As mental health professionals, we are often directed away from the “God” topic. However, the reality is we are spiritual beings, and spirituality (which is so closely linked to our sense of purpose and meaning) affects our mental health in many positive ways. For example, it correlates highly with the following:

  • A higher sense of hope, peace, and purpose.
  • A better ability to make sense of our life experiences and to use them as learning opportunities.
  • A greater sense of inner strength, which can aid in recovery.
  • More fulfilling and peaceful relationships with others.

Therefore, it seems that including spirituality in the treatment of mental health challenges can be very beneficial and can allow us, as therapists, to better help our clients find a sense of purpose and peace in times of struggle.

As human beings, our tendency is to avoid and resist uncomfortable feelings. As a result, we tend to become hypervigilant, constantly looking and scanning for those uncomfortable feelings or for anything that might trigger them. If you are suffering with panic, you may become hypervigilant to certain physical sensations you associate with the start of a panic attack. In the case of OCD, you will be hypervigilant for anything that will cause you to obsess or give you the urge to engage in a compulsion (i.e., a person sneezing, an “unlucky” number, an unwanted thought, etc). If you are depressed, you will be hypervigilant for continued confirmation that life is hopeless. If you are fearful that others will hurt you, you will constantly be looking for a sign or indication that someone has mal intentions. Most of us spend our day, hypervigilant for what we DON’T want!!! This is what we are always looking for and, consequently, what we will always find How crazy is this???

My dear and inspirational friend, Steve, reminded me that we have a choice. In every moment, we can choose to be vigilant for God. If the term “God” does not resonate with you, substitute it with “love” as that is something, I believe, we can all resonate with. The opposite of fear (what we are working so hard to avoid) is love. We choose love by seeing the innate perfection in every moment…even, and especially, the tough ones. We trust that we are exactly where we need to be to get to where we need to go. This does not, in any uncertain terms, mean a lack of struggle or suffering for any of us. However, we can choose to see the beauty in all moments and allow them to transform us whenever we are ready.

I recently and very unexpectedly came across an unread message from over a year ago that brought back many intensely painful memories. The message also brought me, unwittingly, up close and personal with a callous and ill-intentioned ego that led to my own quite ill-intentioned impulses. After an onslaught of painful feelings and urges to react, I eventually came to recognize the presence of my own ego with all its trappings, something I do not believe I could have done a year ago. With that came the recognition that I had a choice…a choice to make someone else’s toxicity my own or instead open my heart to the love I know exists in my blessed life…a choice to either continue to be vigilant for what I did NOT want (continued pain and suffering) or to recognize this as a perfectly timed impetus to fully let go of what was not serving me.

Our egoic minds love to create stories in which people and situations are more meaningful and impactful than they truly are. The reality is everything we encounter is simply a tool to help us create true meaning by reaching and acting from our highest good with pure heart and pure intention (even when our impulses may be very different). We will have endless opportunities to get there and get it right. I have never felt stronger or more at peace then when I chose, in that precious moment, to stop allowing my hypervigilant ego to run amuck (trapping me in an endless cycle of fear and blame) and instead chose to be vigilant for God, love, and the perfection of the universe to give me what I needed when I needed it.

Steve’s words remind me every day to look for the presence of God (love) everywhere. In doing so, we can naturally and effortlessly obliterate the fear our egos will forever perpetuate given the opportunity. The choice is ours in every moment.