Gripped in a death roll, my mind has been unable to shake the intrusive grasp of darkness. Grief and desire have descended my mind like an unending, unrelenting discourse.
Freud (bear with me) had an idea that he formed his analytical psychodynamic theory of psychology on: he believed that the human personality consisted of three parts: id, ego, and superego. These pieces of personality could be (and would be) interactive throughout a lifetime. While the language of Freud appears to be fraught with anti-theism, the beauty of modern psychology is the recognition that Freud was just a man trying to discuss and understand the mind in a way that allowed for a deeper contemplation of really difficult realities.
Aren’t we always trying to create an understanding of reality? Pick your science: theology, psychology, biology. Some of us will forever be seeking to grasp and metabolize this chaos we call living.
Studying psychology is not inherently oppositional to belief in God. I would argue that it is a facet of understanding that lends to the enormity and infinite divinity of God. While it shakes the naïve fundamentalistic, legalistic view of Christianity, psychology in some respects is more closely aligned with the early church in that it seeks to encompass the inexplicable experience of spirituality.
That said, there is a reason I’ve taken this little sojourn attempting to weave together theology with Freud’s psychology: it lends to language that helps identify a deep seated struggle that is altogether too common….religion calls it temptation, Freud labeled it ego. Physiologically it could be said that in depression I have been seeking flushes of dopamine and oxytocin to alleviate my discomfort. Choose your science.
Christianity says that I have experienced spiritual warfare harshly many times in my life. Standing up to speak out against domestic violence I would often find myself shattered before and afterwards, speaking in church I have struggled to maintain a sense of self worth, acting in leadership I would face a sh*t storm of oppression. With my recent acceptance of vocational ministry the attack has been even more brutal. I have spent much of the last month splintered, affected, and wounding those I love in an attempt to quiet the intrusive chaos.
Psychology takes into account a life of acute stress. It is no secret I have a trying marriage. I have struggled to maintain my sense of balance, of stability. My ego strength has been altered. Ego strength is said to be the mediator between instinctual desires (id) and distinctive morality (superego). I don’t always have the strength to maintain that balance of natural desire and moral objectivity.
When my ego strength is weak, I am susceptible to internal upheaval. It is impossible for me to deny id, and live satisfying superego. They must coexist inside of me, lest I become either heathenistic or legalistic. I can be both broken and ugly, beautiful and whole. My peace comes in recognizing both simultaneously. I can yearn for more than I have and not compromise my values.
The “How” is still being uncovered. There is a truth to be found, however slim its existence: denial of self does nothing for the ability to feel at peace.
Further reading and resources from people who say it better than me:
McLeod, Saul. (2007). Id Ego Superego, Simply Psychology. http://www.simplypsychology.org/psyche.html
O’Malley, Kitt. (2014). Love, Learn, & Live with Bipolar Disorder. Freud and the Church