Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A grounded theory study of spirituality using personal narratives suggested by spiritual images
by Gottheil, Elisa Antonieta, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2007, 213; 3289675
Abstract (Summary)

The aim of this study was to develop a theory of spirituality based on personal narratives generated by spiritual images. The themes for the images resulted from the aggregate analysis of the most prevalent domains of a variety of spirituality instruments and definitions. The predominant resulting themes were those of commitment in life, connectedness, search for truth, and search for meaning. Twelve images were chosen for their capacity to evoke a story. These were then shown to 25 participants, who were asked to relate a story about each image using the standard instructions of the Thematic Apperception Test: what happened before, what is happening now, and what will the outcome be, along with what the subjects in the images were feeling and thinking. All the responses were analyzed using grounded theory analysis of data.

Through eliciting narratives about the experience of spirituality via an apperceptive technique, this research was able to tap into the function of spirituality by accessing more implicit, hidden, and only partially conscious aspects of the personal experience of spirituality.

An analysis of the narratives reflected six themes: (1) the persistent expression of psychological pain or human suffering, (2) seeking connection with an other, (3) having the expectation of relief, (4) acquiring wisdom, (5) transformation, and (6) transmutation through a transcendent factor.

Results suggest that the personal spiritual process is motivated by an experience of suffering which generates movement towards a connection with an other (personal or transcendent). The expectation is that of relieving the suffering through acquiring wisdom or through transformation. The process becomes perfected when the search leads to a connection with a transcendent factor, since the suffering then becomes transmuted.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Groth-Marnat, Gary
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 68/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religion, Social psychology
Keywords: Personal narratives, Spiritual images, Spirituality
Publication Number: 3289675
ISBN: 978-0-549-32610-6
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