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The Table Video

James Houston, Bruce Hindmarsh& Steve L. Porter

Lord, Help Me to Forget Myself - James Houston and Bruce Hindmarsh on Self-Consciousness and Psychotherapy

Emeritus Professor of Spiritual Theology, Regent College
James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology, Regent College
CCT Scholar-in-Residence and Executive Board Member / Professor of Theology, Spiritual Formation, and Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and at Rosemead School of Psychology, Biola University
November 25, 2013

James Houston and Bruce Hindmarsh, both professors of spiritual theology at Regent College, discuss the problem of self-consciousness and other issues related to psychotherapy. Moderated by Steve Porter (CCT Associate Director).


Well, I think all the time that self consciousness is a detriment to being a vessel of grace. And so, the problem that I find, in America, is we are a culture that has colonized the continent and wants to keep on colonizing other continents. And so that mentality is what has to change. It’s that sense that, a messianic complex, that possibly we have that really doesn’t help us to live in grace.

So, many times, I think we have to ask God for unconscious self forgetfulness about what we’re doing. And the difficulty about our professional life is it’s all self conscious activity. So, when I’m a person, I’m much less conscious of being a person. Because, I’m just my attitude and the shaping of my life, the shaping of my identity is, it’s just relational and I can’t imagine how I could live without the other.

Though I can hear my psychologist friends saying, well that’s a fairly healthy person you just described there and I’m dealing with people who are so self absorbed, yes, but, so destructive and there’s so much self loathing or whatever it is, that the pathway from where they’re at to that sort of place, it looks very long. And there’s gonna be a long period of healing and that that’s gonna involve the ministry of others to come along.

Well then you want to make sure that such a Christian psychologist doesn’t practice psychology in the home as he practices it in his practice. [group chuckles]

Steve: Yes, I see.

That’s why sometimes, the children of a psychotherapist are in a worst state than the clients of the psychotherapist.

I have a friend who’s a therapist and he says, my clients get the best of me. And, you know, but, he says that as a confession but,

Yes, yes, yes, yes.

What he brings home is oftentimes, not the best.

So this is all the self consciousness stuff you see that somehow, we have to say, Lord, help me to forget myself.

I wonder, Steve, I mean, I think in the situation where we are, the kind of, in the midst of things, I have no question that the kind of healing that can come with a Christian therapist, you know, and the obstacles that can be got out of the way and that this is a part of what God uses in people’s lives right now in healing and even spiritual direction.

Even in a kind of, ad hoc, freelance, unlicensed, not very ecclesial environment, sometimes, is something that absolutely that God is using. But, I think in some ways it’s also a kind of confession of failure that these things become divorced from the simple, the ecclesial, pastoral life of the church. Where an unpaid, unclient, professional relationship that just, in the context of church ministry, in the context of the Eucharist, in the context of the life of the church, there are the very personal interactions that allow for these things to be addressed.

I mean, I think certainly in terms of the wisdom that’s been gained in terms of psychopathology and the kinds of ways, I mean, therapy is going to be important for many people. I think there’s no question it gonna be important.

But I think another thing is ageism. I think that the separation of the generations in the church means that all the wisdom that older people could give young people, is totally lost. It’s a huge potential that is just uncultivated. And if there was more intergenerational integration together in our lives, like we used to have as families, but even the old people are now are shut off in old peoples homes, the result is that all these generational stages of life are totally truncated. And the truncation of that is why there’s so much more demand for psychological help. [relaxing music] [relaxing music]