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Archive for the 'Psychology of Religion' Category

November 27, 2005

The Psychology Behind Giving Thanks

Filed under: North America,Psychology of Religion — Admin @ 10:58 am

Interview With Dr. Paul Vitz

ARLINGTON, Virginia, NOV. 23, 2005 ( The spirit of thanksgiving contributes to mental health and ultimately leads to God, says a Catholic psychologist.

Dr. Paul Vitz is a professor of psychology at the Arlington-based Institute for the Psychological Sciences and a professor emeritus of New York University. He has authored many books, and is co-editor of a new book called “The Self: Beyond the Post-modern Crisis” (ISI, 2006).

Q: As strands of modern psychology are rediscovering the effectiveness of the virtues in the well-being of the person, what interest has there been in the virtue of gratitude?

Vitz: Psychology has discovered gratitude as something to investigate probably only in the last five or 10 years. The best summary of what has been found is in the book that just came out this year and is called “The Handbook of Positive Psychology.” In this book, Chapter 33 is a summary of what is known about gratitude.

The authors, R. Emmons and C. Shelton, point out that there has been some popular interest in gratitude in the last five or 10 years, but relatively little serious research in psychology.

So if some psychologist wants to become Mr. Gratitude or Ms. Gratitude, it is one of those fields that are sitting there, ready to be looked at seriously.

Q: What is it about gratitude that makes it such a useful virtue?

Vitz: Gratitude is a very positive virtue. It has positive thoughts associated with it, and above all, positive emotions.

It’s the emotion of thankfulness for what other people, or God, have given to you. It brings peace, and it brings a kind of quiet joy. I think it’s very clear that those are good emotions, good things to have.

We now know that our emotions can also cause bodily changes in us, so I’m convinced that gratitude is not only a positive thought and mentality, but also something good for your body.

Q: In your experience as a psychologist, have you seen any instances where developing gratitude helped a person to overcome a difficulty or illness?

Vitz: I think I have, but you know that you would have to run a controlled experiment to show it, and I haven’t done that.

But let’s look at the meaning of gratitude in light of the Faith. The very word for the Eucharist, the translation of its meaning is “thanksgiving.” And thanksgiving is a way of expressing gratitude to God.

So it’s at the center of the faith. The Eucharist is about Thanksgiving. It makes sense that Our Lord would have asked us to do something that was not only wise and spiritually sound, but psychologically good for us too.

Q: In other interviews we have spoken about the virtue of forgiveness and its relation to mental health. How can gratitude also play a role in the healing process?

Vitz: Let me propose this: One of the major barriers to forgiveness is anger, and resentment toward somebody. As long as that emotion is front-and-center in your mental life, it’s very hard to forgive.

But if you can begin to be thankful for things that are present in your life, once you realize that you’ve been given things, and given them gratis, things change.

I mean, you did not pay God to give you life, and no human being paid God to send Our Lord among us. So when you realize the things that you have, that you’ve been given, and you are filled with gratitude, it puts anger, bitterness and resentment aside.

When you realize what’s been given to you, just out of generosity then I believe it is easier to forgive. Because to forgive someone is to give them something. It is to give up your debt to them. It is as if they owe you a hundred dollars, they owe you this or they owe you that, an apology or whatever, and you give up the claim to it.

So you are giving something to them in the way that God, life and others have given to you, that you yourself have shown gratitude for.

Q: We have already spoken a little about the meaning of the Eucharist and how it is “thanksgiving.” But how else does our faith teaches us gratitude in a deeper way, a way that goes beyond positive psychology’s definition of gratitude?

Vitz: It certainly goes beyond positive psychology. It’s really gratitude to God.

It is gratitude for sending Jesus so that our sins are atoned for. It is the gratitude for all the gifts that God has given us, the people we know, the beauty of the world around us.

Gratitude and love are very closely related. Thus, since we are at the deepest level called to love God and love others, gratitude facilitates that. Gratitude moves you toward love, and since God is love, gratitude at the very deepest level moves us toward God.


October 24, 2005

Religion and Happiness

Filed under: North America,Psychology of Religion — Admin @ 12:16 am

Many people expect religion to bring them happiness. Does this actually seem to be the case? Are religious people happier than nonreligious people? And if so, why might this be?

Researchers have been intrigued by such questions. Most studies have simply asked people how happy they are, although studies also may use scales that try to measure happiness more subtly than that. In general, researchers who have a large sample of people in their study tend to limit their measurement of happiness to just one or two questions, and researchers who have fewer numbers of people use several items or scales to measure happiness.


Psychology of Religion Crossword Puzzles

Filed under: North America,Psychology of Religion,Psychology Resources — Admin @ 12:15 am

Try your hand at crossword puzzles based on Psychology of Religion by Spilka, Hood, Hunsberger & Gorsuch. I will post new puzzles as they become available.

Chapter 1: The Psychological Nature and Functions of Religion

Chapter 2: Foundations for an Empirical Psychology of Religion (solution)

Chapter 3: Religion and Biology (solution)

Chapter 4: Religion in Childhood (solution)

Chapter 5: Religious Socialization and Thought in Adolescence & Young Adulthood (solution)


October 11, 2005

The Clinical Christ by Charles L. Zeiders, Psy.D

Filed under: Book Reviews,North America,Psychology of Religion — Admin @ 10:15 pm

The Clinical Christ

Scientific and Spiritual Reflections on the Transformative Psychology Called Christian Holism

Charles L. Zeiders, Psy.D.

Published by: Julian’s House Birdsboro, PA

About the Author

Charles Zeiders is a Doctor of Psychology and a licensed psychologist. A Postdoctoral Fellow of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Cognitive Therapy and a Diplomate in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (NACBT), Dr. Zeiders has lectured nationally and internationally regarding the interplay of spirituality and health. Throughout his career, Dr. Zeiders has produced academic publications on the psychology of religion, taught psychology at the University level, and worked with patients in the midst of Christian spiritual transformation. In independent practice in the Philadelphia area, Dr. Zeiders chairs the Think Tank for Christian Holism.

About the Cover Art
The cover design depicts the Icon of Christian Holism. Atop the cross, the dove represents the Holy Spirit’s presence in the clinical situation, guiding and nurturing the clinical process so that therapy unfolds toward the patient’s healing in a state of grace. The cross beam depicts God creating Adam, alluding to the fact that, though fallen, human nature contains the image of God, and that the final aim of Christian Holism involves participating in the Spirit’s restoration of the Divine Image to every person who enters treatment. At the bottom of the cross, Freud represents the corpus of psychotherapeutic theory and practice—a body of knowledge that comes closest to truth and becomes authentically healing when surrendered to the power of the Holy Spirit. As a whole, the dove, creation, and Freud form the Cross of the Clinical Christ. Lord of Treatment, the Clinical Christ is the Sovereign into whose kingdom the practitioner of Christian Holism annexes all psychological theory and practice. On this cross, the Clinical Christ absorbs and destroys sin and psychopathology and radiates forth the restorative medicine of radical forgiveness and extreme sanity.


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