Summary. More and more people in many parts of the world are becoming increasingly spiritual but not necessarily religious (Willard & Norenzayan, 2017). As a force urging us to quest for meaning in life, spirituality is considered to be a natural human condition (Kim & Esquivel, 2011) with individual preferences according to personality type (Hall, 2012). Contemporary psychology has to further account for the difference between religiosity and spirituality, as well as reaping the possible benefits from more integrated psycho-spiritual approaches to human motivation.
Towards a definition of spirituality in the psychology of individual differences and personality
Despite the difficulty to gather scientific evidence for a defined concept of spirituality, its relevance for the scientific community (Skrzypińska, 2014), as well as for secularizing societies such as parts of Europe, the US and Canada (Willard & Norenzayan, 2017), is growing.
Skrzypińska (2014) defines spirituality as a motivational force urging individuals to search for meaning in life (p. 298). While in Rogerian terms it is about realizing one’s true self (Winston, 2016), Viktor Frankl calls an authentic personality one that is in harmony with its biological, psychological, and spiritual elements (Martínez & Flórez, 2015). The common and innate human spirituality (to be differentiated from religiosity) may develop mainly during adolescence with the increase in cognitive capabilities in general (Kim & Esquivel, 2011). This adds the possibility of an additional source of human motivation at a later stage than proposed by the Freudian theory of all-determining human sexual and aggressive drive that is ever-existing and shaped mainly before adolescence and adulthood. According to Skrzypińska (2014), Maslow’s (and Rogers’) self-actualization theory provides evidence for spirituality as a human condition.
Personality types and spirituality
Ross and Francis (2010) found a relationship between the Myers-Briggs-Type Indicator (MBTI) test, which bases on Jung’s personality archetypes, and religious orientation. Similar findings were confirmed by Khoynezhad, Reza Rajaei, and Sarvarazemy (2012) for the link between Big Five, another personality trait instrument, and religiosity. Although religiosity and spirituality weren’t treated separately for a long time (Kim & Esquivel, 2011), there is evidence today for the distinct nature of the two concepts, spirituality being openness for the mythical and religiosity being more related to a traditional religious belief (Willard & Norenzayan, 2017). Also, more specifically regarding spirituality, the MBTI is valued as a tool for self-understanding, and it proved to predict differences in people’s preference for spirituality according to their personality type (Hall, 2012).
Theist approaches to psychotherapy
Frankl’s logotherapy established during the last decades as an effective existential therapy, bases on the presence of a spiritual dimension that can reveal and activate life purpose through open and honest therapist-client encounters (Martínez & Flórez, 2015). Relatively new movements to integrate spirituality in psychology have led to so-called theist approaches to psychotherapy, acknowledging the possibility to consider the aspect of meaning in life, including less naturalistically measurable factors such as spirituality (Slife, Stevenson, & Wendt, 2010).
Freud’s theory of the unconscious mind and drives, Rogers’ self-actualization concept, Jung’s spirituality dimension, or Frankl’s authenticity, it might be beneficial to integrate psycho-spiritual approaches in contemporary psychology further. Besides the strive for evidence for these concepts (which could remain hard to get due to its nature), a diverse toolset would be beneficial for both research and therapeutic intervention anyway.
How do you see that, especially the ones who already have experience in different psychotherapeutic situations?
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Khoynezhad, G., Reza Rajaei, A., & Sarvarazemy, A. (2012). Basic Religious Beliefs and Personality Traits. Iranian Journal Of Psychiatry, 7(2), 82-86.
Kim, S., & Esquivel, G. B. (2011). Adolescent spirituality and resilience: Theory, research, and educational practices. Psychology In The Schools, 48(7), 755-765. doi:10.1002/pits.20582
Martínez, E., & Flórez, I. (2015). Meaning-Centered Psychotherapy: A Socratic Clinical Practice. Journal Of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 45(1), 37-48. doi:10.1007/s10879-014-9281-0
Ross, CFJ, and LJ Francis. 2010. “The relationship of intrinsic, extrinsic, and quest religious orientations to Jungian psychological type among churchgoers in England and Wales.” Mental Health, Religion & Culture 13, no. 7/8: 805-819. CINAHL Plus, EBSCOhost (accessed June 10, 2017).
Skrzypińska, K. (2014). The Threefold Nature of Spirituality (TNS) in a Psychological Cognitive Framework. Archive For The Psychology Of Religion / Archiv Für Religionspsychologie, 36(3), 277. doi:10.1163/15736121-12341293
Slife, B. D., Stevenson, T. D., & Wendt, D. C. (2010). INCLUDING GOD IN PSYCHOTHERAPY: STRONG VS. WEAK THEISM. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 38(3), 163-174. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.liverpool.idm.oclc.org/docview/758431235?accountid=12117
Willard, A. K., & Norenzayan, A. (2017). “Spiritual but not religious”: Cognition, schizotypy, and conversion in alternative beliefs. Cognition, 165137-146. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2017.05.018
Winston, C. N. (2016). An existential-humanistic-positive theory of human motivation. The Humanistic Psychologist, 44(2), 142-163. doi:10.1037/hum0000028