Spiritual Dryness in Catholic Laypersons Working as Volunteers is Related to Reduced Life Satisfaction Rather than to Indicators of Spirituality

Abstract

Phases of spiritual dryness may affect a person’s life orientation and sense of meaning, particularly of persons who work professionally for the sake of others and who rely on God as their main life orientation. This study investigated spiritual dryness in religiously motivated laypersons who are prosocially active volunteers. In particular, the study investigated which indicators of spirituality are related to spiritual dryness and also whether compassion and altruism are related to spiritual dryness. Data from 102 persons working for UNITALSI, an Italian volunteer organization, were collected using standardized questionnaires. Among these strongly religious laypersons, 12% reported that they experienced times of spiritual dryness (as measured with the Spiritual Dryness Scale) fairly often. Spiritual dryness was best predicted by low satisfaction with family life and by future prospects (which together explain 31% of the variance), followed by a low perception of the transcendent (an additional 8%) and high altruism (an additional 4% of explained variance). Most of those who found ways to deal with these feelings were inspired to help others more and perceived greater spiritual serenity and depth afterwards. It was found recently that for Catholic priests and non-ordained pastoral workers, the perception of the transcendent was the best (negative) predictor of spiritual dryness, but among Catholic laypersons investigated in this study, reduced life satisfaction was the best (negative) predictor. The data underline that laypersons who work voluntarily for others require spiritual guidance and support because spiritual dryness as a phase of spiritual crisis may impair their life satisfaction and may conflict with their voluntary engagement.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Baumann, K. (2003). Persönliche Erfüllung im Dienen? Motivations- und identitätspsychologische Überlegungen zum beruflichen engagement in helfenden Berufen [Personal fulfillment in service? Motivational and identity-psychological reflections on professional engagement in helping professions]. Zeitschrift für medizinische Ethik, 49, 29–42.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Büssing, A., Matthiessen, P. F., & Ostermann, T. (2005). Engagement of patients in religious and spiritual practices: Confirmatory results with the SpREUK-P 1.1 questionnaire as a tool of quality of life research. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, 3(53). http://www.hqlo.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1477-7525-3-53.

  3. Büssing, A., Fischer, J., Haller, A., Ostermann, T., & Matthiessen, P. F. (2009). Validation of the brief multidimensional life satisfaction scale in patients with chronic diseases. European Journal of Medical Research, 14, 171–177.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  4. Büssing, A., Föller-Mancini, A., Gidley, J., & Heusser, P. (2010). Aspects of spirituality in adolescents. International Journal of Children’s Spirituality, 15, 25–44. https://doi.org/10.1080/1364436X.2013.849661.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Büssing, A., Reiser, F., Michalsen, A., & Baumann, K. (2012). Engagement of patients with chronic diseases in spiritual and secular forms of practice: Results with the shortened SpREUK-P SF17 questionnaire. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, 11, 28–38.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Büssing, A., Günther, A., Baumann, K., Frick, E., & Jacobs, C. (2013a). Spiritual dryness as a measure of a specific spiritual crisis in Catholic priests: Associations with symptoms of burnout and distress. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 246797. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/246797.

  7. Büssing, A., Kerksieck, P., Günther, A., & Baumann, K. (2013b). Altruism in adolescents and young adults: Validation of an instrument to measure generative altruism with structural equation modeling. International Journal of Children’s Spirituality, 18, 335–350.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Büssing, A., Falkenberg, Z., Schoppe, C., & Lötzke, D. (2015). Cool down reactions and burnout and work stress in nurses and hospital physicians—Validation of the cool down index. European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 7S, 32.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Büssing, A., Frick, E., Jacobs, C., & Baumann, K. (2016). Spiritual dryness in non-ordained Catholic pastoral workers. Religion, 7, 141 http://www.mdpi.com/2077-1444/7/12/141/htm.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Büssing, A., Baumann, K., Jacobs, K., & Frick, E. (2017a). Spiritual dryness in Catholic priests: Internal resources as possible buffers. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 9, 46–55. (online Jan 21, 2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Büssing, A., Sautermeister, J., Frick, E., & Baumann, K. (2017b). Reactions and strategies of German Catholic priests to cope with phases of spiritual dryness. Journal of Religion and Health, 56, 1018–1031. (online Nov 28, 2016).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. San Juan de la Cruz, (1974) Obras completas. Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos [Complete Works. Library of Christian Authors]. Madrid.

  13. Daeschler, R. (1937). Aridité. In M. Viller, F. Cavallera, J. de Guibert, A. Rayaz, A. Derville, & Solignac, A. (Eds.), Dictionnaire de Spiritualité ascétique et mystique [Dictionary of ascetic and mystical spirituality] (Vol. 1; 845–855). Paris: Beauchesne.

  14. Dobhan, U., & Körner, R. (1992). Johannes vom Kreuz. Die Biographie [John of the Cross. The biography] Freiburg: Herder.

  15. Ellison, C. G., & Lee, J. (2010). Spiritual struggles and psychological distress: Is there a dark side of religion? Social Indicators Research, 98, 501–517. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-009-9553-3.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Hwang, J. Y., Plante, T., & Lackey, K. (2008). The development of the Santa Clara brief compassion scale: An abbreviation of Sprecher and Fehr’s compassionate love scale. Pastoral Psychology, 56, 421–428.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Kolodiejchuk, B. (2009). Mother Teresa, come be my light. New York: Image.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Lüttich, S. (2004). Nacht-Erfahrung. Theologische Dimensionen einer Metapher [Night experience. Theological dimensions of a metaphor]. Würzburg: Echter.

  19. Martini, C. M. (2011). Auch die Seele kennt tag und Nacht [Even the soul knows day and night]. Munich: Verlag Neue Stadt.

  20. May, G. G. (2005). The dark night of the soul: A psychiatrist explores the connection between darkness and spiritual growth. San Francisco: Harper.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Plattig, M. (1994). Die ‘dunkle Nacht’ als Gotteserfahrung [The ‘dark night’ as an experience of God]. Studies in Spirituality , 4 , 165–205.

  22. Ruhbach, G., & Sudbrack, J. (1989). Christliche Mystik. Texte aus zwei Jahrtausenden [Christian mysticism. Texts from two millennia]. Munich: C. H. Beck.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Schaufeli, W. B., Salanova, M., González-Romá, V., & Bakker, A. B. (2002). The measurement of engagement and burnout: A two sample confirmatory factor analytic approach. Journal of Happiness Studies, 3, 71–92.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Sporschill, G. (1984). Horizonte der Religiosität. Kleine Aufsätze von Karl Rahner [Horizons of religiosity. Small essays by Karl Rahner]. Vienna: Herold.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Sprecher, S., & Fehr, B. (2005). Compassionate love for close others and humanity. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 22, 629–651.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Underwood, L. G. (2002). The daily spiritual experience scale: development, theoretical description, reliability, exploratory factor analysis, and preliminary construct validity using health-related data. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 24, 22–33.

  27. Underwood, L. G. (2011). The daily spiritual experience scale: Overview and results. Religion, 2, 29–50.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

We are grateful to the UNITALSI volunteers who filled out the questionnaires.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Arndt Büssing.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Büssing, A., Baiocco, F. & Baumann, K. Spiritual Dryness in Catholic Laypersons Working as Volunteers is Related to Reduced Life Satisfaction Rather than to Indicators of Spirituality. Pastoral Psychol 67, 1–15 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11089-017-0798-5

Download citation

Keywords

  • Spiritual dryness
  • Crisis
  • Volunteers
  • Compassion
  • Altruism
  • Spirituality