The Clinical Power of Faith

by Jake Wiskerchen

On the Zephyr Wellness intake form (and really, on any robust therapy intake form) a line reads “Spiritual Affiliation” with room to write your belief in the beyond. Many people write “none.”

I think I have a clear idea that most people simply equate “spirituality” with “big religion.” Personally, I wish I could reach into each person’s brain – yes, Matrix style – and help them understand that the power-and-control techniques of most big religions have nothing to do with an individual’s own beliefs. Yes, you may have been taught a certain way, by certain people, and without your consent, but that does not mean rejecting spirituality is necessary.

In my eight-plus years of (more than) full-time clinical work with human beings, the anecdotal evidence I have gathered says that people recover faster from their struggles when they have a faith-based outlook on life. The reason for this, for me, points to emotionality and emotional experience. The ability to tolerate emotion, which is a lack of control when done fully, requires a faith that whatever you are enduring will eventually pass and you will be okay.

Faith-based people have an ability to embrace mystery. That ability is the root of their proficiency in dealing with unknown circumstances, which are the root of most anxiety. It is said that people who struggle with anxiety fixate their thoughts on things in the future, which cannot be controlled because they have not yet happened. A person of faith has no need for control because he or she has already determined through scripture, doctrine, or other belief, that whatever will come can be handled.

One saying says that “God won’t give you what you cannot handle.” Belief in a God is a faith step, requiring something beyond this mere human existence. But regardless of whether the human-English label of “God” is what you use to describe your spiritual existence, the underlying point is that you are cared for and protected by something bigger than your humanly flesh.

In therapy we like to ask what you believe in because it usually points to an ability to trust. It can also support a values or ethics system that impacts decision making. Many people who struggle with an ability to make decisions or set limits often struggle with their own faith base. Some might profess a devout religious following and be able to cite chapter and verse, but still struggle with mental peace because they are not faithfully walking out what they believe.

Getting in touch with one’s faith is hard because it requires letting go, which by definition brings uncertainty. Uncertainty is scary and the only way to tolerate fear is to know confidently that on the other side of that fear you will be okay. That requires faith. No one knows for sure what lies on the other side of emotion, but what we do know is that it IS temporary; only three to nine seconds in the brain is all. If you can faithfully tolerate it, you will indeed be okay.

Have faith in something bigger than yourself. Everything in life is temporary so we at Zephyr encourage you to embrace something beyond this world. Live for a purpose. If you have that, your psychological struggles might suddenly become quite temporary.