Updated: May 24, 2021
Being a 32 year old, the aspect of being a former victim of child abuse and other social abuse has always been a reminder that life can get harsh and if we are not careful can succumb to the psychological pressures. It renders one with the burden of dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorders. Having suffered much brutality at the hands of my father and even leading to divorce of my parents, I was in Vietnam where I learned of Buddhism and has always used it to deal with my psychological problems. The effects have been therapeutically beneficial and made me a better than I was before. It is for this reason that I chose on the topic of how religion plays a significant role in helping us deal with our psychological problems. It goes ahead to explain the effects of religion on the psychology of an individual.
Religion refers to a set of beliefs, teachings and practices that forms the basis of the relationship between human beings and a divine force. There are many religions in the world and each has a profound way of affecting the human way of life. The relationship between religion and psychology has been a subject of great interest ever since the times of the great psychologist Carl Jung who offered a sympathetic approach towards the relationship (Sugamura 1080). It touches on the experiences of human beings, which is the focus of psychology. Psychology thus finds a great association with religion on its ability to help human beings understand various feelings such as anger, hatred, anxiety, depression and dissatisfaction and how to handle and manage them in leading purposeful lives. Religion thus serves as a great remedy for emotional and psychological problems of human beings.
The concept of Buddhism religion plays a great role in understanding the psychological effects that human beings experience during their life here on earth. The origin of Buddhism itself started as Buddha’s way of understanding how to deal with various aspects such as grief, anxiety, illness and depression due to death. Sakyamuni Buddha when coming up with Buddhism realized that suffering such as illness and other perilous psychological problems begin during the birth of a child. Those who have not suffered in any way then have not yet experienced birth. Suffering both mental and physical pain is thus part of our life here on earth. It is pointed out by the Buddha that physical cases should be referred to physician while the psychological problems that have the effect of affecting the mental power and abilities of an individual should be dealt in a religious way. The Buddha dharma is the only way to deal with psychological problems. The Buddhist religion also helps one to understand the main causes of psychological and mental suffering here on earth and thus helps individuals to know how to deal with them. The causes of suffering include ignorance of the no beginning, the cause/effect or karma effect and the vexations that occur within our lives. In helping me deal with my problems, I had to understand the reason as to why I was suffering from the problems and other psychological afflictions that were tormenting me. The concept of karma helps in understanding why at times human beings suffer. According to Buddhism, individuals have various life cycles and in each of the lives one exists in various forms and thus any actions done have the effect of determining whether the other life would be one full of bliss or suffering depending on the previous life. Karma has its way of bringing balance. I believe that in my case, the sufferings I underwent such as the case of abuse as a child must have been punishment for my previous life’s sins. The relationship between my parents that culminated into a divorce also played a part in the suffering as part of the cause/ effect cycle of vexations. Thus, religion prevents one with the opportunity to realize the cause of suffering which is good for psychological wellbeing of an individual. Understanding the cause of a given problem serves as the first phase of knowing how to deal with the problems.
Buddhism as a religious belief plays an important role in shaping up the psychological strength of an individual (Koenig 288). It grants individuals the power to understand that they have the power to change their lives. This forms as the basis of hope to those suffering from some form of mental depression. Psychologists such as Sigmund Freud point out those religion beliefs and its rituals form a collective form of neurosis and helps individuals in dealing with some psychological problems (Segall 37). In his studies on the effect of religion on the psychology of an individual, Freud goes ahead to point out that some of the rituals conducted by people who have a wide held belief in a religious system helps them in overcoming some psychological aspects such as guilt and shame (Grossman, Paul, et al 35). It thus serves as the main source of hope in ensuring that they are happy. Those who fail to perform these tasks and rituals are often engulfed by the feeling of guilt and thus continue to suffer in their life. The only hope they have is to repent and atone for not adhering to the rituals. In my life of suffering, I was able to realize that some rituals such as meditation and yoga as advocated by the Buddhism religion help one to overcome his suffering.
The concept of religion as understood and presented by Rudolf Otto when handling how it affects and effects on religion points towards a holy and fulfilling life for those who believe in it (Segall 45). It also forms the basis of fear of the unknown in human beings. He points out that various mysteries that exist in religions and have an effect of shaping the psychological behavior of those who practice it. For instance in the Buddhism religion, the concept of life and death is dealt in a different way compared to other religion. Buddhism points towards an individual’s quest for “nirvana” through performing good deeds (Segall 48). The mystery of “nirvana” makes human beings to lead better lives that are devoid of anger, heartlessness and any other behavior that might make them miss on the divine beauty of the place. The fear of missing “nirvana” also has a psychological implication on the individuals. Otto points to this anxiety and pursuit of better after life and mystery of heaven and hell makes the human mind wander thus shaping up the beginning of other fears such as the nature of death. Looking into my case, the fear of re-incarnating as another being or creature that will suffer has always been my biggest motivation to work harder to lead a righteous life. This will enable my reincarnate form to lead a better life. Following the close monitoring of the effect the fear of missing a good afterlife, I have noted an improvement in my way of life thus showing the positive effect of religion as pointed by Rudolf Otto.
The Buddhism religion addresses many psychological disorders that hinder people from living a fulfilling life. Emotions directly affect our interaction with people and objects around us. It is possible to be blinded by our emotions and act against our principles and beliefs in life. Following the situation of “avoidance desires” produced by fear and especially hatred, the victim channels his hatred towards the object in question. Actually too much, anger blinds him and his anger can be likened to that of the serpent. Generally, human beings tend to develop a positive attitude towards the things we like and a negative attitude towards those that we dislike. In the event we cannot avoid a situation or a person we dislike an urge to fight, harm or destroy them is stirred in us. The human case is not as simple because some specific aspects about an object can attract us while other pushes us away. This implies what had appeared be lovable to us can turn to be repulsive. A perfect case scenario is the emotions involved between a child and the parent.
Buddhism has a provision for the ethico-psychological analysis in which a number of terminologies are used to refer to anger and hatredSugamura. They include terms such as kodha (anger), pa.tigha (aversion), vyaapaada (ill will), dosa (hate) and hiina maana (inferiority conceit)(Sugamura 1080). All these are the effects of psychological problems that have found their impact on the religious system of the Buddhism religion. In my case having suffered abuse from my father’s brutality l become very angry and mad with people around me. According to my psychologist, I was becoming more like my father. As a therapeutic cure, Buddha provides advice on how to deal with situations such as this, that is, ways of ensuring that one’s anger, wrath and ill will are not invoked (Koenig 285). This does not involve suppressing the feelings so that they become insignificant but that one should understand, be insightful and alert to be able to control and restrain one from acting according to his desire. Buddhist advocates for the need to understand the genesis of emotions and develop a positive attitude of dealing with cases of anger, hatred and even fear. Belief in the Buddhism has helped me in understanding the concepts outlined in the “Vitakkasanthana Sutta” which offers an approach to help in the removal of all forms of distractive thoughts in a human being. Through this I have I have understood ways on how to deal with my anger that was pointed by my psychologist. Much improvement has been noted thus showing the therapeutic effect of Buddhism religion on the feelings of anger in a human being.
Religion plays a major role in helping one to handle some psychological issues such as practicing the act of forgiveness to calm one's mind. For instance, I had wasted a better part of my life being bitter and angry with my father for the mistreatment he had subjected me to. As a result, I even become bitter with myself and nothing around me seemed to make sense. All the happy childhood memories were snatched away from me. It provided a way that offered me rigorous exercises, methods and practices that I could put into practice and get actual results and this transformed my hopes into reality. It is nearly impossible to experience such level of abuse from other people and manage to escape getting angry yourself. Moreover, it is much more difficult to forgive those people that have hurt you especially because doing so it is like exposing oneself to being hurt by them again. However, failing to do has far much detrimental effects of carrying the load of pain for a long duration. Buddhism uses the Thich Nhat Hanh case scenario of collecting a hot-coal, which signifies anger or hatred, and throwing it at your enemy to seek revenge (Segall 56). As expected if one collects the hot-coal he is burnt very early even before he hurts the enemy and ends up dropping it due to pain. Which translates to attempting to hurt those who have wronged you by holding grudges is counterproductive. This teaches that a person who wrongs you is normally unaffected but the one who decides to keep that in his heart bears the deep, greater devastating pain. The anger we retain to ourselves is venomous to us. Buddhism enlightened me that by failing to forgive others one grants them access to determine your joy and peace. This eventually intertwined my feelings and mental prowess to the conceit of their huge egos (Koenig 290). Ironically, this is like offering one’s happiness to the very same people that had messed him before. It is critical to understand that forgiveness is a quest for happiness. Although am still struggling with the control of my vengeful spirit it’s comforting enough to know that I have some tools and practices to help putting me back on track anytime I am inclined to going back to the old habits.
In conclusion, it is evident that the Buddhism religion and other religious beliefs have an effect in shaping how human beings behave. It plays a significant role in shaping the psychological perspective and behavior of human beings in a way that fits and affirms their belief in a spiritual being or power. The nature of how I was able to handle my situation especially when dealing with the Post-traumatic-stress disorder. It has helped me to be a better person and more courageous and optimistic in dealing and handling life problems. Religion has granted me the belief that life is worth living no matter how tough or hard it appears. There is always a hope for a better tomorrow as one works towards a better after life as taught in the Buddhism religion. This thus underpins the positive effects of religion in shaping the psychological behavior of an individual.
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Grossman, Paul, et al. "Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: A meta-analysis." Journal of psychosomatic research 57.1 (2004): 35-43.
Koenig, Harold G. "Research on religion, spirituality, and mental health: A review." Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 54.5 (2009): 283-291.
Segall, Seth Robert, ed. Encountering Buddhism: western psychology and Buddhist teachings. SUNY Press, 2012.
Sugamura, Genji, Yutaka Haruki, and Fusako Koshikawa. "Building more solid bridges between Buddhism and Western psychology." (2007): 1080.