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Record Type: Review ID: 791
The Transformed Self: The Psychology of Religious Conversion
|The author who is a psychologist, writes about conversion as an experience that is "an instance of meaningful, sudden change in the course of individual lives" (p. vii). It is a form of exceptional human experience. Ullman's approach is refreshingly different from the standard one that views conversion as a sudden change in one's belief system. First, as is the case with many EHEs, she notes that the conversion experience brings about a change in the self. Her work is based on a study of mainly white, middle class, young adults (self-reports, interviews) who had visibly changed because of a conversion experience. She compared 40 religious converts with 30 nonconverts, all of whom were between the ages of 20 to 40. A common pattern emerged from her data: conversion primarily involves the individual's emotional life; it is preceded by a long period of turmoil and distress in life adjustment; it is characterized primarily as a search for psychological salvation, and—most importantly—"the typical convert was transformed not by a religion, but by a person" (p. xvi). The attachment that is at the base of the conversion experience could take three forms: an infatuation with an authority figure, a relationship with a new group of peers who provided love and acceptance, or "a passionate attachment to an unconditionally loving transcendent object" (p. xix). Ullman does not discuss whether or not these factors have always been a basis of religious conversion. Perhaps in earlier times the third (transcendent) emotional object was the most important, whereas in the secular world of the late 20th century, the first two may have become more important. If so, then Ullman's findings confirm the hypothesis that today and in the forseeable future the sacred will be found in the midst of secular life rather than in traditional religions. The focus of Chapter 5 is the relationship between conversion and self, with the emphasis on narcissism and conversion. However, Chapter 6 is devoted to experiences of conversion that appear to occur in response to a need for meaning, using Dorothy Day and Leo Tolstoy as illustrations. At key points she refers to the ideas of William James. Ullman concludes that emotional experience plays a central role in bringing about self-change, which is congruent with the view that any EHE, not just conversion, may serve as an embarkation point for self-change via the mobilization of emotion. The interview schedule and scoring rules are presented in three appendices.|
|Publisher Information:||New York: Plenum Press, 1989. 227p. Bibl: 215-221; Index: 223-227; 4 tables|
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