Personal Daily Reflection And Involuntary Loneliness: A test of Ignatius’ Examen in a Swedish local church context
AuthorsSvensson, Bengt S.
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AbstractInvoluntary loneliness has been recognised as a health hazard with the potential to cause physical pain in general, specific diseases, and risk premature death. In a culture characterised by highly independent individuals, the question of loneliness also needs to be addressed on a personal level. This research explores the thesis that the practice of Ignatius’ Examen has the potential to decrease involuntary subjective loneliness in the context of a Swedish Christian congregation. To test this thesis, it was necessary to examine both the larger historical and cultural contexts and the milieu of the congregation with reference to loneliness. According to the 2020 version of the Inglehart-Welzel World Cultural Map, Sweden has the most extreme position of Self-Expression Values. This test of the Examen is an example of an ecumenical activity in the frontier between Catholic and Protestant traditions, which adds to the hybridity of the project in a multidenominational congregation applying tools from different theological traditions and social science typical of practical theology. The personal encounter between God and the participant is the locus of the research and provides the paradigm from which the methodology is developed. The research used a mixed method of both quantitative and qualitative methods in a sequential and narrowing manner, beginning with an all-member survey, followed by a pre-test post-test quasi-experiment of the use of the Examen over 30 days, completed with six case studies based on interviews. The surveys indicate that one-third of church members suffer from high levels of involuntary loneliness, similar to Sweden in general. Of the 26 participants who tested the Examen, ten did it daily with a reduction of their loneliness from 43 to 34 (women) and 34 to 31 (men) on the UCLA Loneliness Scale (Version 3). Three themes were examined through a critical conversation with input from social science and theology: Image of God, relationships, and thankfulness. An I–Thou relationship with God seemed to be helpful. Relationships saw limited increases where established ones were maintained and restored. In reference to Mindfulness, both common ground and difference were observed, where the inherent direction of thankfulness was noted. Trust in people in general seemed to play a limited role. A moderate to high inverse correlation between loneliness and thankfulness was observed, as possibly the most significant observation of factors in this intervention to decrease involuntary loneliness. The different relationships, divine and human, were summed up under the concept of persons in relation, including closeness, trust, and gratitude.
CitationSvensson, B. S. (2021). Personal daily reflection and involuntary loneliness: A test of Ignatius’ Examen in a Swedish local church context [Unpublished doctoral thesis]. University of Chester.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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