An Invitation to Bring "Psyche" Back Into Psychiatry
Updated: Aug 6
This is a working and living essay in process and progress:
Our internal life is often mirrored by our external world. It is no surprise that the health of our bodies and our planet are under fire. Mental health illnesses including active addiction, depression and anxiety are increasing along with the number of unnatural forest fires, melting glaciers and rising sea levels. How we treat ourselves is a direct reflection on how we treat the Earth. How and what has brought us to this juncture? Perhaps we have forgotten our origins and connection to the natural world and the web of life that unifies us. Perhaps it is time to re-invite the Psyche or Soul back into Psychiatry for the healing of our bodies, minds, spirit and planet.
It may be difficult to stay close to our origins to the Big Bang or to the Cosmos, when we are sitting in traffic or in windowless offices under fluorescent lights and never touching the Earth with our bare feet. It takes extra effort to remember that we are spinning on a planet, swirling around a giant star in a corner of the Universe. We may even forget our common human spirit in our daily interactions as we race around from one patient to the next or even rushing around town. Our origins of social connection and collaboration are far removed from our days as hunters and gatherers. Competing, conforming and consuming are the norm. We have lost our sense of our true nature.
Not only have we forgotten our origins to the natural world, but we have forgotten our Spirit, our Soul. In fact, psyche from Latin means “animating spirit” and psykhē from the Greek language means “the soul, spirit, life.” Our spiritual life requires nutrition as well as our physical bodies. When we are spiritually healthy, we may feel connected to an inner quality of love, compassion and peace. However, when we have poverty of spirit, we may look externally for that same feeling of wholeness and integration. We may begin to chase fame, fortune, status, more credentials and power in order to satiate this spiritual hunger and to starve the parts of ourselves that do not feel good enough or worthy. The age-old question of “Who am I really?” can serve as a beautiful meditation to look further to this famished feeling. When I ask this to myself, I notice the one who asks the question and the one who hears the question being asked. When I begin to identify with the one or the Self that observes, I connect with all that is and can begin to separate myself from my thoughts and body, knowing that I am neither. There is a touching of the true self/a void/space and a sense that all is One. Of course, my monkey brain likes to jump around and do acrobatics; however, I am learning to not judge it so much and connect back with my Spirit.
This is a call to restore our native state of wellness, rhythm, balance and harmony and to address the root cause of our loss of homeostasis. This is a call to remember our origins to the natural world, to each other and our true nature, to bring back Psyche/Soul into Psychiatry. Let us remember our deep roots to the natural world, to our animal, plant and fungi friends, to the elements of water and fire, to seasons and cycles of weather, to the stars and constellations, to ceremony, ritual and traditions. Let us remember that the inhale of our lungs is intrinsically connected to the exhale of our trees and that our health depends on the health of the planet.
This is an invitation to honor our minds and bodies and to connect our mental intellect with our physical intuition using the guidance of our hearts and the wisdom of Mother Earth. Let us see ourselves in a sunrise and to stand in awe at the sight of a sunset. To feel so big and so small at the edge of the sea. To feel the mystery of a star-lit night. To feel the wonder of a flower. To feel the warmth of a smile. To feel the cleansing of a great cry. To feel the flow of creativity when time stands still and nothing is left. Let us bring special attention to our individual and social nervous systems, the mycelial network that we are all vibrating through. Let us appreciate our collective, familial, generational and ancestral strengths and vulnerabilities. Let us bring compassion and a great sense of appreciation to ourselves and our interactions. Bringing conscious awareness, attention and breath in how we engage in the world. This is a call to grow in community and remind each other that you are me and I am you.
So how do we remedy the desire to stay connected with the demands of modern life? How do we stay connected to the Cosmos while in traffic or while speaking with our colleagues or patients when feeling rushed, tired, hungry, angry or lonely? How do we stay grounded in cement buildings and in sterile environments? How do we connect with masked smiles? How do we look deeply into each other’s eyes and recognize our own humanity? How do we practice being gentle with ourselves when we forget our great mystery and nudge ourselves back into remembering? I am not entirely sure; however, my wish is that we may remember that amnesia is part of the beautiful human condition and always know that joy, creativity, exuberance is always guiding us for our highest good, evolution and liberation.