Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Study Finds Many Spiritual Practices Boost Narcissism and Feelings of Superiority

Study: “An Exploration of Spiritual Superiority: The Paradox of Self‐Enhancement“ 
Authors: Roos Vonk and Anouk Visser
Published in: European Journal of Social Psychology
Publication date: October 1, 2020

A new study has found that some popular forms of spiritual training — such as energy healing, aura reading, and, to a lesser degree, mindfulness and meditation — correlate with both narcissism and “spiritual superiority.”

An implicit feature of spiritual training is that it allows its adherents to distance themselves from their egos, and thereby from things such as the need for social approval or success. By encouraging self-compassion and non-judgmental self-acceptance, spiritual training should presumably make people less concerned with such things.

But as a new paper explains, spiritual training may have the opposite effect. Namely, spiritual training might in fact enhance people’s need to feel “more successful, more respected or more loved,” as the authors Roos Vonk and Anouk Visser write.

No previous studies had specifically examined this topic, which prompted Roos Vonk and Anouk Visser to investigate. Their new paper, “An Exploration of Spiritual Superiority: The Paradox of Self‐Enhancement,” appears in the European Journal of Social Psychology.

The authors developed a new measure they call “spiritual superiority.” It measures whether people feel superior to those “who lack the spiritual wisdom they ascribe to themselves.”

The measure’s questionnaires ask people to respond on a scale of 1 to 7 to a series of statements, much like they would on typical psychometric tests. Example statements include “I am more in touch with my senses than most others,” “I am more aware of what is between heaven and earth than most people,” and “The world would be a better place if others too had the insights that I have now.”

The people who agreed to take part in this research might not represent spirituality students in general. “The question is whether a truly enlightened person would even participate in our studies,” the authors write. “Would such a person be interested in or even capable of answering all these ‘me’ questions?”

In any case, the researchers hope that future research can “reveal more insights into the effects of spiritual training, and possibly the conditions and personality characteristics that facilitate genuine spiritual growth.”
It should be noted, that in Orthodox Christian spirituality, there is an awareness of the dangers of falling into pride and delusion and ego-centrism, which is why such practices as being held accountable to an experienced spiritual teacher and being under obedience to them with the aim of acquiring humility and all the other virtues play such a central role, among other things. This further proves that the tried and true practices that go back centuries in such organized institutions of spirituality and ethics, like the Orthodox Church, offer the practitioner more likelihood of success in attaining true spiritual goals than newer or individualized practices or even institutions that only offer them as a matter of personal well-being and/or happiness.