The need for a better psychology

Deep down all of us wish to realize our full potential, transcend various limitation, break free of suffering and be eternally blissful. However, despite wanting to change ourselves and putting in the best of effort we are unable to move forward. Failures, lapses and relapses continue to push us into negativity. We feel stuck, confined and lost and pessimistically conclude that perhaps we are destined to be passive players in the journey of life.

When people are trapped in such difficulties they turn to western psychology and psychiatry for help. Interestingly, clinical experience and research have time and again confirmed that psychological and psychiatric treatment does little to assuage the pain and dysfunction that one is suffering from. Often, either the person does not recover fully or when one problem is sorted out, another symptom crops up. The reason being that contemporary psychiatry, psychology and psychotherapy seek to strengthen the mind and the ego in a hope to solve the problem without realizing that the mind and the ego are the root cause of all problems.

Whether it is psychoanalysis, medicine, cognitive-behavior therapy, rational-emotive therapy, behaviorism, humanistic-existential psychology, dialectical behavior therapy, hypnosis or Neuro-linguistic programming- everyone is focused on different aspects of mind. One could be looking at the unconscious, brain neurotransmitters, behavior, motivation, emotions, conflicts, meaninglessness or thought processes, but the mind is the genesis. The big question that psychological science seems to ignore is that when the mind itself is a problem how can it give a lasting solution to the struggle that a person is going through.

It is precisely in this context that integral psychology developed by the spiritual masters, Sri Aurobindo and The Mother offers a novel approach and instills hope.

Suffering is part of the Divine plan

All of us are perturbed by trauma and suffering. We often wonder that why we have been singled out to suffer in this world. If the Divine exists and loves us why he doesn't take away all our anguish and makes us happy. Integral psychology challenges this commonly held notion of suffering and helps us in dealing with it in a completely different manner. Sri Aurobindo realized that suffering is not an aberration, but a part of the Divine plan. The omnipotent and benevolent Divine refuses to take away our pain easily because doing so will sabotage our growth.

If everything in life would have been hunky dory in line with our fantasies, let us think about the possible consequences. Firstly, all of us would have been far more egoistic than what we are at present; thinking that because we face no problem whatsoever, we are the greatest beings on earth. Secondly, we would comfortably spend our lives in inertia and as a result, our birth would have no meaning. In that case the world would be reduced to being an interplay of narcissism and pleasure seeking and this is precisely what the Divine does not want.

Therefore, the Divine uses suffering as a tool to shake us up from resistance, ignorance and inertia and seek truth. In the current stage of evolution, everyone has to grapple with darkness before experiencing the light. The presence of pain and suffering is nothing but an affirmation of Divine love so that we question who we really are and surrender to the Divine.

The Mother explained that under all circumstances, we need to hold on to our faith that whatever is happening is the finest from the spiritual point of view. It may not fall in line with our desires, notions and worldview, but it is meant to be the best for our growth and cosmic manifestation of truth. If we hold on to this attitude and deepen our surrender, we will be able to discover the light behind the suffering.

What is integral psychology?

According to Sri Aurobindo, the human mind is only one milestone in the evolution of consciousness and there are many more milestones to be covered. Contrary to the popular belief, we are not just a physical body with a mind created by chance. We are basically a Divine element manifested in a psychic being that uses body, mind and human existence for its expression and development. But we remain oblivious to this fact because we are not fully evolved and mistake ourselves to be a disconnected mortal mind, impulse and body. Consequently, there arises a false sense of identity and duality which takes us further away from the cosmic consciousness. This creates emotional suffering and various types of psychological disorders. The perfect answer to all psychological problems can only be found when the mind is transcended and the psychic being takes over. When this happens the consciousness rises up and carries on with its evolution without getting engrossed in any falsehoods. Therefore, in order to heal ourselves completely, we need to connect to our psychic being and continue our spiritual evolution.

Connecting to the psychic being

According to The Mother, the psychic being within us is a part of the eternal Divine consciousness and it is full of light, truth and knowledge. Once we become aware of the psychic being, we can easily connect with the eternal Divine consciousness and live in it. The purpose of our life on earth is precisely to connect to the psychic being and manifest the Divine consciousness of which we are a part. People who suffer a lot in their life before coming to yoga are most often the ones who have a reasonably developed psychic being. This happens because the preponderance of the psychic makes them extremely sensitive to pain and also often brings them a conflict with others. From a spiritual point of view, emotional and psychological suffering is not an aberration, but often a sign of immense psychic potential that needs to be developed.

In order to become aware of the psychic being, the amalgamation of two great forces is needed. The first is the Divine grace which is omnipotent and omnipresent and wants us to enter into an eternal union with the cosmic consciousness. The second is a burning aspiration and relentless effort from our side to become a part of this union. While Divine grace is always there to guide and uplift us, our own aspiration is chaotic and fragmented and this delays the evolution. In their integral yoga, Sri Aurobindo and The Mother developed a detailed framework through which one can bring a transformation in one's aspiration. When the flame of aspiration burns intensely and the two powers are synchronized, we say to the divine that 'I am yours' and the Divine says 'Yes, you are mine.'

pulkit sharmaPulkit Sharma is a clinical psychologist and spiritual therapist in private practice at Pondicherry (Puducherry) near Auroville, Tamil Nadu. He is a follower of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. In his experience integral counselling and psychotherapy is a very efficient and powerful technique to rise above psychological issues rather than popping pills and undergoing traditional psychological treatment. He conducts individual one-to-one sessions and group workshops based on integral psychology.