Monday, November 14, 2011

Spirituality Industry and Psychiatry

I attended the 12th annual conference of the Indian Association of Private Psychiatry held in Thiruvananthapuram from the 11th of November to the 12th. Dr. Russell F D’Souza, from Australia, President of Indian Global Psychiatric Initiative (IGP) presented what he called “The Spiritually Augmented Well-being Therapy” under the title THE SCIENCE OF WELL-BEING.  He introduced the subject quoting the words from C Robert Clinger’s book Feeling Good: The Science of Well Being. (Oxford University Press; 2004):  “Mental health professionals and their patients are increasingly aware of the basic need of all human beings for a source of meaning that is greater than one’s self. This growth in awareness is driven by the professional’s practical goal of reducing disability from mental disorders and by the heart felt wishes of the suffering for their therapists to recognize the need for self transcendence. This has resulted in the mental health professionals and the general public’s growing awareness of the need to foster spirituality and well-being in clinical practice. There is a groundswell of professional work to focus on the development of health and happiness, rather than merely to fight disease and distress.”
Even though Dr. D’Souza titled his presentation ‘the Science of Well-being’ his ultimate aim was to introduce what is known as “The Spirituality Augmented Well-being Therapy” which I felt was another brand of  “Art of Living” which is a private enterprise in spirituality by Sri Sri Ravisankar.
Economists classify industry into three sectors viz. Primary, concerning agriculture sector, Secondary, concerning industrial sector and Tertiary concerning services. Now, there is a Fourth Sector in industry namely Spirituality Sector.

What is spirituality?

Traditionally, many religions have regarded spirituality as an integral aspect of religious experience. Among other factors, declining membership of organized religions and the growth of secularism in the western world have given rise to a broader view of spirituality. The term "spiritual" is now frequently used in contexts in which the term "religious" was formally employed.
Words translatable as 'spirituality' first began to arise in the 5th century and only entered common use toward the end of the Middle Ages. Spiritual innovators who operated within the context of a religious tradition often became marginalized or suppressed as heretics or separated out as schismatic. In these circumstances, anthropologists generally treat so-called "spiritual" practices such as shamanism in the sphere of the religious, and class even non-traditional activities such as those of Robespierre’s Cult of the Supreme Being in the province of religion.
the Harvard University psychologist and philosopher William James wrote a book  The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature.  It comprises his edited Gifford Lectures on "Natural Theology" delivered at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland between 1901 and 1902.
Natural theology is a branch of theology based on reason and ordinary experience. Thus it is distinguished from revealed theology (or revealed religion) which is based on scripture and religious experiences of various kinds; and also from transcendental theology, theology from a priori reasoning.

Spirituality as big business

Renowned commentator Amelia Gentleman wrote in New York Time on the 11th June, 2005:  “While Western workers pop antidepressants and tranquilizers to beat stress, India seeks relief from the pressures of its emerging materialistic society with a booming spirituality industry. Personnel departments in big firms are calling on spiritual gurus to help new recruits handle the tensions of modern working life. Spirituality shops offering "health and wealth kits" are doing good business, and newly created religious channels on domestic television are expanding their reach into millions of homes.”
One of India's slickest spiritual movements, the Art of Living Foundation, led by the telegenic guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, runs a "corporate executive program" aimed at helping senior management in India's leading companies cope with stress. It offers relief by teaching employees how to improve their breathing. Sanjiv Kakar, an Art of Living guru who teaches the course said: "Our corporate program is for people on the fast track, and these people are facing high levels of urban stress. They may not be looking for spiritual solace, but they are looking for stress relief and we can provide that."
Gayatri Mehra, media manager with a religious channel says, " Religion has been commercialized in a big way. People are always eager to watch religious serials or listen to sermons on various channels. Senior citizens as well as devotees lay a lot of emphasis on religion and the arena of spiritualism. There are several gurus, swamis and saints who have followers in India as well as all across the globe. " 

Spiritually augmented well-being therapy

The proponents of this new brand like call it Spiritually Augmented Cognitive Behaviour Therapy or SACBT. This is nothing but smuggling of spirituality through back door into the realm of cognitive science for the purpose of making cognitive therapy a business like Art of Living. It satisfies neither the spiritual needs of the mentally ill nor that of the psychiatrists. It is designed to serve the greed of the therapist.  

Spiritual needs of the mental patients

I have no doubt that there are some spiritual needs mental patients. Majority of my patients are believers. I advise them to pray because in cognitive psychology prayer is self suggestion. I even formulate prayers is such a way as to promote positive attitudes towards life for the believing patients in accordance with their religious faith.
The leaflet of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, London, UK defines spirituality for the purpose of meeting the spiritual needs of the mentally ill people as follows:
Spirituality involves experiences of:
·        a deep-seated sense of meaning and purpose in life
·        a sense of belonging
·        a sense of connection of 'the deeply personal with the universal'
·        acceptance, integration and a sense of wholeness.

1 comment:

Dr. Badr Ratnakaran said...

Sir,We all know how much of business people make out of spirituality.In our busy world, the layman finds it difficult to find that consoling touch or ventilating his deep inner feelings with that loved one , which sometimes is provided by people who are in this business. One way or the another he gets sucked into it. Whether it's good or bad for him, 'm sometimes not able to comment. But I have always felt spirituality, not religion as such can be a good therap formany patients, whether it's from a Psychiatrist or from someone else