Spirituality is required to understand human motivation and personality

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).

Conclusion

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?

Photo credit: avi_acl (pixabay.com)

References

Hall, G. (2012). Applying psychological-type theory to faith: spirituality, prayer, worship and scripture. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 15(9), 849-862. doi:10.1080/13674676.2012.685619

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

About mathias sager

Welcome to the 'Happy Colorful Growth' way of life I am thinking and writing for happiness, painting colorfully, and enabling personal growth for all. If people can be touched at the heart level, peace will ensue. I value co-operative and humanitarian principles, economic and social equality, as well as environmental sustainability. Important personal characteristics are my broad international experience and progressive, egalitarian and global outlook, as well as my social commitment.
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6 Responses to Spirituality is required to understand human motivation and personality

  1. hntrmillr says:

    Spirituality, religion or even atheism seem to be a direction for ones beliefs in validating their own significance. What I labeled , possibly not the first, as the gradient of belief are determiners such as emotions that guide it such as preconceived notions from secondhand information or reason. It seems to me too many are willing to jump on this without balancing their beliefs through faith and doubt which also brings out the importance of bias. In the long run bias is the cornerstone that protects our beliefs and mental health; at least that’s what I have rationalized so far.

    • mathias sager says:

      Thanks a lot for your philosophical stimulation! I agree with your statement. Spirituality I understand to be a journey rather than something “I jumped on” (to use your words) for personal confirmation and comfort. This can also be called Spiritual Materialism that is hindering us from real (spiritual) growth, with negative consequences on well-being in the long-run as you aptly put.

  2. hntrmillr says:

    Your welcome, I dedicated plenty of thought to it all this year and decided somethings are best left alone. I think fear of invalidating everything I’ve ever believed in was a sign to not push the limits of my desire to understand what is clearly out of the reach of my comprehension. Ignorance is bliss.

    • mathias sager says:

      Thank you for the discussion! I accept your view, although I personally don’t share the point of ‘ignorance is bliss.’ I already know too much to follow that road of rationale with good conscience:-)

  3. hntrmillr says:

    I think I say that more than I believe it. There is lots I wish I didn’t know, but understand.

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