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Dr. Matthew Breuninger
Purposeful UniverseMay 6, 20242 min read

Purposeful Lab: Psychological Insights for Healing and Growth

In this episode of Purposeful Lab, Catherine and Dan delve into a discussion with Dr. Matthew Breuninger, a licensed clinical psychologist and associate professor at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. They explore how psychology intersects with faith to foster human flourishing, focusing on topics such as trauma, healing, and virtue formation. Dr. Breuninger shares insights from his clinical work and his book, "Finding Freedom in Christ: Healing Life's Hurts," shedding light on the role of psychological practices in overcoming life's challenges and achieving personal transformation. Listeners will gain a deeper understanding of the importance of community, purpose, and transcendent experiences in the journey toward healing and growth.


Dr. Breuninger's Psychological Insights

Throughout his academic career, Dr. Breuninger was fascinated with the psychological dimensions of the wide array of subjects he studied. He studied Psychology, Literature, and Theology but was continuously drawn towards what was behind the minds of all human persons. Particularly while studying St. Thomas Aquinas, Dr. Breuninger wanted to study beyond Aquinas’ clarity in principles and explore the psychological aspects of religion.

What Psychologists See in Religion for Healing and Growth

Dr. Breuninger explains that people who have faith, religious values, and participate in religious ceremonies have a substantially healthier psychological profile compared to those who do not. While there can be potential damaging psychological effects due to religious trauma in some individuals, the literature has shown that people who engage in faith practices and religion tend to do better on average in domains of flourishing and well-being.

What does our Biology tell Us about Psychological Healing and Growth?

According to Dr. Breuninger, we have a social brain that desires certain qualities in a relationship. Additionally, we have a dimension in our brain that recognizes purpose and meaning within the world. These qualities direct our brains towards specific aims that we believe will amount to our flourishing in some way. We desire to have an end to our actions and meaningful relationships that contribute to our overall sense of fulfillment. These desires are predicated on our self-reflective mind. In that, we are capable of reflecting on the nature of our own existence, our relationships, and eventual death. No other animal is capable of the level of self-reflection that we are.

Why Do People Have Less Psychological Healing and Growth?

In the modern world, people are less happy. According to Dr. Breuninger, the lack of overall happiness can be attributed to a missing moral framework in which to see life and act upon it. Subsequently, because of a lack of meaning and coherence, people find many of their decisions purposeless. Additionally, with technology, due to many of the status-driven elements of what is projected on social media, many people feel as though they are failing or falling behind.

Dr. Breuninger explains that therapy offers a viable solution. Therapy is popular because it is a dedicated time each week for self-reflection. In many ways, people feel they don’t have time to self-reflect, and therapy offers an intentional practice to reflect on the meaning of life. 

Take A Listen

This episode demonstrates the Catholic approach to Psychology and the importance of understanding the human mind in light of the Church's teachings. Dr. Breuninger discusses how the modern world has lost culturally integrative meanings and solutions to the meaning crisis. However, he explains how deep friendships, virtue, and faith can begin to help us psychologically heal and grow.  




Purposeful Universe

The Purposeful Universe seeks to explore and present, through award winning videos, the abundant order in nature that funnels biological systems toward increasing levels of complexity and sophistication—suggesting that human life is the purposeful outcome of a complex, ordered system.