5 Factors that Impede Spiritual Growth

February 11, 2016

In Western society, there exists a certain kind of spiritual pursuit. This search is driven by the desire to no longer feel adrift in the world. It is the search to feel like life has meaning and that we can shape that meaning. However, within this pursuit also lies a desire to achieve this sensation without feeling overly accountable or responsible for one’s own actions.

Humans sometimes seek spiritual guidance to make our lives more pleasant, or more fluid, instead of a life full of constant questioning and suffering.

This search for spirituality is directly related to another issue that fills psychologists’ waiting rooms: the desire to feel good about ourselves, to feel at peace, and to feel good about who we are in the world. As people, we all search for psychological wellbeing.

The search for psychological wellbeing and spirituality

We should consider a few pieces of advice that come from psychology that are related to spirituality and psychological wellbeing. They have their roots in ancestral and religious beliefs, but they have also been validated by scientific psychology.

Spiritual and psychological wellbeing is not something arbitrary or casual that comes from nothing and with no effort and participation. To achieve this kind of level of functioning requires effort, determination, and dedication. 

Therefore, the search for spiritual and psychological wellbeing requires commitment. We must immerse ourselves entirely in the process, for that is the only way it will be able to lead us to achieve what we seek.

This article will discuss five factors that can completely destroy our psychological and spiritual wellbeing….

hands cupping sun spiritual

1. Envy

We often differentiate between “healthy envy” and “negative envy.” However, if we look up the definitions of each, we will not find a great difference between them.

Feeling momentary envy when confronted with a concrete fact is normal. This feeling is not accompanied by the desire to usurp the identity of another person nor to wish ill against that person. However, if that momentary feeling becomes prolonged and intensifies over time, it may evolve to include those aspects…

Envy places us in a situation of inadequacy, of bitterness, and even inspires moments of aggression. Envying another is to concede and diminish our own importance.

2. Comparing oneself to others 

The fact that we compare ourselves to others is a part of life from childhood. It leads us to seek success through competition. In turn, this creates a desire for “normalcy” based on society’s criteria and expectations.

What we are not told enough, nor convincingly enough, is that each and every one of us are unique in our abilities, our character, and our circumstances.

We often compare ourselves with those who we consider to be in a better situation than we are, while ignoring individuality and increasing our own frustration.

one red flower in field of yellow spiritual

Therefore, establishing comparisons distances us from our own reality. It creates false myths and sometimes even a deep sensation of failure. Evidently, this opens the door to envy, even though in our natural way of being we never would have wanted to harbor this emotion.

If we believe that we should have a model or reference point in our lives, we must always remember our values and establish that model to align with those values. It must be adaptable to our own individual circumstances and realistically accessible.

3. Continuous evaluation of oneself and one’s own life 

The continuous evaluation of what we do and what others do leads us to bitterness and neuroticism. It can drive us to judge others, which is a common habit of people who are generally frustrated with their own lives.

We should try to live without analyzing everything. Life is not an equation that needs to be solved, but rather a continuous sensation of experiences and emotions.

4. Idealization 

The idealization of people and situations is very common. It is often done retrospectively, or when thinking about the future. 

The difference between establishing goals and idealization is relatively clear. Setting goals allows us to focus on our actions. Idealization increases self-cruelty with respect to our past mistakes and lack of realism with respect to our future goals.

In the same way we idealize the past, thinking that everything used to be better, we idealize future situations and believe that being able to reach those situations will rid us of our current, catastrophic present.

5. Pessimistic, or catastrophic, thinking 

The opposite effect of idealistic thinking is pessimistic, or catastrophic, thinking. Contrary to what it may seem, both of these thought patterns can be present in one person at the same time.

If we tend to idealize something and then find that what we experience does not live up to our expectations, a feeling of lack of control and desperation can overwhelm us. Lack of control when confronted with a certain aspect of our life drives us to desperation and a pessimistic view of the world.

For this reason we have to adjust our expectations to reality. We must do this as much as possible in order to avoid creating false and unnecessary hope in our minds that cannot be adjusted to reality.

Psychological wellbeing reinforced, spiritual wellbeing welcomed 

By avoiding these five destructive factors, we will be able to arrive at a place of mental and spiritual wellbeing. This state of mind can always be reinforced by practices such as mediation, mindfulness, and other techniques that help us to gain awareness of our bodies and to relax our minds.

To achieve this, we must eliminate all that disturbs us. This means ridding ourselves of all that is not beautiful nor useful, and those things that only have a place in our past. Detecting these factors in our mind can help us to minimize them. It can help us ignore harmful thoughts and pave the way for positive practices like mediation to be effective.

Dramatizing our problems will only make them worse. Practices like mediation and mindfulness will always help us to feel that we exist in the present moment with our own light, and that we are able to organize ourselves and be ready for life. Most importantly, avoiding these harmful factors will help us achieve mental and spiritual wellbeing and clarity in which we are able to see all of our problems as outside of ourselves.