protestant. Our saints were C.S. Lewis, Karl Barth and Augustine (though many of us had no idea!). There’s more I’m sure. We just didn’t name them so.
With the exception of being baptized as a toddler at my parents’ former Catholic church, I had spent most of life experiencing one small and historically speaking, relatively new slice of the Christian (note: American) pie. And although it had nurtured me in mostly meaningful and life-changing ways, I wanted more – not just intellectually, though this was indeed a part of my drive. More significantly, it was because deep inside I knew that my spiritual life depended upon it.
At seminary, I was given the place to explore, study, and reflect on the breadth and depth of my own Christian tradition and as a result a new world was born inside of me and in turn, outside of me. I felt ALIVE, nurtured, and challenged to grow not into someone my parents would approve of but into who God has called me to be: MYSELF.
Which is exactly what psychotherapy is all about and what healthy spirituality supports. It’s not about changing you from the outside but by exploring what’s on your inside, your heart’s desire and understanding together those things that get in the way from you being, well – YOU. What a beautiful and amazing thing.
Of course, we often don’t feel this way when we find ourselves in a situation (internal or external) we cannot bear to live with anymore. Something has got to give and usually, by the time we do seek help in the form of therapy or spiritual direction we are feeling pretty defeated, helpless, and alone.
But there is hope.
Chardin locates our ability as humans to self-reflect as originating from the divine. And it is this creative capacity, to imagine something different, to gain some distance or perspective from our self that we can actually “find” or re-connect with our true self. This too is a beautiful and amazing thing.
I remember feeling so afraid and anxious. I wanted to go back. Go back to the safe known world I was reared in and where I knew I would feel loved and accepted. Yet everything in me – my body, my heart, my spirit was beckoning me towards something new, unknown. A place where I could be honest with myself, and my faith. So, seminary I went, Chardin’s words ringing of truth the minute I stumbled upon them somewhere in that new world that changed my life and turned me into a therapist.
We often seek therapy when we come to the limits of ourselves. I have grown to see this as a grace. For when we do, a new world can and does open up for us. We just have to take that risk and trust.