Stephan has a profound understanding and knowledge of human well-rooted in Modern Scientific Psychology, Christianity, Sufis and Buddhist Wisdom that integrates a holistic worldview of health and wellness of the whole person within four aspects of their health – Physical, Psychological, Emotional, and Transpersonal Health.
Where it all began
“My life was spiritually incomplete constantly searching for existential meaning and purpose. Born and raised in France, at the time Catholicism was the most dominant religion for most children. ‘Baptism’, ‘Catechism’, ‘Confirmation’, ‘School Graduation’, ‘Wedding’, ‘Retirement party’ and ‘Funeral’ are the typical rites of passage to be part of the French community and institution. Around the age of 9, I experienced my first religious crisis during a catechism session discoursing around the concepts of ‘sin’ – being born sinner; heaven and hell; good and evil, and the wrath of God and God’s mercy. These concepts conditioned me to live in fear, already assuming that I was a born a reject/failure in the eyes of the God. This assumption developed greatly from an early age until my early thirties. My question was then, why am I born if God sees me as a reject? The choice of becoming the human being I can possibly be was already taken away from me. The fear of God induced by these notions created more distance between me and the divine. I felt forced to repent relentlessly even before committing any sins. I was afraid to be punished and strived for being a Christian role model. My personal ethics was profoundly challenged, feeling that it did not make sense despite praying with all my heart. This particular ‘devotion’ did not fill in the spiritual void I was experiencing. I was still hungry to connect with the existence/God hoping that miracles will happen at some point. I thought that connecting with God could not have been that difficult.
My existential crisis then began at the age of 10 fed exponentially through verbal and physical abuse, which led to emphasise crisis at the age of 12; after the experience of an accident that left me almost disabled. The accident initiated existential questions related to the role of suffering, peoples’ behaviour, life, death, to name a few. These questions created mystical ripples experienced in various form such as premonition dreams, intuitive feeling, hearing voices. However, I didn’t know how to interpret these at the time and I was not sure who else to talk about these. My mum was not sure how to interpret those either or even trying to believe me. I had the opportunity to ask a priest during a religious retreat related to the meaning behind my premonition dreams, but was reluctant to share his thoughts. Therefore, I was left with unanswered questions. I was left with no spiritual guides. This existential situation seriously compromised not only my faith in the religion, but also my trust in God. Psychologically and emotionally intoxicated by paternal control, my anger towards my dad grew and my thirst for finding God was stronger than ever.
I decided to leave my country at the age of 22 in august 2002, by assuming that I was fulfilling my destiny in the UK. I was convinced that rebuilding a life in the UK would probably provide me with answers about God. I had to adapt by learning a new language, following a new culture, and learning a new job as a waiter. It was very tough and felt constantly depressed with homesickness despite being successful in the hospitality industry. In 2004, I had a dream where I was face down paralysed with despair and hopelessness in a desert. A man in a dark brown robe who looked like Jesus (reflecting on this now, it was the divine) but with no face helped me to get up. The man looked at me and then disappeared. When I woke up, the dream left me with a sense of purpose again. Since the dream, I had higher goals, however, my ambitions led me to roam to precarious jobs due to a lack of English fluency for 9 years.
In 2006, I had another intense dream as being projected in the future which give me a new hope – a new beginning is near. Then, I realised that the void came back intensely, present lingering in the background leading me to losing faith completely.
In 2009, towards the end of personal intoxicating relationship, I made the decision to surrender my whole spirit and being to God – It felt amazing, but it was really scary. Sometimes in 2010, I met my wife and I got married quite quickly in 2011. I intuitively knew that she was a godsend. I felt content and happy to the point that I managed to stop smoking. After the wedding we decided to leave the UK for la Reunion to begin a new life there. Although, it was a good experience, the family became less and less supportive, I soon became ill with angst. We had to leave la Reunion in a hurry before we ran out of money and run the risk to be stranded. Once again, I blamed God and lost faith one more time. This time though I was not by myself experiencing such intense emotion, I could share this crisis with my wife. More importantly, Ellen at the time had to deal with her own spiritual crisis related to food addiction. At least we were able to support each other in difficult time. We were both on a spiritual journey. I intuitively knew that this marriage was divinely orchestrated, but I did not realise how profound this intuition was actually true.
Back to the UK, I decided to return to academia. I thought that specialising into psychology would in part provide me with the questions I had for most of my life. As an undergraduate psychology student between 2012/2015, I realised that psychology partially had clarified some of the inquiries I had about human nature and psychopathology, but not necessarily about spirituality though. While volunteering with Mind and IAPT, I discovered that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) are the treatment of choice within the NHS to help individuals suffering from stress, anxiety and depression (Rycroft-Malone et al., 2017). These secular health interventions instigated some concerns related to the long-term efficacy in the patients’ recovery, the ethical approach within the delivery process, and more so the large number of relapse that I was witnessing. These inquiries led later on to investigate the role gender influenced the practice of mindfulness. The results showed that the benefit of an 8 weeks mindfulness course was experienced differently between male and female participants in terms of emotion regulation. Mindfulness teaching enabled males to gain a sense of mastery over their intra-relationship with their emotions (Calteau, 2015). Whereas, mindfulness teaching enabled females to increase the skill to regulate their emotion by connecting to others. Limited to qualitative results, I decided to investigate this gender difference by completing a doctoral research between 2015/2021.
Reflecting on my conditioning and Identity
I spend years reflecting on my identity by investigating my own understanding of ‘what I am’ and ‘who I am’ from the different aspect of my identity on various cosmological, theological, metaphysical, epistemological, ethical and anthropological levels that constitute of what it is to be human. I quickly learnt that all these aspects of my identity were in fact modelled by the Western ideology of what a human being should be. But certainly, an ideology used to inflate my identity uniqueness against the collective rather than an identity that can be being part of a collective consciousness on an equal ground and contribute to it with a specific individuality. In other words, I realised that Western ideology conditioned the way I think, feel, and behave from birth – through the teachings of my parents in my early socialisation including school, friendship, church and so on.
Alternatively, this process enabled me to develop a greater awareness on the way that this Western Ideology kept me stuck into a living on the survival mode all these years from which, great fears developed overtime. Example, fear of God; fear of being judge in whatever I do, feel, think, and behave; fear of being free; fear of going out. These fears grew over the years and were more prominent since being in the UK in 2002. Adapting to a new life, a new language and a new job required not just faith in myself, but psychological resilience and endurance against bullying at work. Being alone in a foreign country led me to constantly experience homesickness and depression which, led me to substance abuse consumption (smoking, alcohol) to escape from constant inadequacy. All these fears also impacted on my mental, emotional, and transpersonal health including low mood, self-criticism, depression, low self-esteem, substance abuse due to bullying.
On the other hand, I was consumed by personal aspirations leading to working long hours to breaking point. The doubt about God kept growing and I was spiritually lost than ever. I was hoping that all was meant to be the way it was meant to be. In other words, this retrospective process enabled me to see the worldview conditioned by the different social layers that have impacted on my heath too. In other words, this retrospective process is examining one’s worldview that challenges the intellect part of the mind. The intellect part of the mind is the part that is conditioned through one’s environment. This is in fact investigating one aspect of my own ‘self’ by dissecting the layers of the intellect that has been formed from my parents’ beliefs, assumptions, and traditions. I realised that this intellect is an accumulation of conditioning out of religion, propaganda and trauma from the black trade that can be traced back 300 years ago from parts of Africa and Reunion Island. In addition, this intellect integrates a fabricated knowledge related to survival adaptation by creating a new dialect (Kreol), attitude and behaviour to protect themselves against the dominance and tyranny of the White Colon passed on genetically from one generation to another before me. From this, it can be understood that I was born from a ready-made template way of living that I needed to discover further from within. Not just by intellectually challenge my worldview which, provided valuable information about who I am; it was not enough to discover what I was – so what it really means to be human on an existential level. The identity workshop made realise that identity based on survival and struggle conditioned the individual to live and care about his own interest.
This conditioned identity is an ideological fabricated identity that serves to create division between their own cultural group and others. I also realised that this conditioned identity led me to devalue the other cultures than my own. My values were always more important than others. In essence, this retrospection allows to build a self-awareness by examining my own values and beliefs that could potentially dehumanise the ones of the clients which, may be strongly rooted. Therefore, as of understanding my own psychology, gaining a cultural awareness enables me to build rapport more efficiently with the client; as in inviting the client on an equal therapeutic ground. Having understood the impact that cultural knowledge has had on my own health, helps me to approach the client with compassion – by promoting ‘unconditional positive regard’”.