Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Study finds prayer can help handle harmful emotions

14.12.2010
Those who choose to pray find personalized comfort during hard times, according to a University of Wisconsin-Madison sociologist.

The 75 percent of Americans who pray on a weekly basis do so to manage a range of negative situations and emotions — illness, sadness, trauma and anger — but just how they find relief has gone unconsidered by researchers.

Through the course of in-depth interviews with dozens of victims of violent relationships with intimate partners, Shane Sharp, a graduate student studying sociology at UW-Madison, gathered an array of ways prayer helped them deal with their situation and emotions through coping mechanisms such as venting. Sharp's interviewees represented a wide swath of the United States in geographic, educational and racial terms, and came largely from Christian backgrounds.

Those who were boiling with anger said they found "a readily available listening ear," says Sharp, who explores how prayer helps manage emotional pain in the current issue of the journal Social Psychology Quarterly.

"If they vented their anger to that abusive partner, the result was likely to be more violence," Sharp says. "But they could be angry at God while praying without fear of reprisal."

During any interpersonal interaction, the participants are considering how they look through the other's eyes. In the case of people who pray, they are considering God's view.

"During prayer, victims came to see themselves as they believed God saw them. Since these perceptions were mostly positive, it helped raise their senses of self-worth that counteracted their abusers' hurtful words," Sharp says.

Prayer is also a handy distraction for some, Sharp's study found. Simply folding hands and concentrating on what to say is a reprieve from the anxiety of an abusive relationship. The experience isn't that much different from a conversation with a close friend or a parent, he says.

"I looked at the act of praying, of speaking to God, as the same as a legitimate social interaction," Sharp says. "Instead of a concrete interaction you would have face-to-face with another person, prayer is with an imagined other."

That's not to diminish God's role by considering him an imagined participant in a prayer, Sharp adds. "On the contrary, I wouldn't expect prayer to have these benefits for people if they thought God wasn't real," he says. "The important point is that they believe God is real, and that has consequences for them emotionally and for their behavior."

Yet, the consequences of prayer aren't always positive. "For some, through prayer they told me they learned to forgive their abusive partners, to let go of their anger and resentment," Sharp says. "But that's a double-edged sword. It's good for those who are out of that violent relationship to let go of it to a certain extent. But if they're still in their violent relationship, it may postpone their decision to leave, and that can be bad."

That double-edged sword makes the mechanics of prayer an important topic for new research, according to Sharp. "Religion is often pointed to as a mostly positive or mostly negative thing," he says. "It's way more complicated than that."

Many of those interviewed by Sharp said they believe in God, but don't belong to a specific church. "They still pray," he says. "It's the most common religious practice you can find. For that reason alone it deserves more attention, and I think future research should consider prayer as an interaction instead of a one-sided act."

Chris Barncard, 608-890-0465, barncard@wisc.edu

Shane Sharp | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wisc.edu

Further reports about: Trauma harmful emotions hurtful words illness sadness social interaction

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

nachricht Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>