What does spirituality look and sound like?
Given that spirituality is an integral and integrating force within humans, it is natural that expressions of spiritual need and distress are embedded in "everyday" conversation and behavior. The stories patients tell, the ways they relate to their communities, their rituals, and so forth, all express the inner spiritual experience at some level.1 Yet, because spirituality is experienced deeply and inwardly, it is often spoken of without awareness or expressed using metaphors and other figures of speech. Thus, expressions that hint at one's spirituality are vast and varied; for example:
- "I want to help others, so I'm going to that charity fundraiser" [purpose].
- "Everything happens for a reason" [meaning].
- "My kids are my life" [purpose, relationships with others].
- "I want to protect my family from seeing me suffer" [relationship].
- "I love looking at the stars at night; they remind me of my place in the universe" [awe, transcendence, meaning, relationship with nature].
- "My job is so unimportant, sometimes I wonder why I do it" [purpose].
- "I think God's trying to tell me something" [relationship, meaning].
- "I'm afraid of going to sleep, afraid I might never wake up" [authentic self, relationship with nature].
- "I don't know what to believe anymore" [meaning, relationship].
- "It's all in God's hands" [relationship, self-transcendence].
- "It's a celestial crapshoot" [meaning].
- Tears, anger, depression, withdrawal, avoidance of others [meaning, self-transcendence, relationship, authentic self].
- Smiling, peaceful demeanor [authentic, true self].
- J. L. Griffith and M. E. Griffith, Encountering the Sacred in Psychotherapy (New York: Guilford, 2002).
From Elizabeth Johnston Taylor, What Do I Say? Talking with Patients about Spirituality (Philadelphia: Templeton Foundation Press, 2007), 42-43.