"Wounding The Soul": The Lived Experience Of Spiritual Abuse

Ward, David John (2007). "Wounding The Soul": The Lived Experience Of Spiritual Abuse MPhil Thesis, School of Social Work and Applied Human Services, The University of Queensland.

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n33271536_mphil_abstract.pdf n33271536_mphil_abstract.pdf application/pdf 139.14KB 42
n33271536_mphil_content.pdf n33271536_mphil_content.pdf application/pdf 1.35MB 3
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n33271536_mphil_totalthesis.pdf n33271536_mphil_totalthesis.pdf application/pdf 1.40MB 20
Author Ward, David John
Thesis Title "Wounding The Soul": The Lived Experience Of Spiritual Abuse
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Work and Applied Human Services
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2007-12
Thesis type MPhil Thesis
Supervisor Melville, Roselyn P.
Murray, Judith A.
Language eng
Subjects 440000 Philosophy and Religion
Abstract/Summary This study investigates the experiences of six individuals who identified themselves as victims of spiritual abuse. The academic community has an awareness of the more spectacular ‘cults’ that have imploded in recent years, however the more grey, less well defined phenomenon of ‘spiritual abuse’ is under-researched. This study acknowledges and builds on previous research completed on religious cults. In this regard, that body of knowledge has been most valuable in its exploration of a multitude of mental health and social-psychological variables. However, there is a noticeable gap when material is sought that explores the internal, meaning-making experience. This qualitative research aims to narrow that gap. Six participants via a snowball sampling volunteered for the study. Two participants were married and came from the same group. The other respondents exited different groups, leaving a total of six participants who have left five different religious groups that were essentially Judeo-Christian in their orientation. As the study aimed to examine human experience, a qualitative methodology with a phenomenological core was chosen. A hermeneutical, or interpretivist approach was taken, thereby freely using current literature to help make sense of the participants’ narratives. In keeping with this methodology, in-depth, unstructured interviews were used, and transcripts coded for significant themes. Parallel themes were noted in all six respondent transcripts, which were then compared and contrasted with each other. The themes included Leadership representing God (powerful symbolic authority), Spiritual bullying (manipulative behaviour), Acceptance via performance (approval through obedience), Spiritual neglect (detrimental acts of omission), Expanding external/internal tension (dissonance between one’s inner and outer worlds) and Manifestation of internal states (the somatic and psychological repercussions of the abuse). Each of these themes were interrelated and the experience affected the bio/psycho/social/spiritual domains of the individual’s life. The study revealed that spiritual abuse is a multifaceted and multilayered phenomenon that can affect an individual and the immediate family deeply. The strength of the research is demonstrated by the depth of experience that surfaced. The rich spiritual journey of the participants was evident in the study and offers a compelling representation of the lived experience of spiritual abuse. These emerging themes were also examined via the wider literature to provide further elucidation of the experience of spiritual abuse. Subsequently, it is argued that the research is a valuable contribution to understanding other phenomena in the social and behavioural sciences. Secondly, elements of spiritual abuse were also located in a range of other social and behavioural realities. The study also highlighted areas for future research. This includes other relationallybased domains where mistreatment is possible, the interface between psychology and spiritual belief, and how the notion of God is internalised during one’s spiritual journey across the lifecycle. Finally, the insights from this study are offered as a foundation from which to help therapists and counsellors be more informed about the phenomenon as well as to develop a deeper appreciation for the subjective experience.

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Created: Fri, 28 Mar 2008, 13:36:46 EST by Noela Stallard on behalf of Library - Information Access Service