Home Concepts Ethics WHAT IS SPIRITUALITY? A DIVE INTO A MULTIDIMENSIONAL CONCEPT AS RELATED TO COACHING

WHAT IS SPIRITUALITY? A DIVE INTO A MULTIDIMENSIONAL CONCEPT AS RELATED TO COACHING

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3. SPIRITUALITY: A MULTIDIMENSIONAL REALITY

We saw earlier that defining spirituality was not an easy task. Everyone has their own definition, usually prompted by personal experience, which can lead to incomprehension and conflicts. This can be particularly problematic in the medical field, where spirituality is considered an important part of the care. The definition of spirituality is also problematic in the secular world at large. It is thus not surprising that this field of research has attracted a large number of psychologists of religion/spirituality as well as sociologists of religion/spirituality. They saw in the last quarter of the 20th century an urgent need to define and paint a comprehensive view of this new para-religious phenomenon that spirituality had become. Several major research projects in the form of interviews, field work, and questionnaires were being conducted to elucidate the precise meaning of spirituality. Researchers parsed through troves of terms, concepts, intuitions gathered from these interventions, as well as previous literature, and their own experience to extracts major themes.

Lawrence LaPierre, a United Methodist Church chaplain at a Veteran Affairs Hospital, knew that he was expected to deal with all matters of spirituality – but he, as most seminarians, had not been educated in this topic, and he had no idea what it would look like on the ground. It took him decades of practice to write: “experience confirms the conviction that spirituality is multidimensional. Six clear factors turn up in the literature, however, with enough frequency to make them appear to be fundamental aspects of spirituality. These are identified as those of the journey, transcendence, community, religion, ‘the mystery of creation,’ and transformation” (LaPierre 1994, p. 154).

For Jane Dyson, head of nursing at Derby, the main categories are the “divine”, the “self”, the “world”, the “sacred” and “mankind” (Dyson, Cobb, et Forman 1997).

Bernard Spilka, in a paper presented at the meeting of the American Psychological Association in August 1993, details three categories of spiritualities:

1) A God-oriented spirituality where thought and practice are premised in theologies, either broadly or narrowly conceived.
2) A world-oriented spirituality stressing one’s relationship with ecology or nature.
3) A humanistic (or people-oriented) spirituality stressing human achievement or potential.
(Hill et al. 2000, p. 5)

Based on a series of wide-ranging research initiatives, Nancy Ammerman (2014) puts her findings regarding spirituality in what she calls four cultural packages:

1) The Theistic Package or the Transcendent: In this package, spirituality is about a God/Goddess, and/or practices intended to develop the relationship with the deity, and/or the mysterious encounter and the experience of these encounters.
2) The Extra-Theistic Package or the Immanent: This package addresses what is bigger than the person, beyond the ordinary. It is the awe, the core self, the connection to the community…
3) Ethical Spirituality: This package stands for a common denominator. It encompasses things like living a virtuous life, helping other, or transcending one’s life.
4) Belief and belonging Spirituality: This is a contested category. This package measures religiosity while questioning whether it is a good or a bad thing. The same belief or practice can describe a devout spirituality or a superstition. Belonging can represent a positive identity or a symbol of being trapped in an authoritarian tradition.
(Ammerman 2013)

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