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Psychologist of Religion

Hi. My name is Balazs Polyanki. Welcome to my web site.

 

I have created it to give ideas, techniques and resources and to promote psychological theory, research, and clinical practice to understand the significance of religion and spirituality in our lives and in the discipline of psychology. I am about to encourage and show ideas coming from science, clinical and applied practice. I want to increase public awareness of psychological dimensions of religion and spirituality. My Blog shares my experiences and thoughts on various topics or phenomena connecting to the spiritual aspect of our lives. I bring contemporary news and published research results to my readers in a simplified, easy to read format, referring to the original source.

This website is nonsectarian and does not espouse or endorse any particular religious positions or beliefs. I regularly interview psychologists and other supporting professionals from around the world interested in or related to the psychology of religion and spirituality. Also I am in co-operation with other psychologists and different professionals to whom you can turn for advice or professional help.

I am available online, via chat, over the phone, in personal one to one or small group settings. I welcome invitations for lessons, lectures, roundtable discussions or presentations.

I have written two books (currently available in Hungarian only). The COST OF STRESS introduces the reader into the nature of stress, the process of stress and the various coping strategies humans have. The PSYCHOLOGIST OF RELIGION is to give a wide picture on how scientists, especially psychologists, have tried to organize, interpret and describe the different spiritual and religious experiences and practices of the members of various societies.

Currently I am working on my new book (TA COACH). Using a special approach or language, called Transactional Analysis, I am collecting examples of various life situations one can face and as a result of it getting further and further away from autonomy. I provide my readers with clear explanations and techniques they can immediately use in their lives when working on to get their autonomy back. You can get an insight of this topic when visiting www.tacoach.hu

You can reach me at balazs.polyanki@vallaspszichologus.hu 

 

Skype: vallaspszichologus

 

My professional experience: Hungary, Greece, Germany, The Netherlands, Wales, Scotland, England, Egypt, New Zealand, USA, France, Switzerland, Sultanate of Oman, Serbia, Romania, Singapore, India and Japan

 

Below you can find some media sources or other sites related to spirituality or religion.

 

Interviews

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A MEANINGFUL LIFE - Interview with Dr. Clay Routledge (24 November 2015)

 

PB: I'm having a conversation about what makes our lives meaningful with Dr. Clay Routledge, social psychologist and associate professor of Psychology at North Dakota State University. (Articles by Clay can be read at Psychology Today as well). My first question is if there are any components that make us more likely to perceive life as full of meaning?

CR: Humans appear to be natural meaning makers. We automatically see purpose and meaning in the world. Meaning can come from many places - both religious and secular ideologies and institutions that make us feel like we are part of something bigger than ourselves, close relationships, the pursuit of important goals, and so on. Basically, we find meaning by attaching ourselves to things that make us feel less small and more significant.

PB: During my job I regularly meet persons who do not seem to know what they want from life or what they do now is not what they would really want to do. Viktor E. Frankl referred to a similar life position as 'Existential Vacuum'. What can an adult do when they are sipped into this state and become unhappy as a result of it?

CR: Well, some people struggle from mental illnesses that make it hard to maintain meaning and these people require the help of professionals. Besides that, people need to spend some time focusing on what makes them feel valued for who they are. Family and community are big sources of meaning, for example. I would also note that we should not underestimate the importance of both a healthy mind and body. We are beginning to truly learn the importance of diet and exercise for both physical and mental health. Take care of your body if you want a healthy mind.

PB: Let us have a look at the importance of childhood. Since Freud the world knows how critical the experiences can be during our first couple of years in life. From the 60s, especially in the U.S., parents were adviced to find the ideal match of warmth and control to have happy kids. During the last decades expressions like 'Flow', 'Peak Experience' or 'Emotional Intelligence' where added to the vocabulary of our everyday conversations. Beyond the models and marshmallow tests we are aware of, what should we, as parents, consider when wanting to bring up children who have the base on which they can build a meaningful life?

CR: I am not an expert on child development but I would say children need stable and loving environments, of course. But they also need to be taught about the realities of the world, that the world is a big and sometimes harsh place and that it does not revolve around them. As you may know, narcissism has been identified as a problem. Teach your kids to empathize with others and to be able to perspective take. Life feels more precious and meaningful when you appreciate just how challenging it can be.

PB: Where and how do a meaningful life and spirituality connect?

CR: Spirituality appears to be an important component of meaning for many people. Spirituality helps people feel connected to others and, more broadly, to the natural world. Spirituality represents an openness to a non-physical realm or force that offers a grander sense of meaning. For many, this idea helps them feel more than mortal, like they are part of a larger cosmic drama and not merely biological organisms who die and disappear forever.

PB: I'd like to bring another perspective into our conversation now. Bronnie Ware in Australia has become extremely popular as well as busy after writing about what many people regret on their death bed. When viewing our life from that stage of our journey, one can experience integrity or despair, as Erik Erikson wrote about it in 1959. In my opinion this assessment can and should be started earlier in our lives. What do you think? How can it be done and how spirituality comes into the picture?

CR: Yes, I believe there is value in confronting one's mortality. Numerous studies reveal that thinking about death orients people towards the beliefs and identities that give them meaning in life. When we think about how transient and fragile we are, we are afforded the opportunity to prioritize meaning making over more petty and superficial pursuits.

PB: We've touched the questions of finding and losing meaning in one's life but another important question remains. How can we cultivate the meaning of our life, especially when life significantly, and many times so suddenly, changes?

CR: Relationships are very important. Having close others to offer support in times of transition and challenge helps reduce anxiety and maintain meaning. Our closest connections are stable sources of meaning. I would also say be open to new paths to meaning. Humans struggle with change but change can also provide opportunities for personal growth, to learn new skills and experience new things.

PB: What are the measurable or proven benefits of living our lives meaningfully?

CR: There are a lot of scientifically-established benefits of meaning. People who feel meaningful are at a lower risk for mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, less likely to be suicidal, less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, and more likely to feel satisfied with life. Meaning also promotes physical health. High meaning has been associated with healthy immune functioning and lower risk of mortality. In short, meaning is important for healthy living.

PB: Finally, I have a personal question, if I may. What is your story, Clay? How did you find your meaning? How do you cultivate it or bring your focus back on it when needed?

CR: Most importantly, like a lot of people, I find meaning in my family, my wife and children. Also, I am a scientist and I spend a lot of time using science to ask questions about what makes life meaningful. So I find meaning in science as I believe it is a tool that helps us better understand the world and ourselves. You could argue that the process of scientific discovery is similar to spirituality. It represents a desire to learn and an openness to new possibilities. Studies also show that belief in science (like religion) can reduce anxiety in times of stress and existential concern as science is also a structure that connects us to something larger than ourselves.

PB: Thank you very much for the conversation and your answers.

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Mp3

 

(1) Meditation from India (Hare Krishna) >>source

 

(2) Free Music Downloads on Last.fm >>source

 

(3) Vezetett mindfulness gyakorlatok >>source

 

(4) Loyolai Szent Ignác spirituális gyakorlatai >>source

 

(5) Boundless - Spiritual Growth. Podcast >>source

 

(6) Freethought Radio and Podcast >>source

 

(7) No Religion Required. Podcast >>source

 

(8) Spiritual Audio and Video >>source

 

(9) Radio Magico >>source

 

(10) Sacred Music Radio >>source

 

Video

 

(1) Heaven's Gate Cult Initiation Tape Part 1. >>watch

 

(2) The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins >>watch

 

(3) Religious by Bill Maher>>watch

 

(4) The Path to Peace and Happiness in a Global Society by the Dalai Lama>>watch

 

(5) TED Talk. Dr. Kasim Al-Mashat on mindfulness meditation>>watch

 

(6) Breaking the Spell by Daniel Dennett>>watch

 

(7) The Relaxation Revolution: Enhancing Health Through Mind Body Healing by Dr Herbert Benson, Harvard Medical School>>watch

 

(8) The Enemies of Reason by Richard Dawkins>>watch

 

(9) Meditation, Creativity, Peace by David Lych>>watch

 

(10) Freedom and Fullness byKen Wilber>>watch

 

(11) James Randi: Secrets of the Psychics Documentary >>watch

 

Links

 

(1) Krishna mp3

(2) Why study religion?

(3) Religion Facts

(4) Freedom from Religion Foundation

(5) Richard Dawkins Foundation

(6) Sam Harris

(7) Zen Buddhism

(8) BBC - Religion

(9) Buddhanet

(10) Taoism

(11) Religious Tolerance

(12) Evolution vs. God

(13) Patheos - hosting the conversation on faith

(14) Doubtful News

(15) James Randi Educational Foundation

(16) Westminster Faith Debates

(17) Szkeptikus Társaság

(18) Psychology Today - Religion

(19) Spiritual Abuse Recovery Resources

(20) Spirituality and Psychiatry Special Interest Group

©All Rights Reserved - Polyánki Balázs - 2015