Loss of spirituality means lack of direction

In today's society, people have more and more lost their sense of where they are going in life, says psychiatrist Dr. Tim Lau.

In today's society, people have more and more lost their sense of where they are going in life, says psychiatrist Dr. Tim Lau.

October 31, 2011

Why are people so unhappy? Why do people seem so lost?

Dr. Tim Lau took those questions to the Oct. 30 meeting of St. Luke's Physicians' Guild in Edmonton and proposed answers for the assembled doctors.

"A lot of it is because people think happiness is something that happens to you," he said, pointing out the word originates from the English word happenstance.

The Ottawa psychiatrist instead looks to the Greek or ancient derivation that says in the main, that happiness is, in part, the choices you make, virtuous choices.

"Happiness is often in living in the right way and making the right choices with something in mind towards an end," Lau said in an interview.

And there's the rub. Where's the end?

"People have lost that sense of where they are going," observes Lau. "As Yogi Bear once said, 'It's hard to get someplace if you don't know where you are going.'

"I think that is what has happened to everyone. They have forgotten where they have come from and they have forgotten where they are going. So when people say they seem lost, it is not that hard to figure out why."

Perhaps one reason we have lost our way is because of our ignoring the spiritual component of our lives.

Lau sees that in his own profession.

"In many ways, psychiatry tries to reduce things that can't be reduced. You can't reduce a person to a body. You can't reduce a mind or a consciousness to a brain. We are very much more that just those things. . . .

"I think in psychiatry, there is a danger, just like the rest of culture, that tries to reduce things to things they can empirically prove. The hidden assumption of scientists is that the universe is knowable, that it is understandable."


But from Lau's perspective, "Everything from a subatomic particle to galaxies and the universe itself, we see that everything is ordered. Look at the mathematics involved. It certainly points to a mind, a mind that we can appreciate."

The 42-year-old's belief in God began when he started going to a physician's guild in Ottawa and "we started talking about medical ethics."

Then his mother who had practised Buddhism fell ill with cancer and several of Lau and his wife Amy's Christian friends visited her and prayed for her. A remission occurred, his mother returned home and for several weeks they believed a miracle had happened. But the cancer returned. Still, his mother converted to Catholicism on her deathbed.


"When God enters your life in a very real and physical way, you don't forget," remembers Lau.

The Laus attended Amy's Methodist church, but the push came when Lau wanted to baptize their daughter Megan. The truth of the Catholic sacrament satisfied him "and the first Catholic in our family was our daughter."

The Lau's spiritual journey continued until the Easter Vigil 12 years ago when they both were received into the Church.