Reality does not progress as a series of discreet moments that are separated from the flow of time. Rather, moments occur as part of a continuous process in which the infinite is connected with each individual person. That is, no action or event occurs within the vacuum of individual experience. All reality is connected and failing to recognize this continuous connection is where people fall to the singularity of stunted individuality.
This single-pointed focus of a person’s experience reflects a development process that stops at a person’s own need for self-validation. Many people, such as Piaget, Vygotsky, Kohlberg, and Maslow have written about human development and how it happens over time. There are many theories about human development, both physical and psychological, but what’s left out, in my opinion, is that a person’s sense of spirituality also develops over time. In the years I’ve been studying and treating Addiction and Recovery, I’ve learned that when a person’s spirituality is developed to a point at which it can be leveraged, people tend to be more successful within their pursuit of health. However, when a person’s spirituality is as stunted as her psychological or emotional perspective, she is not quite as likely to become successful.
I believe most automatically associate religion with spirituality, and while I admit there is a relationship between the two, I also think religion is a big part of the problem within a stunted sense of spirituality. We all develop over time and how we learn to negotiate challenges within our development often reveal the core beliefs we have about life and how it works for us. If we are successful in negotiating the adjustment challenges life’s flowing time throws at us, there’s a high likelihood that we will think of ourselves as capable people. If, however, we struggle in adjusting to life’s challenges, then there’s a strong probability that we will think of ourselves as incapable of handling the challenges of our lives. Whether we see ourselves as capable or as incapable, our sense of spirituality will reflect that belief.
All too often, people turn to a church as a means to resolve challenges within their lives. In my experience, people who see themselves as incapable tend to pray for things; that is, they pray that God grants them certain outcomes and believe that if they attend church and “are good,” then God will grant them their prayer requests. People who see themselves as capable people, however, pray not for things, but pray in order to give thanks for their lives. They tend to communicate with God and realize that there’s a relationship between their humanity and their spirituality.
I strongly believe that “pastors” of strip-mall churches are aware of this difference in people and take advantage of those who need God to fulfill their prayers. They create and maintain people’s stunted development in order to maintain their organization, such as it is. All too often, strip-mall churches have a pastor who is endowed with great power by the congregation and actually needs that power. To maintain his own sense of self, he doesn’t really allow people to continue their spiritual development, unless it occurs as he says it should.
The way I’ve experienced spiritual development is that it progresses from empathy/love of self, to empathy/love of other, to the integration between self and other such that the recognition exists that religious differences are irrelevant, as we are all part of a single creation. Very few actually live through the integrated perspective; really, saints are the only ones who attain that level of development (in my opinion).
Therefore, I think conscious spiritual development should be a part of any addiction treatment plan. I’m not saying that religion should be a part, but if it allows healthy development, then what could it hurt?