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September 20, 2011 / compassioninpolitics

The Science of Spirituality and the Good Life

The most important contribution of this paper is fourfold. First, it appears that spirituality can be linked to the good life. People who have strong inner spiritual resources are perceived as leading a desirable and a moral good life. The results of the pilot study also confirm that people distinguish their sense of spirituality from the three basic psychological needs. This shows that spirituality cannot be reduced to these dimensions. It is a dimension of life that warrants separate study.

The results presented here make clear that the full value of spirituality may not lie in its direct relation to affective happiness as such—which has been shown to be only weakly correlated (Snoep 2008)—but should be related to the broader concept of eudaemonic well-being. Especially, the attention given here to spirituality’s contribution to leading a moral good life is an important contribution. These results extend the recent review by Ryff and Singer (2008) that placed meaningfulness and self-actualization as central criteria of the good life, but neglect to include spirituality in their 6-D model of eudaemonic well-being. Similarly, a recent discussion in The Journal of Positive Psychology on the distinction between hedonic and eudaemonic well-being (Kashdan et al. 2008; Waterman 2008) neglected to discuss the possible role of spirituality within eudaemonic well-being. It seems that especially the field of positive psychology could profit from its inclusion in future studies. We need to know more on the conditions under which having or lacking spirituality becomes essential.

The results from the scenario studies in this paper confirm the results of a construct validity study into Ryff’s 6-D measure of psychological well-being (Van Dierendonck 2004). In the latter study, factor analysis showed that spirituality could be differentiated as a separate dimension. The pilot-study reported in the method section in the present study confirms that spirituality when operationalized as an inner resource cannot be reduced to the three basic psychological needs of self-determination theory. It also dovetails the recent results of Wills (2009) who showed that satisfaction with spirituality and religiosity was significantly related to personal well-being. By defining spirituality in terms of inner resources, not having any specific spiritual of religious connotation, it has become something that can be enhanced, as shown in the study by Van Dierendonck et al. (2005). In that study into the effectiveness of an intervention program for burnout grounded in transpersonal psychology, the strongest impact of the program was on the inner resources of the participants.

Secondly, this study supports once again the crucial position of relatedness. Interestingly, although all three of the original basic psychological needs of self-determination theory were related to the desirability of life-thus confirming their central position according to self-determination theory, relatedness influenced desirability and moral goodness most strongly. Relatedness appears to be the most important psychological need; it is a general need. This confirms its essential value for people (Baumeister and Leary 1995). Interpersonal relations are necessary for a good life; this was already part of all major perspectives on the positive well-lived life from Aristotle to Erikson and Maslow (Ryff and Singer 2008). Relatedness seems a universal key psychological need that crosses cultural boundaries.

In a review of positive health, Ryff and Singer (1998) mentioned leading a life of purpose and high quality connections to others as core features. Positive self-regard and mastery were placed secondary. Purpose in life and meaningfulness are often related to spirituality. As such, the results here seem to dovetail the theoretical perspective of Ryff and Singe.

Spirituality as an Essential Determinant for the Good Life, its Importance Relative to Self-Determinant Psychological Needs. Dirk van Dierendonck1
, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University You can read the full text of the article here. I realize this isn’t specific to Christianity, but does point to the need for spirituality and perhaps a spiritual practice–which Christianity provides.

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