Psychoanalytic traditions, and more specifically, psychoanalytic theorists and practitioners, have an engaging relationship with the field religion and spirituality, a relationship that the different members of this tradition discussed from various perspectives. The focus of this paper would be on the perspectives of several prominent theorists of the Object Relations School in the psychoanalytic tradition on the sphere religion and spirituality. This will be attempted through first, an endeavor to define spirituality; second, an overview of some of the prominent figures in Object Relations School and a discussion of these figure’s different views on religion and spirituality; and third, a brief understanding of the ways in which religion and spirituality may appear in the therapy room.

Despite the challenge of defining the elusive concept of spirituality, I will present here some ideas in regard to spirituality as pertinent to the discussion of this paper and will then move to its manifestation in Object Relations theories. Over the last hundred years, cultural circumstances brought upon a favoring of the word spirituality over religion with relatedness to transcendent reality, whether referring to God, or a broader sense of divinity, supernatural beings, or nature, the universe, or other sacred realms beyond the human person (Rizzuto, 2005). The replacement of the word religion by spirituality signals a shift in the psychological attitude to sacred realities. Religion, with its Latin root in linking (re-ligare), points to a personal relationship with God or gods. The focus of attention is on the divinity. Religion is god-centered. Spirituality is subject and experience centered. Spirituality seeks modes of relatedness with sacred realities that suit the individual’s and the community’s experiences of them (Rizzuto, 2005).

In mid-20th century, the postwar era brought extensive migrations of people from all over the world to the United States, each carrying its own religious beliefs and practices. The spiritual seekers searched many sources to offer them guidance and sustenance: Indian and Eastern religions, Native American beliefs and practices, astrology, the occult, Cabalistic practices, nature religions and other idiosyncratic beliefs and practices. Doubt and confusion, in the context of many competing religious metanarratives, confront people with the difficulty task of creating convincing personal metanarratives to sustain them in an ailing planet. In their distress, believers feel the need for personally relevant relatedness to the universe and other people, not just to a God that transcends them and who inhabits a hypothetical heaven. These, Rizzuto (2005) believes, are part of the antecedents to the emergence of the vaguely defined term spirituality.

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