Title: Relationship between Transcendence and well-being: a cognitive theological analysis’
Researcher: Monir Ahmed, Postgraduate Research Student, University of Durham
Supervisors: Professor Simon Dein & Professor Gerard P. Loughlin
This research investigates transcendence and its relationship with psychological well-being. Its aims are: i) to critically discuss the existing literature and current tools used to examine the relationship between transcendence and well-being; ii) to analyse transcendence from a cognitive-theological perspective (in particular, using a cognitive-psychological approach with the ‘creatio ex nihilo’ doctrine); and iii) to demonstrate the need for a new tool to study transcendence and better understand its relationship with well-being.
In the psychology of religion and spirituality, the term ‘transcendence’ refers to an individual’s relationship with the divine. In other words, the term describes the ability of human beings to relate their existence to something beyond physical reality. As described by psychologist Ralph L. Piedmont, transcendence is considered as a ‘fundamental capacity’ of an individual that drives his or her behaviour. However, this inner motivation does not always result in any observable acts but may only manifest itself as an internal belief. The prevalence of latent behaviour brings some difficulties for researchers when studying transcendence and trying to identify actions as clear and evident marks of any relationships with the divine. The current tools used to measure the level of transcendence focus on dimensions that do not necessarily relate to the relationship with the divine, but rather the relationships with the self, with other people and with the past, present and future (inward, outward and temporal dimensions). Such relationships seem to overlook one fundamental point, namely that transcendence involves a deep connection with the sacred. This research illustrates that transcendence can be better understood with a theological knowledge of the creation, that is ‘creatio ex nihilo’ and a cognitive-psychological understanding of the relationship with the divine. This relationship involves thoughts, faith and belief, emotions and behaviours concerning the creation and the creator as outlined in the ‘creatio ex nihilo’ doctrine. Inevitably, understanding, and relating to, the creation and the creator is shown to be crucial in determining the relationship between transcendence and well-being. This study demonstrates that there is a significant gap between understanding transcendence and understanding its relationship with well-being. It reveals the contexts, dimensions and contents for a newly proposed transcendence tool that could be used to measure transcendence, taking into account religious and cultural sensitivities.
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