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Stress and the Sacred


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Examine powerful stereotypes that have shaped our concept of mental health and well-being — literally what it means to be at our best — and the spiritual dimensions of coping.

This article first appeared in our premiere issue, Fall 1998. Far from being cop-outs, religion and spirituality can help us meet life's challenges. Grab a pen and take the test (below) to discover your own spiritual coping style. Ellen, a mother of four small children, unemployed, and distant from her family, came in for counseling terrified by the discovery that her husband was having an affair with her best friend. Adding to the confusion, her husband wanted her to return home but refused to stop seeing the other woman. Ellen agreed, after our initial session, to return and try to sort through her questions and conflicts. Later the next week, however, she called me in a much cheerier voice to quit therapy. A miracle had occurred, she said. In a dream, God told her to return to her husband.... Rabbi Hirshel Jaffe ran 6 or 7 miles a day, never smoked or drank, and treated his body like a finely tuned instrument. He applied this same energetic style to his rabbinical work, throwing himself into efforts to help others, and asking little for himself in return. So his entire sense of a just world was th …

Kenneth I. Pargament, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at Bowling Green State University and past president of the Psychology of Religion Division of the American Psychological Association. (1998) He is the author of The Psychology of Religion and Coping: Theory, Research, Practice.

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