Advertisement

Narcissism and Spirituality: Intersections of Self, Superiority, and the Search for the Sacred

  • Joshua B. GrubbsEmail author
  • Nicholas Stauner
  • Joshua A. Wilt
  • Julie J. Exline
Chapter

Abstract

Narcissism and narcissistic traits are known to affect various aspects of human functioning, with such traits often being associated with problematic outcomes in social, professional, and interpersonal domains. Another area in which narcissism seems to have some negative consequences is in spiritual functioning. Oftentimes, individuals, regardless of narcissistic traits, may experience difficulties in religious and spiritual functioning, known as religious and spiritual struggles. Although research in this domain is still burgeoning, recent research suggests that narcissism and narcissistic traits—especially trait entitlement—are associated with difficulties in religious and spiritual functioning such as religious and spiritual struggles. The present chapter reviews existing literature related to narcissism and religious and spiritual functioning, with a specific focus on how religious and spiritual struggles are associated with such traits. Links between narcissism and specific struggles (i.e., struggles with deity such as anger at God; interpersonal religious and spiritual struggles, such as conflicts over religion) are explored, and directions for future research are posited.

Keywords

Spiritual struggle Religion Entitlement Anger at God Humility 

References

  1. Abu-Raiya, H., Pargament, K. I., Krause, N., & Ironson, G. (2015). Robust links between religious/spiritual struggles, psychological distress, and well-being in a national sample of American adults. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 85, 565–575.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Ano, G. G., & Pargament, K. I. (2013). Predictors of spiritual struggles: an exploratory study. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 16, 419–434.  https://doi.org/10.1080/13674676.2012.680434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baumeister, R. F., Catanese, K. R., & Wallace, H. M. (2002). Conquest by force: A narcissistic reactance theory of rape and sexual coercion. Review of General Psychology, 6, 92–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beck, R. (2006a). Communion and complaint: Attachment, object-relations, and triangular love perspectives on relationship with God. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 34, 43–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beck, R. (2006b). God as a secure base: Attachment to God and theological exploration. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 34, 125–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beck, R., & McDonald, A. (2004). Attachment to God: The attachment to God inventory, tests of working model. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 32, 92–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brown, R. P., Budzek, K., & Tamborski, M. (2009). On the meaning and measure of narcissism. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 951–964.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bushman, B. J., & Baumeister, R. F. (1998). Threatened egotism, narcissism, self-esteem, and direct and displaced aggression: Does self-love or self-hate lead to violence? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 219–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cain, N. M., Pincus, A. L., & Ansell, E. B. (2008). Narcissism at the crossroads: Phenotypic description of pathological narcissism across clinical theory, social/personality psychology, and psychiatric diagnosis. Clinical Psychology Review, 28, 638–656.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Campbell, W. K., Bonacci, A. M., Shelton, J., Exline, J. J., & Bushman, B. J. (2004). Psychological entitlement: Interpersonal consequences and validation of a self-report measure. Journal of Personality Assessment, 83, 29–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Campbell, W. K., Bush, C. P., Brunell, A. B., & Shelton, J. (2005). Understanding the social costs of narcissism: The case of the tragedy of the commons. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 1358–1368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Campbell, W. K., & Campbell, S. M. (2009). On the self-regulatory dynamics created by the peculiar benefits and costs of narcissism: A contextual reinforcement model and examination of leadership. Self and Identity, 8, 214–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chowning, K., & Campbell, N. J. (2009). Development and validation of a measure of academic entitlement: Individual differences in students’ externalized responsibility and entitled expectations. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101, 982–997.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Currier, J. M., Smith, P. N., & Kuhlman, S. (2017). Assessing the unique role of religious coping in suicidal behavior among US Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 9, 118–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Desrosiers, A., Kelley, B. S., & Miller, L. (2011). Parent and peer relationships and relational spirituality in adolescents and young adults. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 3, 39–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. DeWall, C. N., Pond, R. S., Jr., Campbell, W. K., & Twenge, J. M. (2011). Tuning in to psychological change: Linguistic markers of psychological traits and emotions over time in popular US song lyrics. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 5, 200–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ellison, C. G. (1991). Religious involvement and subjective well-being. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 32, 80–99.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Exline, J. J. (2013). Religious and spiritual struggles. In K. I. Pargament (Editor-in-Chief), J. J. Exline, & J. W. Jones (Associate Eds.), APA handbook of psychology, religion, and spirituality. Volume 1: Context, theory, and research (pp. 459–475). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  19. Exline, J. J., Baumeister, R. F., Bushman, B. J., Campbell, W. K., & Finkel, E. J. (2004). Too proud to let go: Narcissistic entitlement as a barrier to forgiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 894–912.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Exline, J. J., Pargament, K. I., Grubbs, J. B., & Yali, A. M. (2014). The religious and spiritual struggles scale: Development and initial validation. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 6, 208–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Exline, J. J., Park, C. L., Smyth, J. M., & Carey, M. P. (2011). Anger toward God: Social-cognitive predictors, prevalence, and links with adjustment to bereavement and cancer. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 100, 129–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Exline, J. J., Yali, A. M., & Sanderson, W. C. (2000). Guilt, discord, and alienation: The role of religious strain in depression and suicidality. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 56, 1481–1496.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Foster, J. D., Campbell, W. K., & Twenge, J. M. (2003). Individual differences in narcissism: Inflated selfviews across the lifespan and around the world. Journal of Research in Personality, 37(6), 469–486.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Glover, N., Miller, J. D., Lynam, D. R., Crego, C., & Widiger, T. A. (2012). The five-factor narcissism inventory: A five-factor measure of narcissistic personality traits. Journal of Personality Assessment, 94, 500–512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Granqvist, P., & Kirkpatrick, L. A. (2013). Religion, spirituality, and attachment. In K. I. Pargament, J. J. Exline, & J. W. Jones (Eds.), APA handbook of psychology, religion, and spirituality (vol 1): Context, theory, and research (pp. 139–155). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Greenfield, E. A., & Marks, N. F. (2007). Religious social identity as an explanatory factor for associations between more frequent formal religious participation and psychological well-being. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 17, 245–259.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  27. Grubbs, J. B. (2016). Demandingness, deservingness, and spiritual well-being: The role of entitlement in predicting religious/spiritual struggles. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Case Western Reserve University. Cleveland, Ohio.Google Scholar
  28. Grubbs, J. B., & Exline, J. J. (2014). Humbling yourself before God: Humility as a reliable predictor of lower divine struggle. Journal of Psychology & Theology, 42, 41–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Grubbs, J. B., & Exline, J. J. (2016). Trait entitlement: A cognitive-personality source of vulnerability to psychological distress. Psychological Bulletin, 142(11), 1204–1226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Grubbs, J. B., Exline, J. J., & Campbell, W. K. (2013). I deserve better and God knows it! Psychological entitlement as a robust predictor of anger at God. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 5, 192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Grubbs, J. B., Exline, J. J., Campbell, W. K., Twenge, J. M., & Pargament, K. I. (2017). God owes me: The role of divine entitlement in predicting struggles with a deity. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality.  https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000147.
  32. Grubbs, J. B., Wilt, J., Stauner, N., Exline, J. J., & Pargament, K. I. (2016). Self, struggle, and soul: Linking personality, self-concept, and religious/spiritual struggle. Personality and Individual Differences, 101, 144–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hall, T. W., & Edwards, K. J. (1996). The initial development and factor analysis of the spiritual assessment inventory. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 24, 233–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hall, T. W., & Edwards, K. J. (2002). The spiritual assessment inventory: A theistic model and measure for assessing spiritual development. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 41, 341–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Harris, J. I., Erbes, C. R., Engdahl, B. E., Ogden, H., Olson, R. H., Winskowski, A. M. M., et al. (2012). Religious distress and coping with stressful life events: A longitudinal study. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 68, 1276–1286.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  36. Harris, J. I., Erbes, C. R., Engdahl, B. E., Olson, R. H., Winskowski, A. M., & McMahill, J. (2008). Christian religious functioning and trauma outcomes. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 64, 17–29.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  37. Hill, P. C., & Pargament, K. I. (2003). Advances in the conceptualization and measurement of religion and spirituality. Implications for physical and mental health research. The American Psychologist, 58, 64–74.  https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.58.1.64 CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  38. Homolka, S. (2017). Validation of religious and spiritual struggles scales for adolescents. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH.Google Scholar
  39. Kirkpatrick, L. A. (1998). God as a substitute attachment figure: A longitudinal study of adult attachment style and religious change in college students. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24, 961–973.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kopp, J. P., Zinn, T. E., Finney, S. J., & Jurich, D. P. (2011). The development and evaluation of the academic entitlement questionnaire. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 44, 105–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Laurin, K., Schumann, K., & Holmes, J. G. (2014). A relationship with God? Connecting with the divine to assuage fears of interpersonal rejection. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 5, 777–785.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lim, C., MacGregor, C. A., & Putnam, R. D. (2010). Secular and liminal: Discovering heterogeneity among religious nones. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 49, 596–618.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lim, C., & Putnam, R. D. (2010). Religion, social networks, and life satisfaction. American Sociological Review, 75, 914–933.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Mahoney, A. (2010). Religion in families, 1999–2009: A relational spirituality framework. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72, 805–827.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Mahoney, A. (2013). The spirituality of us: Relational spirituality in the context of family relationships. In K. Pargament (Ed.-in-chief), J. J. Exline, J. Jones, A. Mahoney, & E. Shafranske (Assoc. eds.), APA handbooks in psychology: APA handbook of psychology, religion, and spirituality (pp. 365–389). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  46. McNulty, J. K., & Widman, L. (2014). Sexual narcissism and infidelity in early marriage. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 1315–1325.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  47. Miller, J. D., & Campbell, W. K. (2008). Comparing clinical and social-personality conceptualizations of narcissism. Journal of Personality, 76, 449–476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Moeller, S. J., Crocker, J., & Bushman, B. J. (2009). Creating hostility and conflict: Effects of entitlement and self-image goals. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 448–452.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  49. Morf, C. C., & Rhodewalt, F. (2001). Unraveling the paradoxes of narcissism: A dynamic self-regulatory processing model. Psychological Inquiry, 12, 177–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pargament, K. I., Ensing, D. S., Falgout, K., Olsen, H., Reilly, B., Van Haitsma, K., et al. (1990). God help me:(I): Religious coping efforts as predictors of the outcomes to significant negative life events. American Journal of Community Psychology, 18, 793–824.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Pargament, K. I., Kennell, J., Hathaway, W., Grevengoed, N., Newman, J., & Jones, W. (1988). Religion and the problem-solving process: Three styles of coping. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 27, 90–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Pargament, K. I., Smith, B. W., Koenig, H. G., & Perez, L. (1998). Patterns of positive and negative religious coping with major life stressors. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 37, 710–724.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Piedmont, R. L. (1999). Does spirituality represent the sixth factor of personality? Spiritual transcendence and the five-factor model. Journal of Personality, 67, 985–1013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Pincus, A. L., Ansell, E. B., Pimentel, C. A., Cain, N. M., Wright, A. G., & Levy, K. N. (2009). Initial construction and validation of the pathological narcissism inventory. Psychological Assessment, 21, 365–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Rosmarin, D. H., Bigda-Peyton, J. S., Öngur, D., Pargament, K. I., & Björgvinsson, T. (2013). Religious coping among psychotic patients: Relevance to suicidality and treatment outcomes. Psychiatry Research, 210, 182–187.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Rowatt, W., & Kirkpatrick, L. A. (2002). Two dimensions of attachment to God and their relation to affect, religiosity, and personality constructs. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 41, 637–651.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sandage, S. J., Jankowski, P., Crabtree, S. A., & Schweer, M. (2015). Attachment to God, adult attachment, and spiritual pathology: Mediator and moderator effects. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 18(10), 795–808.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Shults, F. L., & Sandage, S. J. (2006). Transforming spirituality: Integrating theology and psychology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.Google Scholar
  59. Sosis, R., & Ruffle, B. J. (2003). Religious ritual and cooperation: Testing for a relationship on Israeli religious and secular Kibbutzim 1. Current Anthropology, 44, 713–722.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Stucke, T. S. (2003). Who’s to blame? Narcissism and self-serving attributions following feedback. European Journal of Personality, 17, 465–478.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Stucke, T. S., & Sporer, S. L. (2002). When a grandiose self-image is threatened: Narcissism and self-concept clarity as predictors of negative emotions and aggression following ego-threat. Journal of Personality, 70, 509–532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Trzesniewski, K. H., Donnellan, M. B., & Robins, R. W. (2008). Is ‘generation me’ really more narcissistic than previous generations? Journal of Personality, 76, 903–918.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, W. K. (2003). “Isn’t it fun to get the respect that we’re going to deserve?” Narcissism, social rejection, and aggression. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29, 261–272.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  64. Twenge, J. M., Campbell, W. K., & Gentile, B. (2012). Increases in individualistic words and phrases in American books, 1960–2008. PLoS One, 7, e40181.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  65. Twenge, J. M., & Foster, J. D. (2010). Birth cohort increases in narcissistic personality traits among American college students, 1982–2009. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 1, 99–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Twenge, J. M., Konrath, S., Foster, J. D., Campbell, W. K., & Bushman, B. J. (2008). Egos inflating over time: A cross-temporal meta-analysis of the narcissistic personality inventory. Journal of Personality, 76, 875–902.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Wilt, J. A., Grubbs, J. B., Lindberg, M. J., Exline, J. J., & Pargament, K. I. (2017). Anxiety predicts increases in struggles with religious/spiritual doubt over two weeks, one month, and one year. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 27, 26–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Wilt, J. A., Grubbs, J. B., Pargament, K. I., & Exline, J. J. (2017). Religious and spiritual struggles, past and present: Relations to the big five and well-being. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 27, 51–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Wilt, J. A., Stauner, N., Lindberg, M. J., Grubbs, J. B., Exline, J. J., & Pargament, K. I. (2017). Struggle with ultimate meaning: Nuanced associations with search for meaning, presence of meaning, and mental health. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1–12.Google Scholar
  70. Wood, B. T., Worthington, E. L., Exline, J. J., Yali, A. M., Aten, J. D., & McMinn, M. R. (2010). Development, refinement, and psychometric properties of the Attitudes Toward God Scale (ATGS-9). Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 2, 148–167.  https://doi.org/10.1037/a0018753.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Ysseldyk, R., Matheson, K., & Anisman, H. (2010). Religiosity as identity: Toward an understanding of religion from a social identity perspective. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 14, 60–71.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  72. Zitek, E. M., Jordan, A. H., Monin, B., & Leach, F. R. (2010). Victim entitlement to behave selfishly. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98, 245.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joshua B. Grubbs
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nicholas Stauner
    • 2
  • Joshua A. Wilt
    • 2
  • Julie J. Exline
    • 2
  1. 1.Bowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenUSA
  2. 2.Case Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA

Personalised recommendations