Handbook of the psychology of religion and spirituality / edited by Raymond F.
Paloutzian, Crystal L. Park. (p.235-252)
Emotion and Religion
Given the rapid growth in the psychology of religion (Emmons & Paloutzian, 2003) and the psychology of emotion (Lewis & Haviland-Jones, 2000) in recent years, one would expect to see considerable scholarship directed toward the interface of these two fields.
While a literature search using the PsychINFO database for the period 1988–2002 returned 2,875 citations for the termreligionand 5,116 for the termemotion, a scant five citations include both terms! The range of emotional phenomena is vast, and I cannot attempt to do justice to this vastness within a single chapter. Because of the recent emergence of the scientific study of positive emotions, I will emphasize the role of religion in the generation and regulation of emotional experience, focusing primarily on positive emotional experience. The study of positive emotions is a major trend in contemporary affective science (Fredrickson, 2001), and I wish to highlight the many ways in which the psychology of religion can contribute to a growing understanding of positive emotions and the functions of positive emotions in people’s lives. Considerable other literature, including various chapters within this volume, also touch upon emotion-related phenomena. For example, Miller (1999), Propst (1988), Richards and Bergin (1997) and Shafranske (1996, and Chapter 27, this volume) all deal extensively with religious psychotherapy and maladaptive emotions.
This chapter has several purposes: to present a brief historical overview on the study of emotion and religion; to review recent research on emotions typically considered to be religious; to document the various ways in which religion might modulate emotional experience; and to consider various functions that religious emotions might serve. My overriding concern is to sketch the newest lines of research that are emerging now that show promise of contributing significantly to the psychology of religion and to the psychology of emotion during the next several years. I begin first by describing what I mean by emotion.
WHAT IS EMOTION?: LEVELS OF EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE
Any discussion of religion and emotion presupposes an understanding of what emotion is. The field of affective science has been moving toward standardized terminology that provides researchers and clinicians with a common frame of reference. Thus before beginning my presentation of the literature on religion and emotion, it might be helpful to familiarize the reader with what is meant by the concept of emotion, and how an emotion differs from other related affective phenomena. In doing so I will borrow from the recent conceptual analysis of Rosenberg (1998). Rosenberg proposed that the common forms of affective experience could be structured into three hierarchical levels of analysis: affective traits, moods, and emotions.
Rosenberg (1998) placed affective traits at the top of the hierarchy of affective phenomena. She definedaffective traitsas stable predispositions toward certain types of emotional responding that set the threshold for the occurrence of particular emotional states. For example, hostility is thought to lower one’s threshold for experiencing anger, or happiness could be thought of as lowering one’s threshold for experiencing pleasant affect. Affective traits are relatively stable components of personality that are consistently expressed over time and across situations. Some of the research that I review in this chapter will be focused on this level of the affective hierarchy.
In contrast to affective traits, emotions are “acute, intense, and typically brief psychophysiological changes that result from a response to a meaningful situation in one’s environment” (Rosenberg, 1988, p. 250). Emotions are a subset of a larger class of affective phenomena (Fredrickson, 2001). They are discrete states that involve the appraisal of the personal meaning of a circumstance in a person’s environment. Both the type of emotion experienced and its intensity depend on cognitive interpretation or appraisal of the situation. Such appraisal involves not only assessing the nature of the external situation or event that might cause the emotional response, but also the responses of other people exposed to that same situation or event. Emotions typically motivate a particular course of action; each discrete emotion triggers a particular action tendency (Fredrickson, 2001). Major divisions between types of emotions are affect program theories and propositional attitude theories (Griffiths, 1997; Roberts, 2003). Affect programs pertain to the basic, universal emotions such as anger, disgust, joy, sadness, and fear, while the latter category contain a wider range of cognitively complex emotions including guilt, shame, pride, and gratitude. Basic emotions are universal and innate. There exists for each a recognizable facial expression and a distinct physiological patterning. The higher cognitively complex emotions depend heavily on cognitive appraisals and are assumed to exhibit greater cultural variation. Religion, at least when it comes to the generation of emotion, appears to have more do with the latter than with the former.
Rosenberg consideredmoods, which wax and wane, fluctuating throughout or across days, as subordinate to affective traits, but as superordinate to discrete emotion episodes. Moods are subtle and less accessible to conscious awareness than are emotions (i.e., one is less likely to be aware of anger as a mood than as an emotion). Despite their subtlety relative to emotions, however, moods are important because they are expected to have broad, pervasive effects on consciousness that emotions simply cannot because of their relatively short duration (Rosenberg, 1998). Because the majority of research on religion and affect has been at the level of affective traits of discrete emotions, I will have comparatively little to say about religion and mood.
CONCEPTUALIZING LINKS BETWEEN RELIGION AND EMOTION
The connection between religion and emotion is a long and intimate one. For one, religion has always been a source of profound emotional experience. Commenting on this historical association, Pruyser (1967) writes that “there is something about emotion that has always had a great appeal to the religionist” (p. 142). Religion likely influences both the generation of emotion and the regulation of emotional responses. I discuss religion and the generation of specific, discrete emotions below. Links between religion and emotion can also be seen in religious attitudes toward emotional experience and expression.
Watts (1996) distinguishes between two main notions about the role of emotions in religious life. The charismatic movement stresses the cultivation of intense positive emotions and their importance in religious experience and collective religious rituals (see also McCauley, 2001), whereas the contemplative tradition stresses a calming of the passions and the development of emotional quietude. In addition to these two approaches to regulating emotions, there is the ascetic view (Allen, 1997) that links religion with greater awareness of emotion (possible emotional intelligence, to use a contemporary term) and the creative expression of emotion.
Silberman (2003) suggests three ways in which religious and spiritual meaning systems influence emotion. First, religion prescribes appropriate and inappropriate emotions and their level of intensity. For example, within Judaism, people are encouraged to love God with all of their hearts (Deuteronomy 6:5) and to serve God with joy (Deuteronomy 28:47). Second, beliefs about the nature and attributes of God may give rise to specific emotions as well as influence overall emotional well-being. For example, a belief about a loving personal God may have a positive effect on emotional well-being, while a belief about a punitive vengeful God may have the opposite effect. Third, religion offers the opportunity to experience a uniquely powerful emotional experience of closeness to the sacred (Otto, 1917/1958).
Concerning the intensity issue, Ben-Ze’ev (2002) hypothesizes that religion influences the intensity of emotion in three ways. First, religious belief systems influence the meaningfulness attached to events. To the degree to which people perceive a divine influence on daily events, these events will be perceived as more meaningful and hence capable of generating stronger emotions than ordinary events. Second, according to Ben Ze’ev, religious and nonreligious persons differ in their perceptions regarding issues of deservingness for life events. Because of the belief that events signify God’s intention and will, religious individuals are more likely to be accepting of life events than nonreligious individuals, and deservingness is typically associated with less intense emotional reactions.
Third is the issue of controllability. Religious persons, according to Ben Ze’ev, typically believe that God directs and controls everyday events. Personal controllability is positively associated with emotional intensity; thus, all things being equal, the emotional intensity of religious individuals would be lower than that of nonreligious individuals.
These are intriguing hypotheses that need to be empirically tested.
RELIGION AND THE GENERATION OF EMOTION
The role of emotion in religion is central in several prominent accounts of religious experience. Jonathan Edwards described the function of religious emotions in his theological classicA Treatise Concerning Religious Affections(1746/1959). Edwards was so struck by the evidentiary force of emotion that he made it a cornerstone of his theology, as exemplified in this quote: “The Holy Scriptures do everywhere place religion very much in the affections; such as fear, hope, love, hatred, desire, joy, sorrow, gratitude, compassion, and zeal” (p. 96).
These affections were divided into two groups according to whether they were characterized by approval (gratitude, love, joy) or disapproval (hatred, fear, sorrow). Thus an important appraisal dimension for Edwards was approval/liking versus disapproval/rejection (Pruyser, 1967). Rather than belief, which was seen as intellectual and heartless by Edwards, these affections were to be taken as the signs of genuine spiritual experience. A review of his contributions (Hutch, 1978) suggests considerable benefits can be gained from a reading of Edwards’s insights into the nature of religious emotions.
Schleiermacher’s (1799) notable treatise on religion also placed emotion at the center of conscious religious experience. Feeling was central. Reverence, humbleness, gratefulness, compassion, remorse, and zeal were described as essential elements of religious experience by Schleiermacher. In agreement with Edwards, Schleiermacher viewed intellectual beliefs as overly rational and lacking in spontaneity; the heart of religion was seen as the heart, not the head (Pruyser, 1967, p. 140).
Arnold (1960), in her bookEmotion and Personality, was quite possibly the first psychology of emotion theorist to write extensively about positive human emotions. In the chapter on positive emotions, she included a section on religious emotions in which she noted that in addition to the prototypical religious emotions of reverence and awe that Otto (1917/1958) and others had identified, several other emotions can be experienced toward God (which was her criteria for a religious emotion). In particular, love, joy, and happiness are “reactions to overwhelming abundance, an infinity, of the good and the beautiful” (1960, p. 328) and contain “a hint of eternity” (p. 160). Clearly, these emotions are imbued with a spiritual significance for Arnold. They serve the function of motivating people toward states of perfection, toward total fulfillment. Her phenomenological analysis of happiness as a religious feeling and its differentiation from joy, serenity, and contentment was an early important contribution to understanding differences between discrete positive emotions.
What Makes Emotions Sacred?
What does it mean to say that certain emotions or emotional experiences are sacred? We can identify several characteristics of sacred emotions. First, sacred emotions are those emotions that are more likely to occur in religious (e.g., churches, synagogues, mosques) settingsthan in nonreligious settings. However, this does not mean that sacred emotions cannot be experienced in nonreligious settings. Second, sacred emotions are those that are more likely to be elicited through spiritual or religious activities orpractices (e.g., worship, prayer, meditation) than by nonreligious activities. However, this does not mean they cannot be activated through nonreligious channels as well. Third, sacred emotions are more likely to be experienced bypeoplewho self-identify as religious or spiritual (or both) than be people who do not think of themselves as either religious or spiritual. However, sacred emotions can be felt (on occasion) by people who do not think of themselves as religious or spiritual. Fourth, sacred emotions are those emotions that religious and spiritualsystemsaround the world have traditionally sought to cultivate in their adherents. Fifth, and last, sacred emotions are those emotions experienced when individuals imbue seemingly secular aspects of their lives (e.g., family, career, events) with a spiritual significance (Mahoney et al., 1999).
The search for the sacred is the defining feature of religion (Hill et al., 2000). The term “sacred” refers to a divine being, divine object, ultimate reality, or Ultimate Truth as perceived by the individual (Hill et al., 2000, p. 68). Pargament (1999) has argued that conceiving of spirituality in terms of an ability to imbue everyday experience, goals, roles, and responsibilities with sacredness opens new avenues for empirical exploration. Furthermore, perceiving aspects of life as sacred is likely to elicit spiritual emotions. Spiritual emotions such as gratitude, awe and reverence, love and hope are likely to be generated when people perceive sacredness in various aspects of their lives. Mahoney et al. (1999) found that when marital partners viewed their relationship as imbued with divine qualities, they reported greater levels of marital satisfaction, more constructive problemsolving behaviors, decreased marital conflict, and greater commitment to the relationship, compared to couples who did not see their marriage in a sacred light. Similarly, Tarakeshwar, Swank, Pargament, and Mahoney (2001) found that a strong belief that nature is sacred was associated with greater pro-environmental beliefs and a greater willingness to protect the environment. A plausible hypothesis to be tested in future research is whether sanctification of the environment leads to experiencing more frequent and more intense sacred emotions such as awe and wonder in nature.
Specific Sacred Emotions
Gratitudehas been defined as “the willingness to recognize the unearned increments of value in one’s experience” (Bertocci & Millard, 1963, p. 389), and as “an estimate of gain coupled with the judgment that someone else is responsible for that gain” (Solomon, 1977, p. 316). At its core, gratitude is an emotional response to a gift. It is the appreciation felt after one has been the beneficiary of an altruistic act. Some of the most profound reported experiences of gratitude can be religiously based or associated with reverent wonder toward an acknowledgment of the universe (Goodenough, 1998), including the perception that life itself is a gift. In the great monotheistic religions of the world, the concept of gratitude permeates texts, prayers, and teachings. Worship with gratitude to God for his many gifts and mercies are common themes, and believers are urged to develop this quality. A religious framework thus provides the backdrop for experiences and expressions of gratitude.
McCullough and colleagues (McCullough, Kilpatrick, Emmons, & Larson, 2001) recently reviewed the classical moral writings on gratitude and synthesized them with contemporary empirical findings. They suggested that the positive emotion of gratitude has three moral functions: it serves as a moral barometer (an affective readout that is sensitive to a particular type of change in one’s social relationships, the provision of a benefit by another moral agent who enhances one’s well-being), a moral motivator (prompting grateful people to behave prosocially themselves), and a moral reinforcer (that increases the likelihood of future benevolent actions). McCullough, Emmons, and Tsang (2002) found that measures of gratitude as a disposition were positively correlated with nearly all of the measures of spirituality and religiousness, including spiritual transcendence, self-transcendence, and the single-item religious variables. The grateful disposition was also related to measures of spiritual and religious tendencies. Although these correlations were not large (i.e., few of them exceededr= .30), they suggest that spiritually or religiously inclined people have a stronger disposition to experience gratitude than do their less spiritual/religious counterparts. Thus, spiritual and religious inclinations may facili-tate gratitude, but it is also conceivable that gratitude facilitates the development of religious and spiritual interests (Allport, Gillespie, & Young, 1948) or that the association of gratitude and spirituality/religiousness is caused by extraneous variables yet to be identified. The fact that the correlations of gratitude with these affective, prosocial, and spiritual variables were obtained using both self-reports and peer reports of the grateful disposition suggests that these associations are substantive and not simply the product of monomethod biases in measurement. This study may be also be useful for explaining why religiously involved people are at a lower risk for depressive symptoms or other mental health difficulties.
McCullough et al. (2002) also found that people who reported high levels of spirituality reported more gratitude in their daily moods, as did people higher in religious interest, general religiousness, and intrinsic religious orientation. Interestingly, however, the extrinsic, utilitarian religious orientation and quest-seeking religious orientation were not significantly correlated with the amount of gratitude in daily mood. These findings suggest that people high in conventional forms of religiousness, especially people for whom religion is a fundamental organizing principle (i.e., people high in intrinsic religiousness) and people who report high levels of spiritual transcendence, experience more gratitude in their daily moods than do their less religious/spiritual counterparts. Watkins, Woodward, Stone, and Kolts (2003) found that trait gratitude correlated positively with intrinsic religiousness and negatively with extrinsic religiousness. The authors suggest that the presence of gratitude may be apositiveaffective hallmark of religiously and spiritually engaged people, just as an absence of depressive symptoms is anegativeaffective hallmark of spiritually and religiously engaged people. They likely see benefits as gifts from God, “as the first cause of all benefits” (Watkins et al., 2003, p. 437).
Awe and Reverence
Few would disagree that the emotions of awe and reverence are central to religious experience. Awe was the cornerstone of Otto’s (1917/1958) classic analysis of religious experience. The essence of religious worship, for Otto, was the overpowering feeling of majesty and mystery in the presence of the holy that is at the same time fascinating and dreadful. This juxtaposition of fear and fascination is a hallmark of religious awe (Wettstein, 1997).
Several philosophers of emotion have offered conceptual analyses of awe in which they define awe and distinguish it from reverence and related states. Roberts (2003) describes awe as asensitivity to greatness, accompanied by a sense of being overwhelmed by the object of greatness and reverence as “an acknowledging subjective response to something excellent in a personal (moral or spiritual) way, but qualitatively above oneself” (p. 268). The major distinction between awe and reverence, for Roberts, is that awe could equally be experienced in response to something perceived as vastly evil as to something vastly good, but reverence is typically reserved for those things or persons esteemed worthy of it, in a positive or a moral sense. Similarly, Woodruff (2001) states that “reverence is the well-developed capacity to have the feelings off awe, respect and shame when these are the right feelings to have” (p. 8). Solomon (2002) argues that awe is passive whereas reverence is active: to be awestruck implies paralysis, while reverence leads to active engagement and responsibility toward that which a person reveres.
In contrast to these substantial theological and philosophical writings, little research in the psychology of religion has focused on either awe or reverence as a religious emotion. Many psychologists mention awe in their studies of religious experiences, but few have attempted to study it systematically. Maslow (1964) included the experience of awe under the broad umbrella of “peak experiences” (1964, p. 65), an umbrella that included “practically everything that, for example, Rudolf Otto defines as characteristic of religious experience” (1964, p. 54). Several other studies have included awe under the slightly less broad category of mystical experiences, but since awe is not the purpose of these studies, their research and conclusions are difficult to utilize with respect to awe.
For example, though Hardy (1979) lists awe, reverence, and wonder as a category of religious experience recorded in his database, his examples merely include a description of the “it” of a particular mystical experience or mention awe as an after-effect of the experience. Interestingly, Hardy (1979) found that awe was not a particularly frequently reported experience: awe, reverence, and wonder occurred in 7% of reported religious experiences that he collected, compared to 21% for joy and happiness and 25% for peace and security. Likewise, when Hood (1975) included awe as an item on his mysticism scale he was not interested in the experience of awe per se, but in the mystical experience that might (or might not) produce awe.
Keltner and Haidt (2003) have recently offered a prototypical approach to awe that represents an important new contribution. According to their definition, an awe experience includes both aperceived vastness (whether of power or magnitude) and aneed for accommodation, which is an “inability to assimilate an experience into current mental structures” (p. 304). Variation in the valence of an awe experience is due to whether the stimulus is appraised in terms of beauty, exceptional ability, virtue, perceived threat, or supernatural origin. In contrast, those experiences that do not include both perceived vastness and need for accommodation are not occurrences of awe, but are simply members of the awe family. For example, surprise involves accommodation without vastness.
Feelings of deference involve vastness without accommodation. Unfortunately, there is very little empirical research on awe, and until this change anything we say about awe as a religious emotion must be restricted to what can be gleaned from sacred writings.
As the study of awe is still in its early stages, future research should begin with the prototype approach to awe offered by Keltner and Haidt (2003) and the definition of reverence offered by philosophers and theologians (Roberts, 2003; Woodruff, 2001) and develop tests to measure individual differences in these experiences. Once a reliable measure of awe and reverence exists, individual differences in these experiences can be explored, as well as their relation to religion and spirituality, their developmental antecedents, and their relationship to emotional and physical well-being.
Wonder is another emotion that has received scant empirical attention by psychologists but has a significant spiritual thrust. Bulkeley (2002) definedwonderas “the emotion excited by an encounter with something novel and unexpected, something that strikes a person as intensely powerful, real, true, and/or beautiful” (p. 6). Brand (2001) provided a phenomenological account of wonder-joy: profound and deeply moving experiences of positive emotions where there is a co-occurrence of feelings of wonder, joy, gratitude, awe, yearning, poignancy, intensity, love, and compassion. They are an opening up of the heart to the persons or profound circumstances being witnessed and are triggered by a variety of circumstances. Experiences of wonder are a significant feature of many of the world’s religious, spiritual, and philosophical traditions (Bulkeley, 2002). Bulkeley poses that the experience of wonder involves a twofold process: (1) a sudden decentering of the self when faced with something novel and unexpectedly powerful, followed by (2) an ultimate recentering of the self in response to new knowledge and understanding. It is evident that the wonder that Bulkeley describes and the sense of awe described by Haidt and Keltner have much in common; it will be up to future research to establish the unique properties of these overlapping states.
Hope is a theological virtue, one of the “Big Three,” along with faith and charity. In Christian theology, hope is looking forward to the eternal world where the kingdom of God will be ushered in: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23,New International Version Bible[NIV]). In its religious context, hope provides respite during trials, brings perseverance during challenges, and provides assurance of eternal joy.
Hope research has burgeoned over the past decade, with studies indicating hope’s numerous positive effects on mental and physical health (see Snyder, Sigmon, & Feldman, 2002, for a review). In this light, whenever religion fosters or hinders hope, one would expect significant positive or negative effects on the whole person. In current research, the construct of hope is often couched in terms of goals, with hope requiring the thought of a goal, perceived pathways to those goals (pathway thoughts), and motivation (agency thoughts) to follow through to the goal. Snyder and colleagues (2002) use this understanding of hope to explain the link previously found between religion or religious involvement and health or well-being: Religions provide adherents with goals, paths to those goals, and incentives to reach those goals, either for good or for ill.
Sethi and Seligman (1993) found that among nine Jewish, Christian, and Muslim groups, the more fundamentalist the group was, the more hopeful and optimistic were the sermons, the liturgy, and the average participant’s outlook. This finding of greater hope in persons in fundamentalist faiths is an intriguing one, given that fundamentalism is often associated with a more constricted and less spontaneous approach to life (Altemeyer and Hunsberger, Chapter 21, this volume). Could it be that persons in conservative faiths tend to present overly positive images of themselves and thus deny negative emotions? Bullard and Park (1998) tested the hypothesis that fundamentalism (measured in terms of adherence to Protestant orthodoxy) is related to the overt expression of emotions. They used a frequently employed measure of emotional expressiveness that classifies respondents into high-anxious, low-anxious, repressor, or defensively highanxious categories. Fundamentalism was associated with anxiety such that the low fundamentalism group was more likely to be highly anxious; no significant patterns were found between the other three expressive styles and fundamentalism. Thus, the finding of greater positive emotions in fundamentalist faiths is not due to the nonexpression or repression of negative affect. This study is the only one that has examined whether adherence to religious doctrine is associated with styles of emotional expression.
RELIGION AND THE REGULATION OF EMOTION
“Emotion regulation” refers to the processes by which individuals influence which emotions they have, the intensity of these emotions, and how these emotions are expressed (Gross, 1999). The regulatory process may be conscious or unconscious, intentional or unintentional. Emotions, both positive and negative, can be transformed or regulated by intentionally engaging in spiritual practices. Religions’ teachings and texts contain information concerning how emotions should be handled. The importance of emotion regulation in everyday life provides a legitimate rationale for examining the role of religion in this process. Emotional regulation techniques that have their rationales in religious traditions can modulate everyday emotional experience (Schimmel, 1997; Watts, 1996), providing spiritual rationales and methods for handling problematic emotions such as anger, guilt, and depression. Watts and Williams (1988, Chap. 6) draw parallels between religious and clinical approaches to emotional control and cite meditational training as an activity with origins in both Western and Eastern contemplative religions. Positive emotional benefits have been reported for Zen meditation (Gillani & Smith, 2001) and for the cultivation of transpersonal states long associated with spiritual and religious traditions (McCraty, Barrios-Choplin, Rozman, Atkinson, & Watkins, 1998). Baer (2003) reviewed the literature on mindfulness-meditation interventions and found that these interventions appear to alleviate a variety of negative emotional states (primarily anxiety and depression) and may be efficacious in cultivating positive states such as compassion.
Thayer, Newman, and McClain (1994) examined the success of several behavioral and cognitive strategies for regulating unpleasant moods and raising energy levels. One category of strategies was labeled as religious/spiritual, though there was no information provided as to what these specific religious and spiritual strategies actually were. As
mood management techniques, these were found to more common in older participants than in younger ones and were particularly effective for reducing nervousness, tension, and anxiety. Although spiritual and religious activity was not among the most common behaviors used to reduce tension and anxiety, it was rated as most successful. In a factor analysis, religious and spiritual techniques loaded on a pleasant distraction factor; this factor was found to be the most effective strategy for mood change. So, although low in absolute frequency (study participants were doctoral-level psychotherapists), religious practices were rated as the single best method of regulating unpleasant moods.
Forgiveness is a religiously based technique that has been shown to be powerful in regulating negative emotions. Pargament (1997) suggests that forgiveness is religious in that (1) religion lends a spiritual significance to the act of forgiving, and (2) religion offers role models and concrete methods to facilitate forgiveness. Forgiveness as a contemporary psychological or social science construct has also generated popular and clinical interest as well as empirical investigation (for reviews, see McCullough, Pargament, & Thoresen, 2000; Witvliet, Ludwig, & Bauer, 2002; Witvliet, Ludwig, & Vander Laan, 2001). The scientific literature on forgiveness is growing rapidly across a number of areas of psychology, including the social–clinical interface (McCullough, 2001), though clinical applications of forgiveness probably still bear little connection to empirical research.
There have been a handful of studies that have been explicitly designed to examine the impact of forgiveness on the remediation of negative emotions. Witvliet and her colleagues (Witvliet, Ludwig, & Bauer, 2002; Witvliet, Ludwig, & Vander Laan, 2001) examined subjective emotions and emotional physiology during forgiving and unforgiving imagery. In their initial study, Witvliet et al. (2001) found that when participants visualized forgiving responses toward people who had offended them, they experienced signify cantly less anger, sadness, and overall negative arousal compared to when they rehearsed the offense or maintained a grudge. Paralleling the self-reports were greater sympathetic nervous system arousal (skin conductance and blood pressure increases) and facial tension during unforgiving imagery. A follow-up study examined the emotions of transgressors (Witvliet et al., 2002). When transgressors imagined seeking forgiveness from their victims, the transgressors reported lower levels of sadness, anger, and guilt and higher levels of hope and gratitudeif they imagined the victim genuinely forgiving the transgressor.
Imagining reconciliation rather than forgiveness led to a similar reduction in negative (anger, sadness, guilt) emotions and increase in positive (gratitude, hope, empathy) emotions.
Forgiveness interventions have also been shown to be successful in alleviating depression, anxiety, and grief in postabortion men (Coyle & Enright, 1997) and depression and anxiety in incest survivors (Freedman & Enright, 1996). In the latter study, the intervention group also showed significant gains in overall levels of hopefulness, suggesting, as did the work of Witvliet and colleagues, that forgiveness is involved in facilitating positive emotions as well as reducing negative emotions. The ability of forgiveness interventions to increase certain positive emotions is one of the more surprising findings in the research literature on forgiveness to date.
In one of the few cultural studies on forgiveness, Huang and Enright (2000) examined forgiveness and anger in a Taiwanese sample. Adults recalled an incident of deep interpersonal hurt, and their affective state was recorded both during and after recall.
The researchers found that when participants granted forgiveness unconditionally out of a sense of compassion, self-reported levels of anger were lower than when they forgave out of a sense of duty or obligation. Thus, the effectivenessofforgiveness to reduce negative emotions is contingent upon the motivation for forgiveness.
A number of philosophical, psychological, and spiritual traditions, both in the East and in the West, highlight mindfulness’s importance, but are there really adaptational and mental health benefits to being more conscious of what’s happening in the here-andnow?Mindfulness, an enhanced attention to and awareness of the present, is currently the subject of innumerable books, seminars, and workshops designed to facilitate this quality of consciousness as a means to helping people live more authentic and happier lives. But very little research has examined its direct role in psychological health and well-being.
Brown and Ryan (2003) developed a self-report instrument, called the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), to measure mindfulness, and administered it to subjects ranging from college students to working adults to Zen meditators to cancer patients. In mindfulness, which Brown and Ryan (2003) showed is a unique quality of consciousness, two experiences work in tandem: attending to present, ongoing events and experiences while allowing new events and experiences to come into awareness. In their research, Brown and colleagues have found that more mindful individuals, as measured by the MAAS, have a greater self-regulatory capacity and higher levels of well-being.
Regarding self-regulation, Brown and Ryan (2003, Study 3) showed that those who are more mindful are more attuned to their emotions, as reflected in a higher concordance between their explicit, or self-attributed, emotional states and implicit, or nonconscious, emotions. Because implicit measures are not susceptible to conscious control and manipulation, this suggests that more mindful individuals are more attuned to their implicit emotions and reflect that knowledge in their explicit, affective self-descriptions.
This is consistent with theory positing that present-centered awareness and attention facilitates self-knowledge, a crucial element of integrated functioning.
A number of studies have shown that mindfulness has direct relations to well-being outcomes, as well. For example, Brown and Ryan (2003, Study 1) report that similar to other personal qualities, mindfulness can be cultivated and enhanced, or neglected and allowed to diminish. Brown and Ryan (2003, Study 2) showed that people who actively cultivated a heightened attention to and awareness of what’s taking place in the present moment through meditative practices had higher levels of mindfulness. And in a clinical study with early-stage cancer patients who received training in mindfulness as the central element of an 8-week stress reduction program (Brown & Ryan, 2003, Study 5), those individuals who showed greater increases in mindfulness, as assessed by the MAAS, showed greater declines in mood disturbance and stress.
RELIGION AND EMOTION: REMAINING ISSUES
Functions of Religious Emotions
Current models of emotions typically aim to describe the form and function of emotions in general. Despite this aim, many models are formulated around prototypic and negative emotions like fear and anger. For instance, key to many theorists’ models of emotions is the idea that emotions are, by definition, associated with specific action tendencies. What functions do religious emotions serve? Noting that traditional models based on specific action tendencies did not do justice to positive emotions, Fredrickson (2001) developed an alternative model for the positive emotions that better captures their unique effects.
She called this the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions (Fredrickson, 2001) because positive emotions appear tobroadenpeople’s momentary thought–action repertoires and buildtheir enduring personal resources. Whereas the narrowed mind-sets of negative emotions carry direct and immediate adaptive benefits in situations that threaten survival, the broadened mind-sets of positive emotions, which occur when people feel safe and satiated, are beneficial in other ways. Specifically, these broadened mind-sets carry indirect and long-term adaptive benefits because broadeningbuildsenduring personal resources (Fredrickson, 2001).
Fredrickson (2001) analyzed the functions of several distinct positive emotions. Joy, for instance, creates the urge to play, push the limits, and be creative, urges evident not only in social and physical behavior, but also in intellectual and artistic behavior. Interest, a phenomenologically distinct positive emotion, creates the urge to explore, take in new information and experiences, and expand the self in the process. Contentment, a third distinct positive emotion, creates the urge to savor current life circumstances, and integrate these circumstances into new views of self and of the world. And gratitude, a fourth distinct positive emotion, creates the urge to creatively repay kindness. These various thought–action tendencies—to play, to explore, to savor and integrate, and to repay kindness—each represent ways that positive emotions broaden habitual modes of thinking or acting. In general terms, then, positive emotions appear to enlarge the cognitive context, an effect recently linked to increases in brain dopamine levels (Ashby, Isen, & Turken, 1999).
Finding positive meaning is perhaps the most reliable path to cultivating positive emotions (Fredrickson, 2001). To the extent that religions offer their believers world views that help them to find positive meaning in both ordinary daily events (e.g., appreci-ating nature) and major life challenges (e.g., finding benefit in a cancer diagnosis), they also cultivate positive emotions such as joy, serenity, awe, gratitude, and hope. According to the broaden-and-build theory, these positive emotions should, in turn, broaden people’s mind-sets, making them more creative and integrative in their thinking, and build and replenish critical personal and social resources, such as resilience, optimism, and social support. These resources, a wide range of studies have shown, enhance health and well-being.
In future research, it will be important to conceptually and empirically distinguish secular positive emotions (i.e., positive emotions felt outside religious or sacred contexts) from one or more categories of religious or sacred positive emotions, which might include positive emotions felt in religious services, toward God or a higher power, toward other believers, or otherwise connected to that which believers imbue with a sense of the sacred. Religious practices may be distinctly human ways of initiating upward spirals that enhance spiritual growth as well as health and well-being.
Are Religious Emotions Unique?
A perennial issue in the psychology of religion pertains to the uniqueness of emotions that are labeled as religious. Are these a separate class of emotions or simply ordinary emotions felt in religious contexts or elicited through religious rituals such as prayer and worship? Consider this statement from William James (1902/1958): In the psychologies and in the philosophies of religion, we find the authors attempting to specify just what entity it is. One man allies it to the feeling of dependence; one makes it a derivative from fear; others connect it with the sexual life; others still identify it with the feeling of the infinite; and so on. Such different ways of conceiving it ought of themselves to arouse doubt as to whether it possibly can be one specific thing; and the moment we are willing to treat the term “religious sentiment” as a collective name for the many sentiments which religious objects may arouse in alternation, we see that it probably contains nothing whatever of a psychologically specific nature. There is religious fear, religious love, religious awe, religious joy, and so forth. But religious love is only man’s natural emotion of love directed to a religious object; religious fear is only the ordinary fear of commerce, so to speak, the common quaking of the human breast, in so far as the notion of divine retribution may arouse it; religious awe is the same organic thrill which we feel in a forest at twilight, or in a mountain gorge; only this time it comes over us at the thought of our supernatural relations; and similarly of all the various sentiments which may be called into play in the lives of religious persons. As concrete states of mind, made up of a feeling plus a specific sort of object, religious emotions of course are psychic entities distinguishable from other concrete emotions; but there is no ground for assuming a simple abstract “religious emotion” to exist as a distinct elementary mental affection by itself, present in every religious experience without exception. As there thus seems to be no one elementary religious emotion, but only a common storehouse of emotions upon which religious objects may draw, so there might conceivably also prove to be no one specific and essential kind of religious object, and no one specific and essential kind of religious act. (pp. 39–40)
For James, what makes religious emotionreligiousare ordinary felt emotions under circumstances that make it apparent to the person that God or a higher power is involved.
Emotion and Spiritual Transformation
A major research area in the psychology of religion has always been conversion or transformation (Paloutzian, this volume, Chapter 18; Paloutzian, Richardson, & Rambo, 1999). Many theories of the processes underlying spiritual transformations have been offered, but virtually all converge on the importance of the affective basis of spiritual transformation (Hill, 2002; Oatley & Djikic, 2002). In these perspectives, emotions are seen as agents of transformation in the spiritual self. While the emphasis is generally placed on the role of negative emotions in triggering spiritual changes, positive emotions may play an important role as well. For example, Allport, Gillespie, and Young (1948) found that gratitude was the fourth most cited reason among youth for turning to religion, and the role of gratitude and goodness (as well as awe and wonder) in G. K. Chesterton’s (1936) adult conversion to Catholicism is legendary.
Ullman’s (1989) study is frequently cited as supporting the hypothesis that conversion is more based in emotion than it is on an intellectual search process. In examining conversion among four different faith groups, Ullman found that the converts reported a greater degree of emotional distress in childhood than did nonconverts, and were more likely to say that emotional stress was a more important factor in their conversion than was a cognitive quest. The research that exists is suggestive of links between emotion and transformation, but much more needs to be done. There is a great need for longitudinal studies of emotion in which emotions are both motivators and consequences of transformation. Future research should also focus more on positive emotions, both as motivators of change and potential consequences of change. The measurement of positive emotions has improved considerably in recent years and researchers have established and well-validated measures to draw upon and incorporate into their research designs.
RELIGIOUS EMOTIONS IN EMOTION HISTORY: TWO ILLUSTRATIONS
A vastly different approach to emotion and religion can be found in the field ofemotions history(Stearns & Lewis, 1998). Emotions history examines the experience and expression of emotions among U.S. subcultures during specific historical contexts, and seeks to discern the dominant affective climate that prevailed in these groups during these periods.
The formal study of history of emotions is a relatively new discipline, but two recent studies warrant mentioning here as illustrations of how religious emotions are influenced by historical context.
Working under the assumption that Judaism requires emotional involvement and emotional transactions with God, Mayer (1994) engaged in a lexigraphic study of emotion trends in biblical texts. He classified nine emotion terms (happiness, anger, fear, sadness, love, hate, contempt, guilt, and envy) in the books of the Hebrew Bible and examined changes in the frequency of occurrence over the 12-century period during which, according to general scholarly agreement, the books were written. The primary purpose of the study was to see whether emotion changed over time. As the centuries progressed, Mayer found a systematic increase in references to happiness; no other emotions were shown to systematically increase or decrease over this time period. Although he considers a number of alternative hypotheses and is cognizant of the perils and limitations of a psychohistorical analysis, Mayer suggests that this finding can be taken as evidence of the positive psychological benefits of a highly religious culture, and advocates a historical analysis of emotion and religion for understanding factors that influence emotion in the present.
A second study sought to describe the predominant emotions expressed by U.S. Pentecostal women in the first half of the 20th century (Griffith, 1998). This qualitative study of a variety of texts focused on the pious emotions of southern, rural, and poor female members of the Pentecostal Church. One of the primary hallmarks of the Pentecostal faith is the natural and authentic expression of emotion. Indeed, the Pentecostal movement has traditionally sought to provoke and sustain strong emotions in believers.
Griffith’s examination of narratives of conversion, reports of healing experiences, and responses to prayers revealed a high occurrence of emotions pertaining to praise, gratitude, love, joy, and exuberant happiness. Griffith hypothesized a dual role for these emotions: (1) they defined an ethic of separation, setting apart believers from nonbelievers and from members of other Christian sects, thus enhancing commitment to the ingroup; and (2) they were essential elements in constructing a testimony for communicating one’s faith to others and for providing assurance and certainty of one’s own faith. This study, along with Mayer’s (1994), are examples of how historical and theological contexts shape emotion and provide important clues about the function of religious emotions in everyday life.
FUTURE DIRECTIONS AND CONCLUSION
There are two trends that are likely to have significant impact on emotion research within the psychology of religion in the near future.
First, further progress in religion and emotion is likely to be spurred on by the current vigorous activity in the field of religion and health (see Oman & Thoresen, Chapter 24, and Miller & Kelley, Chapter 25, this volume). Researchers are examining mechanisms that explain the effects of religious practices on health. It follows from the broaden-and-build theory (Fredrickson, 2001) that sacred positive emotions can serve as resources that a person can draw upon in times of need, including coping with stress and dealing with and recovering from physical illness. It is also plausible, for example, that the biology of emotions and related states activated during religious worship (praise, reverence, awe, gratitude, love, hope) could have neuroendocrine or immunological consequences, thus potentially accounting for the salubrious effects of religious practices on health outcomes. Any examination of the neurobiology of these states will have to rely upon the phenomenological properties of worship as well, thus producing new insights at this level of analysis.
Second, the growing cognitive science of religion field (Andresen, 2001; Pyysiäinen & Anttonen, 2002) is likely to open new vistas for understanding the functions of emotion in religious contexts and in religious cognition. The role of emotions in the adoption and transmission of religious beliefs currently plays a prominent role in several cognitive theories of religion (Andresen, 2001), particularly in accounting for the provocativeness of religious rituals (McCauley, 2001). Much of this work focuses on religion as counterintuitiveness (Boyer, 2001) and emotional responses to counterintuitive representations. Research has shown that counterintuitive representations are more effectively recalled than ordinary or even unusual representations (Boyer, 2001), which may be due to their ability to arouse strong emotions. Emotion is also assumed to play a pivotal role in resolving doubts concerning religious representations (beliefs) and in enhancing commit-ment to the object of those representations. Franks (2003), cites the example of positive emotions in response to perceived answers to prayer as serving to reduce doubts about the benevolence of God. Connecting the act of prayer to the experience of positive emotion provides at least a temporary resolution in the mind of the believer who may have doubted God’s benevolence. Given the pervasiveness of religious doubts (Clark, 1958; Hunsberger, Pratt, & Pancer, 2002), an incorporation of the role of emotion might contribute to understanding both the development and the resolution of questions and doubts concerning religious doctrines.
In each of these two cases, it is clear that progress will require collaboration between psychologists who specialize in religion and experts in evolutionary biology, neuroscience, philosophy, anthropology, and cognitive science, so that developments in the psychology of religion take into account and build upon advances in these related scientific disciplines. It will also be necessary to take an approach of downward causation, in which individual beliefs and socioreligious contexts regulate biological systems of the body. Successful researchers who contribute to the next generation of knowledge at the interface of religion and emotion will thus likely need to be schooled not just in the sciences but in theology as well.
Preparation of this chapter was supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.
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