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Religion and Coping: The Current State of Knowledge

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  1. Religion and Coping:The Current State of Knowledge Kenneth I. Pargament Department of Psychology Bowling Green State University Presentation to Conference on Research in Faith and Health in Secular Society Odense, Denmark May 17, 2010

  2. Coping with 9/11 • Schuster et al. (2001) • 90% of national sample of Americans sought solace and support from religion and spirituality

  3. Most Frequent Method of Coping • Conway (1985-1986) • Black and white elderly women with medical problems • Prayer was most frequent method of coping • Prayer was more common than resting, seeking information, prescription drugs, or going to a physician

  4. Reasons for the Religion Gap • Irreligiousness among Health Professionals

  5. Reasons for the Religion Gap • Irreligiousness among psychologists • Anti-religiousness among psychologists

  6. Signs of Anti-Religiousness • [Religion works by] “distorting the picture of the real world in delusional manner. . . By forcibly fixing [adherents] in a state of psychical infantilism and by drawing them into a mass-delusion” (Freud, 1930/1961).

  7. Signs of Change * Prior to 1997, 200 empirical studies on religion and coping * After 1997, over 1000 empirical studies on religion and coping

  8. What Have We Learned? • Religion is directed to many significant ends • Religion takes many forms in coping • Religion adds a distinctive dimension to coping • Religion can be helpful and harmful in coping • Religion can be integrated into treatment

  9. A Definition of Religion(Pargament, 1997) • Religion is a search for significance in ways related to the sacred

  10. A Definition of Religion(Pargament, 1997) Religion is a search for significance in ways related to the sacred Search

  11. Religion as a Search • Pathways • Belief “The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism” Life means suffering The origin of suffering is attachment The cessation of suffering is attainable There is a Path to the cessation of suffering

  12. Religion as a Search • Pathways • Belief • Practice

  13. The Practice of Prayer

  14. Religion as a Search • Pathways • Belief • Practice • Relationships

  15. A Convoy over the Lifespan

  16. Religion as a Search • Pathways • Belief • Practice • Relationships • Experiences

  17. Sacred Emotions: Awe

  18. Sacred Emotions: Gratitude

  19. Sacred Emotions: Love and Compassion

  20. A Definition of Religion(Pargament, 1997) Religion is a search for significance in ways related to the sacred Search Significance

  21. A Definition of Religion(Pargament, 1997) Religion is a search for significance in ways related to the sacred Search Significance Sacred

  22. Sacred Core God Divine Transcendent Reality

  23. Sacred Ring Place Meaning Sacred Core God Soul Divine Transcendent Reality Children Marriage Nature Time

  24. Sacred Ring Place Meaning Sacred Core God Soul Divine Transcendent Reality Children Marriage Nature Time

  25. Manifestations of God in People “God has a deep raspy voice – God is a jazz singer. She is plush, warm, and rosy – God is a grandmother. He has the patient rock of an old man in a porch rocker; He hums and laughs, he marvels at the sky. God coos at babies – she is a new mother. He is the steady, gentle hand of a nurse, the cool reassurance of a person pursuing his life’s work, and the free spirit of a young man wandering only to live and love life” (McCarthy, 2006).

  26. Sacred Qualities • Transcendence • Boundlessness • Ultimacy

  27. What Makes Religion Religious? • The sacred can be embedded in religious pathways • The sacred can be embedded in the most significant goals and strivings

  28. (1) Religion is Directed to Many Significant Ends • Religion as a source of meaning

  29. Clifford Geertz on Religion and Meaning “The effort is not to deny the undeniable – that there are unexplained events, that life hurts, or that rain falls upon the just – but to deny that there are inexplicable events, that life is unendurable, and that justice is a mirage” (pp. 23-24).

  30. Park and Folkman on Religion and Meaning • Religion attempts to help people reconcile questions of meaning raised by stressful situations with the global sense of meaning in life.

  31. Religion and Meaning:The Words of One Mother • “They say there’s reasons for God to do everything you know. I think that’s very true because I think I love him (second child, born after the death of the first child) a lot more now than I would have had our first son been here” (Gilbert, 1989, p. 10).

  32. Murphy, Johnson, and Lohan (2003) • 138 parents who suffered violent death of adolescent/young adult • Religious coping predicted finding greater meaning in child’s death five years later

  33. (1) Religion is Directed to Many Significant Ends • Religion as a source of meaning • Religion as a source of identity and community

  34. Durkheim on Religion and Community “The idea of society is the soul of religion” (1915, p. 433).

  35. Religion and Community:The Words of a Bereaved Priest Anxiety-Reduction Meaning Community "The funeral was astounding. . . The whole church, everybody was there. Many, many friends were there. Students from here, and the liturgy was a real experience of the resurrection. It was terrific. My blind niece played the piano. . . And my best friend David gave the homily. . . So there were so many powerful spiritual expressions and family expressions. It is hard to separate one from the other."

  36. Wink, Dillon and Larsen (2005) • 1920’s longitudinal study of San Francisco Bay sample • Greater involvement in religious institutional life buffered effects of poor physical health on depression • Religious involvement provides church-based support and sense of personal identity

  37. (1) Religion is Directed to Many Significant Ends • Religion as a source of meaning • Religion as a source of identity and community • Religion as a source of emotional comfort

  38. Young (1926) • Content analysis of 3000 Protestant hymns • One third dealt with theme of comfort by a loving, protecting God

  39. Religion and Comfort:A Mother at the Bedside of her Ill Child “It was almost like someone had thrown a soft blanket over me. . . I felt a tremendous sense of peace. . . I tell people I have felt the peace of Christ.”

  40. (1) Religion is Directed to Many Significant Ends • Religion as a source of meaning • Religion as a source of identity and community • Religion as a source of emotional comfort • Religion as a source of impulse control • Religion as a source of efficacy • Religion as a source of personal transformation

  41. (1) Religion is Directed to Many Significant Ends • Religion as a source of meaning • Religion as a source of identity and community • Religion as a source of emotional comfort • Religion as a source of impulse control • Religion as a source of efficacy • Religion as a source of personal transformation • Religion as a source of spirituality

  42. Religion and the Search for the Sacred “It is the ultimate Thou whom the religious person seeks most of all” (Paul Johnson, 1959, p. 70).

  43. Religion and the Search for the Sacred 9 year old boy: “I’d like to find God! But He wouldn’t just be there, waiting for some spaceship to land! He’s not a person, you know! He’s a spirit. He’s like the fog and the mist. . . I should remember that God is God, and we’re us. I guess I’m trying to get from me, from us, to Him with my ideas when I’m looking up at the sky!” (Coles, 1990)

  44. (2) Religious Coping Takes Many Forms • Who (self, couple, family, friends, co-workers, clergy, congregation, God) • What (prayer, meditation, bible, ritual, media, music, relationships) • When (acute stressor, chronic stress, daily hassles) • Where (private, public, nature) • Why (meaning, community, comfort, spiritual) • How (specific methods of religious coping)

  45. Active Religious Surrender:A 60-Year Old Woman with Schizophrenia “I have no motivation to do anything, so I pray; I offer my suffering to Jesus. This gives me strength and comfort to do things” (Mohr, 2006).

  46. Divine Struggles “I’m suffering, really suffering. My illness is tearing me down, and I’m angry at God for not rescuing me, I mean really setting me free from my mental bondage. I have been dealing with these issues for ten years now and I am only 24 years old. I don’t understand why he keeps lifting me up, just to let me come crashing down again” (undergraduate dealing with bipolar illness).

  47. Factor Analysis of Religious Coping Styles Item Deferring Self-Directing Collaborative I do not think about solutions to my problems because God provides them for me .78 -.05 .06 When a situation makes me anxious, I wait for God to take those feelings away .69 .09 .00 When I feel nervous or anxious, I calm myself without God’s help .01 .70 -.03 When faced with a decision, I make the best choice I can without God’s involvement .05 .70 -.19 Together, God and I put my plans into action .00 .04 .80 In solving problems, I work hard at them knowing God is working right along with me .06 -.06 .70

  48. Nature as a Sacred Resource(Ahmadi, 2006) • “Whatever happens in the world to me or others, nature is still there, it keeps going. That is a feeling of security when everything else is chaos. The leaves fall off, new ones appear, somewhere there is a pulse that keeps going. The silence, it has become so apparent, when you want to get away from all the noise. It is a spiritual feeling, if we an use that word without connecting it to God, this is what I feel in nature and it’s like a powerful therapy” (p. 134).

  49. Who Says We’re Not a Science?

  50. The RCOPE:Positive Religious Coping Methods • Seeking spiritual support • Benevolent religious reappraisals • Active religious surrender • Seeking help from clergy or members • Religious forgiveness • Giving spiritual support to others • Collaborative religious coping