The Theoretical Bases for the Current Practice of Pastoral Counselling and Spiritual Direction

-Len Sperry

Transforming Self and community,

The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 2002



Reductionism is central to most current theories that un­derlie or inform the practice of spiritual direction and pastoral counselling. Ironically, these theories which portend to foster increased health and well-being seem to unwittingly foster and promote a culture of individualism and narcissism.1[1] Two forms of reductionism were described in the previous chapter: do­main reductionism and psychological reductionism. Both forms are evident in four prominent theories that underlie the practice of spiritual direction and pastoral counselling. The four theories are image of God theory, developmental stage theo­ries, personality type theory, and self-transcendence theory. While each theory has considerable face validity which proba­bly accounts for its popularity few have any empirical valida­tion, and all have significant limitations for the practice of spiritual direction and pastoral counselling.

Image of God Theory


Increasingly, clinical studies and survey research have elaborated image of God theory, which is also called imago dei and God-representations . Anna-Marie Rizzuto’s classic clini­cal study of a series of patients as reported in the book The Birth of the Living God has sparked considerable interest among psychotherapists, pastoral counselors, and spiritual di­rectors.[2]Rizzuto found that an individual’s God-representa­tion reflects one’s images of parents or other early caretakers. Object relations theory is psychoanalytic perspective that in­formed her research on the formation of God representations.

Object relations theory takes its name from “object rela­tions” or “object representations.” Object relations signify the child’s internalization of early significant individuals and the relational dynamics with such individuals, and the continuing psychic influence of these internalized object relations. Nor­mally, object relations develop and mature over time. The three phases or processes of this development are symbiosis, separa­tion-individuation, and object constancy. The basic develop­ment of one’s God representation occurs during these phases, and specifically involves transitional objects.

Symbiosis is a development process wherein children come to experience a sense of themselves in relation to other persons. The children need caretakers, usually the parents, who from birth will provide a self-regulating or “holding environ­ment” for them. A holding environment is the parents’ capac­ity to communicate to children the message: “I’m strong enough to take care of you and protect you. I’m going to hold you. I’ll take care of you. I’ll comfort you. I’ll soothe you.” Things are perfect in the beginning, as the children’s sense of self is merged with that of mother. The children most likely believe they are in control of everything, and they are as long as mom is at their beck and call.

Separation-individuation occurs throughout the course of life. The earliest occur when children gradually assume the holding and self-regulating function themselves. However, children are not ready to directly assume this responsibility~ so they essentially “trick” themselves. It is as if the children say to themselves: “Let me take that holding function that’s not under my control, but transfer it to an object, which is going to be much more clearly under my control.” A blanket or teddy bear not only will be under the child’s total control, but it soothes the anxiety of growing and becoming a separate per­son. There is a distortion of external reality because the child treats the object with the properties that previously were shown to the child by the parent, the one who really had the soothing capacity. Transitional objects allow all of us to pro­gressively exercise this holding/soothing function by proxy. Transitional objects help one in exploring one’s environment and learning how to master it. It represents an intermediate step in the process of internalizing this self-regulating capacity~ By age three or four children have developed enough capacity to understand and master the environment around them that they are now able reduce their distortion of reality.

A transitional object is an intermediate experience be­tween self and object which serves to soothe separation anxiety and facilitate individuality the sense of one’s own unique iden­tity. A related term is “transitional phenomena,” which includes both transitional objects and “transitional modes.” Transitional modes refer to later life experiences in normal persons. A transitional mode is a resting place or temporary suspension of higher ego functions like logical thinking which can free the person to deeply experience other modes of reality, such as music, the performing arts, or creative expression. In essence, the transitional mode has a soothing function, but for the pur­pose of further self-integration and self-transformation.

When speaking of God, the term “transitional object” is not used. This is because God is not an object, but rather a special type of object representation created by the child in that unique psychic space where transitional objects—whether toys, blankets, or mental representations—are provided with their powerfully real illusory lives. God is a transitional phe­nomena because God does not follow the usual course of other transitional objects. Generally, over the course of life the transitional object loses its meaning and value as the individual be­comes a self-regulating person. On the other hand, instead of losing meaning God becomes more meaningful over the years. When other transitional objects can be repressed or even for­gotten, God cannot be fully repressed. God is always poten­tially available for further love, acceptance, anger, or even rejection. God is psychically useful for us and remains a transi­tional phenomenon at the service of gaining leverage with oneself with others, and with life itself. According to Rizzuto, God, like the teddy bear, has obtained half of his stuffing or holding function from his parents, and the other half of God’s stuffing comes from the child’s capacity to “create” a God ac­cording to his own needs.[3]This process of creating and finding God—this transitional phenomenon—never ceases in the course of life. It is further shaped and reinforced by culture. God has a special place in our culture such as in the dedication of our Constitution, our money system (coins & bills), holi­days like Easter and Christmas, church buildings, tax credits, and the like.

Object constancy is the developmental process wherein children are able to enter into stable and loving relationships with others perceived as fully separate and independent from themselves—the children’s image of God becomes less con­crete and more conceptual. This cognitive development is fa­cilitated, in large part, through fantasy. The earliest stage of fantasy is the imaginary companion. The imaginary friend or companion helps to solve daily problems in relating to others. Children’s newly developing imaginations serve as a buffer in the harsh world they begin to experience. The imaginary com­panion plays a specific positive role in child development, and once that role is fulfilled the “friend” tends to disappear. Specifically, the imaginary friend can serve as a scapegoat for badness or negative impulses, a playmate when no one else is available, a confirmer of the child’s sense of omnipotent control, etc. The nature and structure of fantasy elaborates as chil­dren grow and develop. For male children, the sequence from three years onward is monster—devil—hero—super hero.[4]

Imaginary companions and monsters help children toler­ate their badness, rageful impulses, deceptions, and frustra­tions. They also represent children’s grandiose sense of power. It’s been said that monsters help children know, master, and forget the monster children feel or fear themselves to be. At the age of two children learn that God is taken seriously by adults, that God will punish them, bless them, or love them. Though children can’t see God, they come to sense that God is powerful, everywhere, and rules everything. Of necessity chil­dren’s God image utilizes the representation of the most significant parent available at the moment.

At two and one-half years of age children discover that things are made by people. They then question how things like clouds or oceans are made. Upon being told that God made them, children need to imagine that God is formidable enough to make big things like clouds. This kind of questioning and wonder continues through age five.

At age six children grasp the concept of God as creator of the world, of animals, and of beautiful things. And they begin to develop a feeling relationship with God. Prayer becomes important and they believe that prayer will be the answer. God’s counterpart at this stage is the devil. It probably reflects children’s hostile, sadistic parental representation. Later, as children begin to experience disillusionment with their par­ents, they are likely to have elaborate fantasies about having a set of ideal, imaginary parents, and fantasies of having a twin or a guardian angel to play with and guide them. Actually, it may be that Bible stories and pictures of heaven and a better life serve the same function as some of these fantasies.

Thus, by about the age of six a formal God representation is formed. Rizzuto notes that finally together with this colourful crowd of characters and amidst fantasies, wishes, fears, and sex­ual preoccupation, God formally arrives. God acquires a special and superior status because of multiple socio-cultural religious, ritualistic, and family factors.[5]This representation continues to be modified and reinforced throughout latency and adoles­cence, particularly with images of heroes and super heroes: rock stars, sports figures, movie stars, and even politicians.

In summary, there appears to be a developmental sequence of the God representation: children grow and develop a transitional reality~ an intermediate space, in which they can momen­tarily shift from being centered and dependent on their parents to the larger outside world. In early childhood children experi­ence this transitional reality as one which is “alive” with imag­ined people and monsters. These images provoke intense feelings of fright and vulnerability that heretofore had been buffered by parents’ deeply reassuring words and very presence. Often in this period God arrives on the scene of youngsters’ consciousness. Because of what they have been taught by oth­ers, God becomes supreme, God is the ultimate: the strongest, the biggest, the best. As a result monsters now lose their terrify­ing power and grip over the children’s imaginations. Later, the young children have internalized a simple cognitive notion of God which becomes part of how they see themselves in the world. As the children grow and begin the process of separating from their parents, they now can join the larger world. This process is facilitated because children have both an earthly father and a heavenly God with whom to relate.

If the developmental process proceeds normality, children learn to differentiate the earthly father from the heavenly father

who is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-protective. In this process of differentiation the earthly parent becomes less divine and more a fallible human being. In this critical time, the God image can become confused and distorted if differentiation is poorly accomplished. Distortions can also occur if the quality and consistency of children’s bonding with their parents is com­promised. The parents’ own image of God also influences the formation of the young people’s image of God. To the extent that the parental God image is relatively mature and that par­ent-adolescent relations are relatively harmonious, the adolescent is likely to have a realistic, balanced, and healthy God image. But to the extent that the parental God representation is distorted and parent-adolescent relations are ambivalent and conflicted, the young person is likely to develop a distorted rep­resentation and style of relating to God.[6]The quality of the relationship between parents cannot be overemphasized. Parenthetically, it has been suggested forming a God representa­tion is somewhat different for young girls than it is for boys.[7]

Critique of Image of God Theory


Perhaps the major critique of God-representation and image of God theory is that there are no systematic empirical investigations published which validate the theory.[8]Neverthe­less, there have been numerous doctoral dissertations on the topic and several survey studies reported. The survey research suggests some interesting correlations between God image and marital functioning, theological views, political party affiliation, and voting preferences.[9]From a holistic and integrative perspective, image of God theory is rather limited in that it concerns only limited aspects of the spiritual and psychological domains while excluding the moral domain entirely.

Applications to Spiritual Direction and Pastoral Counseling


What is value and utility of God representations in pastoral counseling and spiritual development? Rizzuto describes the therapeutic value of understanding clients’ God representations:

Careful exploration of the subjective description of an individ­ual’s God may reveal precious information about the type of psychic and interpersonal events that led to the particular char­acteristics attributed to God. . . . An understanding of an individual’s God representation may provide, in turn, information about his or her psychic history and the types of obstacles that interfere with potential belief or with the updating of the God representation. I am referring now to [intrapsychic] processes . . . that may obstruct the transformation of the God represen­tation and of religious behaviour to a level more compatible with the individual’s developmental moment’[10]

Leroy Hower, in the book The Image of God: A Theology for Pastoral Care and Counseling,[11] describes an interesting clinical application of image of God theory.” He has correlated a the­ology of the image of God with object relations theory and ap­plied it to the pastoral counseling setting. Similarly, Deborah Hunsinger, in her book Theology and Pastoral Counseling, has correlated Karl Barth’s theology with the psychoanalytic per­spective on God representations as the basis for practicing pas­toral counseling.[12]Taylor reviewed Howe’s The Image of God in an international journal for spiritual directors and found it to be directly applicable and useful to the practice of spiritual direction.[13]Both of these efforts have greatly extended this theory to clinical practice.

Regrettably, all these approaches focus only on the psy­chological and spiritual domains, and a very narrow psycholog­ical theory, psychoanalytic theory. Their emphasis is primarily on the affective dimension. Because they do not address the moral domain, nor other dimensions of human experience such as the intellectual, somatic, or socio-political, these approaches are somewhat reductionistic and also clinically limited.

Developmental Stage Theory


A number of developmental stage theories relevant to the spiritual domain were generated in the 1970s and 1980s. Among them were theories of moral development, faith devel­opment, self development, and spiritual development. Moral and faith development theories will be briefly described in this section along with a more detailed discussion of theories of self and spiritual development.

Moral Development Theory


Lawrence Kohlberg proposed a stage model of moral de­velopment which specifies three increasingly complex develop­mental levels involving six stages.[14]Kohlberg’s intent was to describe the developmental process of moral reasoning rather than moral action, aware that the link between moral reason­ing and action is elusive.

He proposed three levels of moral reasoning: pre-conven­tional, conventional, and post-conventional. He predicted that the relationship between moral reasoning and action would be strongest at the post-conventional level, where actions are theorized to be mediated by rational principles. The first developmental level, pre-conventional morality, is characterized by morality that is externally based and emphasizes external control. Stage i is the punishment and obedience orientation, while stage 2 is the instrumental relativist orientation wherein right and wrong are determined by what behaviour gets re-warded. The second developmental level, conventional morality, is characterized by morality that emphasizes pleasing others or maintaining standards. Stage 3 is interpersonal concordance orientation, which is also called “Good boy,” “nice girl” stage of moral development, while stage 4 involves social system maintenance, also called the law and order orientation. The third developmental level, post-conventional morality, in­volves moral reasoning based on abstract moral principles. Stage 5 is the social contract orientation, while stage 6 is the universal ethical principles orientation.

Faith Development Theory


Rather than conceptualizing faith in terms of specific beliefs, James Fowler conceptualizes faith as representing how individuals develop cognitively and spiritually in dealing with ultimate, transcendental reality and meaning.[15]He describes faith development in six stages, with a pre-faith stage repre­senting an emergent stage in which a fund of trust and mutu­ality is built up during the first years of life.

Stage 1: This is called Intuitive-Projective Faith, which is a fantasy-filled, imitative phase in which children can be powerfully and permanently influenced by the visible faith of primary related adults.

Stage 2: This is called Mythic-Literal Faith, wherein individuals begin to take on for themselves the stories, beliefs, and observances that symbolize belonging to their community.

Stage 3: This is called Synthetic-Conventional Faith, where faith is structured in interpersonal but mostly conformist terms. This stage is normative for most adults.

Stage 4: This is called Individuative-Reflective Faith, in which the self and one’s beliefs begin to take on a personal­ized system of explicit meanings to which one is personally committed.

Stage 5: This is called Conjunctive Faith, which involves the integration and syntheses of opposing ideas and beliefs. At this stage individuals have the capacity to critically analyze their beliefs and allow them to energize their behaviour.

Stage 6: This is called Universalizing Faith, which involves looking beyond the constraining paradoxes and the spe­cific content of one’s particular faith to seek a future order of relating justly and lovingly to others.

Self-Development Theory


Robert Kegan has proposed a stage theory of self-devel­opment that is highly regarded by spiritual directors and pas­toral counselors because it addresses the two basic human desires expressed in all spiritual literature: the desire for attach­ment or relationship, and the desire for separation or auton­omy.[16]While this theory is less well known than either Kohlberg’s or Fowler’s developmental stage theories, this the­ory informs the practice of many spiritual directors and pas­toral counselors. Accordingly, it is described in more detail than the other stage theories.

The basic dynamic of this model is that meaning-making is what defines human nature and that emotion is understood as the experience of defending, surrendering, and reconstruct­ing a center of meaning. Self-other relations emerge from the ongoing process of development, which involve a succession of increasing differentiations of the self from the world. The re-sult of this process is a more complex object of relation.

Basic to every stage of the development of the self is the continuous and evolving meaning-making evolution. Fusion, differentiation, and belonging are activities that recur in new forms at each phase of development as a person makes the meaning of “self” and “other” again and again. Each stage of development can surrender its controlling independence, for freely chosen interdependence involves balancing the universal longing for both autonomy and attachment. Unlike other stage theories, Kegan describes the necessity for development be­yond the stage of autonomous self-direction, wherein control is favoured over mutuality which inhibits intimacy. For Kegan, the most mature stage is one in which the self surrenders its controlling independence for freely chosen interdependence and relates to others with mutuality and equality. From this perspective, spiritual maturity becomes a matter of freely sur­rendering oneself and risking a genuinely mutual relationship with others and with God.

The specific stages of development are:

Stage 1: the Impulsive Stage, wherein the self evolves from the “Incorporative,” which is undifferentiated and con­trolled by reflexes; Kegan labels it Stage “O.” The impulsive self is embedded in and subjected to impulses and perceptions which are unorganized and constantly changing. The result is that the impulsive self can rapidity alternate between extremes of emotion. It cannot tolerate ambivalence.

Stage 2: the Imperial Stage, where in the emergence of concrete operational thinking children create an interior world and objectify impulses and perceptions. The resuit is that the self is no longer controlled by impulses and perceptions and can actively and purposefully explore its environment.

Stage 3: the Interpersonal Stage, wherein the self is able to relate to others by coordinating its needs with the needs of others and by exhibiting some measure of empathy.

Stage 4: the Institutional Stage, wherein a coherent sense of identity is achieved which means this self is able to separate itself from its relationships and can experience a sense of self ownership. At this stage this self is unable to fully and critically reflect on this organization.

Stage 5: the Inter-individual Stage, wherein the self be­comes capable of surrendering its controlling autonomy and independence for freely chosen interdependence, and thereby relates to others with mutuality and equality.

Stages of Spiritual Development


David Helminiak has proposed a stage model of spiritual development.[17]His basic assumption is that spiritual develop­ment embraces all these dimensions of human development rather than being a separate line of development alongside physical, emotional, intellectual, moral, ego, or faith develop­ment. Spiritual development is a process of ongoing integration of the human spiritual principle into the deep structures of the personality, which is characterized by four factors: in­tegrity or wholeness, openness, self-responsibility, and authen­tic self-transcendence. Helminiak describes five distinct developmental stages in this process of integration.

Stage 1: the Conformist Stage, which is the beginning point of spiritual development and is characterized by a deeply felt and extensively rationalized worldview, accepted on the basis of external authority and supported by approval of one’s significant others.

Stage 2: the Impulsive Stage, which is characterized by be­ginning to assume responsibility for the awareness that because of unthinking adherence to an inherited worldview one has ac­tually abdicated responsibility for one’s life. At this stage individuals begin to learn that their lives are what they decide to make of them.

Stage 3: the Conscientious Stage, which is the first true stage of spiritual development and is characterized by the achievement of significantly structuring their life according to their own understanding of things, by optimism regarding their newly accepted sense of responsibility for themselves and their world, and by commitment to their principles.

Stage 4: the Compassionate Stage, wherein individuals learn to surrender some of the world they have so painstak­ingly constructed for themselves. Their commitments are no less intense, but they are more realistic, more nuanced, and more supported by deeply felt and complex emotion.

Stage 5: the Cosmic Stage, in which as this final stage un­folds, an individual’s habitual patterns of perception, cognition, interrelation, and all others become more fully authentic. There is a profound merging, insofar as it is possible, between spirit and self. It is that state of full integration and authenticity.

Critique of Developmental Stage Theories


To date, none of these basic developmental theories has held up well to the increasing scrutiny of theological critics and psychological researchers.[18]Both theoretical and praxis limitations have been noted. Prominent among these is reduc­tionism. Furthermore, there is only marginal research support for the two most widely studied theories, those of Erik Erik­son and Lawrence Kohlberg. Since these developmental theo­ries or models principally address a single domain and one or two dimensions, while excluding consideration of the others, they are essentially reductionistic theories. Accordingly, they have limited value and utility as foundations for the practice of spiritual direction and pastoral counseling when viewed from the perspective of human experience.

Applications to Spiritual Direction and Pastoral Counseling


Joann Wolski Conn, in Spirituality and Personal Maturity[19] and Eiizabeth Liebert, in Changing Life Patterns: Adult Development in Spiritual Direction,[20] have utilized Kegan’s model of self-development and skilfully articulated and demonstrated its clinical utility in spiritual direction and pastoral counseling.

Psychological Types Theory


The classification of human persons into types has a long history beginning with Hippocrates’ humoral types. Today, there are two theories of personality types that are widely used by spiritual directors and pastoral counselors: the Enneagram[21] and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Their popular­ity is related to the ease of helping others understand them­seives and their relationships in terms of a limited number of personality types or categories: the Enneagram involves nine types while the Myers-Briggs involves up to sixteen types.

Both of these personality typing systems are based on dif­ferent personality theories. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is based on Jung’s theory of personality types or functions. The MBTI emphasizes the constructs of introver­sion/extroversion, sensation/intuition, thinking/feeling, and perceiving/judging. The Enneagram was initially believed to have its roots in Sufi mysticism. However, recently Rohr and Ebert suggest the Enneagram has Christian earlier roots dating at least to the Desert Fathers.2’ In the theory underlying the Enneagram, each personality type is defined by a compulsion or basic driving forced to avoid unpleasantness. The basic compulsion is an individual s vice or hidden sin and redemp­tion” from one’s compulsion comes from “moving against” that compulsion. Finally, both of these personality typing systems can be assessed through observation, interview, or psychomet­ric inventories. Unlike the MBTI, which “began as a psychological inventory and was later employed in guiding spiritual development, the Enneagram began as the mapping of a spir­itual practice that was psychologized when it was introduced into the West.”[22]Since the Enneagram is more commonly uti­lized than the MBTI in spiritual direction, it will be briefly de-scribed in the following section.



The Enneagram is a system of human development which maps nine different personality types and their interre­lationships. Each type differs in its world view and self-view. Each Enneagram type has a distinct set of talents and traps or compulsive strivings. Each has its own way of becoming im­balanced and its own way of achieving transcendence. Al­though every person could possess ail the talents and traps of all nine patterns, each type characteristically engages in certain behaviours more than others. This pattern becomes a habitual or automatic way of being.

The Enneagram is an approach to personality typing that combines modem psychological understanding with ancient teachings to provide a psycho spiritual tool for personal devel­opment. Unlike most other systems and approaches, the Enneagram distinguishes one’s personality from one’s basic essence. The personality is that which appears as one’s type traits and automatic, unconscious behaviours. It is akin to one’s persona or “false self.” On the other hand, essence transcends personality and reflects a universal quality and connects an individual with the spiritual domain. This is akin to one’s “true” self. While the Enneagram system lends itself as a therapeutic tool in improving one’s career and relationships, many thera­pists and spiritual directors view the Enneagram as a very powerful tool for spiritual development and transformation.

Two aspects of the Enneagram that spiritual directors find useful for spiritual development are the specification of virtues and vices for each type. The basic vices are akin to the seven capital sins of Christian tradition: pride, avarice, anger, envy, lust, gluttony, and sloth, to which are added fear and deceit. The virtues, then, are the polar opposites of these vices: humility, non-attachment, serenity, equanimity, innocence, sobriety or temperance, action, courage, and truthfulness.

The following are brief Enneagram descriptions of the nine personality types. Each characterization includes a de­scription of the basic need and behavioural traits, as well as 1ev-els of functioning: healthy, average, and unhealthy. It also includes the basic virtue and vice associated with each type. These characterizations are based on the work of Don Riso and Russ Hudson[23]and Richard Rohr.[24]

Type 1 people have a need to be perfect. Thus, they strive to be right and avoid being wrong. They are often perfection­ists and have a strong sense of morality. Healthy Ones exhibit conscientiousness, discernment, integrity, and strong sense of purpose in life. They live balanced, serene lives. Ones with an average level of psychological health and well-being are driven by an inner set of standards that tends to be quite rigorous, and independent of what other people might tell them. Hence, the average One is quite self-critical and critical of others when they expect the same high standards of others that they have imposed on themselves. Ones get much of their energy from anger; at best, this energy is channelled into discipline, organization, a strong work ethic, and a love of fairness, justice, and truth. Unhealthy Ones tend to be inflexible, opinionated, and trapped by their own rules and principles. Serenity is the virtue and anger is the vice associated with this type.


Type 2 people have a need to be needed. Thus, they focus their lives on giving and receiving love. They want to know that they are first in people’s hearts, and enjoy the challenge of drawing people into their emotional web, often by seductive means. Healthy Twos are charming people who spontaneously help others, give thoughtful gifts, and make themselves indis­pensable without expecting anything in return. Average Twos still give to others, but may expect attention, material rewards, romantic favors, or other special privileges in return. They can be patronizing, overbearing, and even highhanded. They can play favorites and pretend to help others while creating depen­dency relationships that use others for their own emotional needs. Unhealthy Twos can be manipulative and self-serving in the quest to gain others’ attention and favor. They feel en­titled to get what they want and feel victimized if they don’t get it. They then feel justified in using disparaging remarks, guilt, and even stalking to get what they want and need. Humility is the virtue and pride is the vice associated with this type.

Type 3 people have a need to succeed. They tend to be impressive individuals with impressive credentials and high profile friends and associates. They are adaptable individuals who are masters of managing the impression of being intelli­gent, talented, successful, and concerned about others. Accord­ingly, they easily win the admiration and trust of others, and tend to be sought out as public speakers and spokespersons for organizations and causes. Extroverted Threes tend to be charming and glib individuals who use their networking skills to enhance their image and careers, while introverted Threes are more likely to promote themselves through their skills and competence. Healthy Threes are authentic, self-accepting, inner-directed persons who can communicate with heartfelt simplicity and gentile graciousness. Average Threes tend to be driven individuals who are pragmatic, image-conscious, social climbing individuals who seek and expect recognition for their accomplishments and polished facade. Unhealthy Threes can be exploitative and deceptive, doing whatever it takes to suc­ceed or convince others of their superiority. Truthfulness is the virtue and deceit is the vice associated with this type.

Type 4 people have a need to be special. They seldom settle for the ordinary and humdrum and are incredulous that most around them do. They combine emotional intensity with sensitivity and intuition. Extroverted fours have a deep need to express themselves in very personal ways, often with art, theatre, or literature. Fours can be painfully self-aware people, which often motivates their interest in emotional and spiritual growth. Healthy Fours are emotionally honest and authentic. Because of their emotional awareness, fours can be extraordi­narily compassionate and spiritually mature. Average Fours tend to bring this same emotional intensity to dose relationships, often with dramatic and unsettling results. Unhealthy Fours tend to overly focus on and brood about their inner pain, which leads to despair or to becoming hyperactive and flamboyant to mask inner pain. Equanimity is the virtue and envy is the vice associated with this type.

Type 5 people have a need to perceive. Thus, the Five is the most mentally intense of all the types, but they tend to mask this intensity with an air of detachment. Fives tend to think before they act, just the opposite of most other types. Healthy Fives make excellent researchers, investigators, schol­ars, and scientists. They are highly independent and their need

for privacy may lead to them becoming socially isolated, which can either lead to brilliance or weirdness, or both. Some Fives are intellectually arrogant, while others are very kind and thoughtful. Healthy Fives love learning, become experts in their field, and are highly imaginative and innovative individuals who are well grounded in life and have secure identities. Average Fives often have a cynical worldview and their tendency toward detachment makes their thinking quite idiosyncratic. Unhealthy Fives tend to be reclusive, eccentric, and suspicious individuals who can be quite antagonistic and emotionally overwrought. Nonattachment is the virtue and avarice is the vice associated with this type.

Type 6 people have a need for certainty and security. As such they tend to be affectionate while being careful and safety-minded. Female Sixes are likely to exhibit affection and appear dependent on others, while male Sixes are more likely to hide the degree to which they depend on others. Sixes are exquisitely sensitive to danger and so tend to seek the compan­ionship of other like-minded individuals. While they can be endearing and playful, they are also anxious and reactive. Thus, they may simultaneously like others, but also fear the power that others have over them. They value trust, but may be afraid of trusting others who might hurt them. Sixes also have nos­talgic tendencies and resist changes, which they find threaten­ing. They may be afraid to take action on their own, and prefer to work in teams where a common goal and companionship permits them to feel protected. They tend to be unquestionably loyal to those whom they trust. Healthy Sixes are engag­ing, friendly, and playful individuals, albeit somewhat ingratiating. Average Sixes look to others for support and guidance and often seek reassurance since they are never quite sure that they are doing enough to be secure. Unhealthy Sixes may be clinging and self-disparaging to the point of experienc­ing phobias or panic attacks. Or, they may be present as counter phobic, i.e., acting tough and menacing while denying the need for support. Courage is the virtue and fear is the vice associated with this type.

Type 7 people have a need to avoid pain. Thus, they are fun-loving and adventurous individuals and so they tend to shun boredom and crave excitement. They are likely to be en­thusiastic, naturally entertaining, and sometimes even sensa­tionalistic. Sevens tend to talk fast, move fast, and are masters at multi-tasking. They are often the life of the party but will suddenly disappear when it’s time to clean up. Healthy Sevens are exuberant and eternally youthful, while average Sevens are childish in their need for instant gratification. Healthy Sevens can be extremely productive while still having fun in their work. Unhealthy Sevens often battle against boredom, leading to breakdowns if boredom persists. Sobriety is the virtue and gluttony is the vice associated with this type.

Type 8 people have a need to be against. Eights are as­sertive, speak their minds, make quick decisions, and respect others who do the same. They resist working for others or being controlled by any authority, and often champion the underdog. They dislike threats to their dominance or individuals who hide information from them, and may force confronta­tions with others to elicit the truth. Eights crave being in control, but may also give autonomy to subordinates they trust. They may show a softer side and be unusually compassionate and understanding to those in need or trouble. However, Un-healthy Eights can be quite tyrannical, destructive, and self-serving. Healthy Eights are often very effective leaders, as are many ordinary individuals who are confident and refused to be used or dominated by others. Innocence is the virtue and lust is the vice associated with this type.

Type 9 people have a need to avoid. They give the appear­ance of being easy-going, patient, and pleasant individuals who are good listeners. While these traits are indeed present, most Nines experience considerable anxiety and anger that is hid­den, even from themselves. Occasionally, this anger may erupt with an intensity that is often surprising to themselves and others. Average Nines typically have problems motivating themselves, and instead they “go with the flow” of the people

around them. Healthy Nines are receptive, open, emotionally stable and unselfconscious. Unhealthy nines may be obstinate and stubborn and can be neglectful and irresponsible. Over time they become increasingly helpless and ineffectual. Action is the virtue and sloth is the vice associated with this type.

Critique of Personality Type Theories


There are four basic criticisms of such personality typing. The first criticism is spiritual and cultural in nature. Downey notes that the MBTI and Enneagram “categorize rich and di-verse spiritual experiences far too neatly . . . [such that] serious reflection and discernment are avoided.”[25]He also contends that personality typing systems like the Enneagram and the MBTI have “become virtual synonymous with spirituality in some circles. The result is that spirituality has become jargon ridden. . . . It seems to have eclipsed the salvific as the gov­erning category in spirituality”[26]The implication is that these approaches are reductionistic, in that the mysteries and language of Christianity are reduced to psychological categories.

A second criticism is philosophical. It is that personality typing is a violation of uniqueness and individuality; further­more, the Enneagram’s theory of three centres appears to deny the primacy of human free will. Using prefabricated categories for understanding and predicting human behaviour is reduc­tionistic and frustrates the self-understanding which these ap­proaches propose to offer. Similarly, labelling oneself and others with these types can be demeaning.

A third criticism is scientific. While there is considerable face validity to both the Enneagram and the MBTI, there is considerably less research support for the validity of either ap­proach. This is not to say there is no empirical support for these approaches. Actually, when compared to image of God theories, self-transcendence theory, and of stage theories of self-development and spiritual development, the Enneagram and the MBTI have some empirical support, at least with regard to some of the paper and pencil inventories for assessing these factors. Psychometric data, i.e., validity and reliability data, has been reported on the Stanford Enneagram Discovery Inventory and Guide [27]and on the Wagner Enneagram Personal­ity Style Scales[28] described in the paper and pencil inventories.

A fourth set of criticisms are theological and levelled primarily at the Enneagram. The basic strategy proposed for growth and change, “moving against” compulsion to find redemption, favours salvation-by-works and appears to exclude grace. Because the Enneagram is based on a theology of en­lightenment and self-transformation, it appears to be incom­patible with the Christian ideal oflove and self-surrender, and the corollary of seeking both self and social transformation.[29] In short, like previously noted theories, personality type theo­ries have been criticized as being reductionistic and self focused. In addition, serious philosophical and theological reservations have been noted for the Enneagram.

Applications in Spiritual Direction and Pastoral Counseling


Several books applying Enneagram principles to spiritual development have been published in the past decade. These applications span the Judeo-Christian continuum. In the Catholic tradition these include Susan Zuercher’s Enneagram Companions: Growing in Relationships and SpiritualDirection.[30] In the Anglican tradition is Peter Bali’s Anglican Spiritual Direction.[31] In the Jewish tradition is Howard Addison’s The Enneagram and Kabbalah: Reading Your Soul.[32]



Self-Transcendence Theory


Walter Conn, in The Desiring Self: Rooting Pastoral Coun­seling and Spiritual Direction in Self-Transcendence,[33]has pro-posed a theory of self as the foundational basis for pastoral counseling and spiritual direction. He defines self—transcen­dence as the “radical desire of the self for both autonomy and relationship, the dual desire to be a self and to reach out be­yond the self to world, others, and God.”[34]It is a theory of a “dipolar self” in which there is a self-as-subject and self-as object. This theory deftly integrates the seemingly contradic­tory themes of self-realization and self-surrender. Conn gives another name for this dual desire, “relational autonomy,” and contends that the goal of both pastoral counseling and spiritual direction is to facilitate relational autonomy.

Critique of Self-Transcendence Theory


While this theory is possibly the best articulated foundational basis for pastoral counseling and spiritual direction, it is problematic because of its apparent reductionism. Conn’s nearly exclusive focus on the spiritual and the psychological, i.e., affective and intellectual dimensions of human experience, effectively dismisses or subordinates the moral, somatic, and social dimensions. Furthermore, to assume that relational autonomy is the only goal of spiritual direction and pastoral counseling is similarly reductionistic. Finally, the major spirit­ual and religious traditions emphasize transformation, not only of self but of the community, as the outcome of the spiritual journey rather than the much narrower primary focus on self and self-transcendence . Accordingly, transformation, rather than merely self-transcendence, is a more reasonable goal of spiritual direction and pastoral counseling. In addition, a more holistic formulation might be a tripolar self, in which “self in-community” extends the dipolar self. Conn’s theory speci­fies that two self-capacities, “autonomy” and “self-surrender,” are essential for self-transcendence. By comparison, the inte­grative model proposed in this chapter posits thirteen requisite self-capacities as essential for transformation.

Applications in Spiritual Direction and Pastoral Counseling


A recent book on self-transcendence theory applied to spiritual direction and pastoral counseling is Conn’s Desiring Self Rooting Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Direction in Self Transcendence. While Conn provides a self-transcendence for­mulation of one case, there are no indications on how this formulation would be implemented in that case example or in others. Thus, at this time the clinical utility and practical ap­plications of self-transcendence theory within spiritual direc­tion and pastoral counseling that Conn promises in his book have yet to be demonstrated.

The Stages and Processes of Theory Development


A basic methodological issue that must be addressed in any serious discussion of pastoral counseling and spiritual di­rection involves the status of theory development in these two specialties. The mark of a discipline’s maturity is reflected by the presence of validated theories. In the process of Western intellectual inquiry orderly stages of theory development can be described. The sequence of stages proceeds from observa­tion to taxonomy to model and then to theory.[35]

      A taxonomy is a formal way of classifying and ordering ob­servations of a phenomena. For example, the dimensions of human experience represents a taxonomy. The listings and clas­sification of symptomatic distress and impaired functioning for each diagnostic entities in DSM-IV is also an example of a tax­onomy.[36]The value and viability of a taxonomy is determined by the extent to which it is comprehensive in ordering observation.

Models are simplified representations of a reality They are means of specifying relationships between and among ordered observations—taxonomies—of ideas, concepts, or methods. The diagnostic system of DSM-IV is an example of a model of psychopathology. The value and viability of a model is deter­mined by the extent to which it represents these relationships.

The next progression in the sequence is theory. Theory is defined as a means for explaining a wide set of observations and the relationships among these observations. The value and viability of a theory is determined by the adequacy of explana­tion. Unfortunately, there are few proposed theories that meet this test. For example, there are at least three hundred theories of psychotherapy, and each posits some explanation for how psychopathology originates and can be changed or cured. However, none of these theories has been scientifically vali­dated. In fact, the DSM-IV is described as an a-theoretical model of psychopathology. It remains a model based on tax­onomies since there is not sufficient understanding of the eti­ology and pathogenesis of mental disorders to fashion a viable explanatory account or theory of psychopathology. Although there has been considerable scientific progress in recent years, it is not anticipated that a viable theory of psychopathology will be forthcoming for quite some time.

It appears that in their enthusiasm to become professional specialties, pastoral counseling and spiritual direction have short-circuited this sequence with disastrous results. The sequence was subverted by jumping from limited observation of human experience to positing models and theories or import­ing them from other disciplines. A major consequence of this short-circuiting is that current theories and models are notably reductionistic and have limited clinical utility and viability

At this stage of their development and professionaliza­tion, it may be premature to expect that an adequate and viable foundational theory for the practice of pastoral counseling and spiritual direction will emerge soon. Rather, it is more realistic to focus efforts on the development of comprehensive and integrative taxonomies and models. To short-circuit this arduous and necessary stage in the sequence of theory development seems futile and self-defeating.

The integrative model detailed in Chapter 6 is not proposed as the definitive foundational model, but rather as an ex­ample of the direction model-building in pastoral counseling and spiritual direction might proceed. This proposed model integrates and correlates three taxonomies—of virtues, spirit­ual practices, and self-capacities—as they relate conceptually and practically to the dimensions of transformation.

Presumably, the outcome of this effort will have both pos­itive and heuristic value. Its positive value would be evident to the extent that it improves the practice and outcomes of pas­toral counseling and spiritual direction. Its heuristic value would be evident by proposed refinements to the model as well as the development of other integrative taxonomies and foundational models. Ultimately, such an integrative foundation will serve to bolster the identity of pastoral counseling and spiritual direction as separate from, albeit interdependent of, the psychological and human sciences, as well as to sharpen the focus of these areas of clinical practice.

Criteria for a Holistic and Integrative Model


Carolyn Gratton contends that those who practice spiritual direction and pastoral counseling are desperately “in need of an integrative theoretical framework as a foundation. This framework would be multi-disciplinary, inclusive of the full spectrum of the dimension of the human person and of their life field.”[37]Three key criteria are indicated by Gratton for such a theoretical framework. The framework must be integrative, multidisciplinary, and include the dimensions of human experience. Similarly, addressing the need for an inte­grative framework for pastoral counseling, Abigail Evans calls for the integration to include “spirituality and the ethical” in addition to the psychological dimension.[38]

An integrative model of pastoral counseling and spiritual direction that meets Gratton’s three criteria will be described and illustrated. It is integrative in that it provides a critical correlation and synthesis of various psychological and theological constructs. It is multidisciplinary in that it draws upon the dis­ciplines of spirituality, moral philosophy, systematic theology, moral theology, and personality theory and psychotherapy. In addition, it includes the psychological, spiritual, and moral do­mains of human experience. Finally, it emphasizes the process or journey of transformation and the dimensions of transfor­mation. As such, it contrasts with the current reductionistic theories and models.



The chapter began with the context and current practice of pastoral counseling and spiritual direction beginning with human experience, i.e., client concerns and expectations. Next, it illustrated current practice with case studies of spiritual di­rection and pastoral counseling, highlighting not only theoretical, but also practical limitations of current practice. Four theories that are commonly utilized by spiritual directors and pastoral counselors were briefly described and critiqued: image of God, developmental stages, psychological types, and self transcendence. Although favoured by many, none has held up well to increasing scrutiny; there is only marginal research sup­port for some aspects of each theory, and all have significant theoretical and praxis limitations, the most serious being re­ductionism as well as individualism. Consequently, it was con­cluded that they have limited conceptual viability, practical value, and utility as foundations for the practice of pastoral counseling and spiritual direction.

Rather than proposing a developmental stage approach, a construct such as image of God, a theory of self-transcendence, or any theoretical entity or approach, this book proposes a more holistic and integrative model. This integrative model both ac­knowledges the value of these previously described theories and models and incorporates elements from some of them. It in­cludes all the domains of human experience.

[1]Ronald Rolheiser, The Shattered Lantern: Rediscovering a Felt Presence of God (New York: Crossroads, 1995); James Hillman and Michael Ventura, We’ve Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy—and the World’s Getting Worse (San Francisco: Harper SanFrancisco, 1992).

[2] AnaMaria Rizzuto, The Birth of the Living God, A Psychoanalytic Study (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981).

[3] Ibid., 179

[4] Ibid.

[5] David Heinrichs, “Our Father Which Art in Heaven: Parataxic Distor­tions in the Image ofGod,”Journal of Psychology and Theology 10 (1982) 127.

[6] David Helier, The Children’s God (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986).

[7] Kate Loewenthal, The Psychology of Religion. A Short introduction (Ox­ford: One World Publications, 2000) 82.

[8] Wade Roof and Jennifer Roof, “Review of the Polls: Images of God Among Americans,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 23 (1984) 205.

[9] Ibid. Andrew Greeley, The Religious Imagination (New York: William H. Sadier, 1981).

[10] Ana-Maria Rizzuto, “Religious Development: A Psychoanalytic Point of View,” New Directions for Chi development (1991) 56—7.

[11] Leroy Howe, The Image of God: A Theology for Pastoral Care and Coun­seling (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995).

[12] Deborah Hunsinger, Theology and Pastoral Counseling. A New Interdisciplinary Approach (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1995).

[13] Sharon Taylor, “Review of The Image of God by Leroy Howe,” Pres­ence: The Journal of Spiritual Directors International 3 (1997) 73—5.

[14] Lawrence Kohlberg, Essays on Moral Development (New York: HarperCollins, 1984).

[15] James Fowler, Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning (San Francisco: Harper SanFrancisco, 1995).

[16] Robert Kegan, The Evolving Se(f Problem and Process in Human De­velopment (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983).

[17] David Helminiak, Spiritual Development: An Interdisciplinary Study (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1987).

[18] William Spohn, “Spirituality and Ethics: Exploring the Connec­tions,” Theological Studies 58 (1997) 109—23; Owen Flanagan, Self-Expres­sion: Mind, Morals and the Meaning of Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).

[19] Joanne Wolski-Conn, Spirituality and Personal Maturity (New York:Paulist Press, 1989).

[20] Elizabeth Liebert, Changing Life Patterns. Adult Development in Spiritual Direction, rev. ed. (New York: Paulist Press, 2000).

[21] Richard Rohr and Andreas Ebert, Enneagram: A Christian Perspective (New York: Crossroads, 2001).

[22] James Empereur, “Personality Types,” The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality, ed. Michael Downey (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993) 738.

[23] Don Riso and Russ Hudson, Understanding the Enneagram: The Prac­tical Guide to Personality Types, rev. ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000) 66—135.

[24] Richard Rohr, Discovering the Enneagram: An Ancient Tool for a New Spiritual Journey (New York: Crossroads, 1993).

[25] Michael Downey, “Christian Spirituality: Changing Currents, Per­spective, Challenges,” America 170 (April 2, 1994) 8—12.

[26] Michael Downey, Understanding Christian Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1997).

[27] David Daniels and Virginia Price, Essential Enneagram (San Fran­cisco: Harper SanFrancisco, 2000).

[28] Jerome Wagner, Wagner Enneagram Personality Style Scales (San Fran­cisco: Western Psychological Services, 1999).

[29] Dorothy Ranaghan, A Closer Look at the Enneagram (South Bend,md.: Greenlawn Press, 1989) 32.

[30] Susan Zuercher, Enneagram Companions: Growing in Relationships and Spiritual Direction (Notre Dame, md.: Ave Maria Press, 1993).

[31] Peter Ball, Anglican Spiritual Direction (Cambridge, Mass.: Cowley, 1998).

[32] Howard Addison, The Enneagram and Kabbalah: Reading Your Soul (New York: Jewish Lights Publishing, 1998).

[33] Walter Conn, The Desiring Self Rooting Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Direction in Self-Transcendence (New York: Paulist Press, 1998).

[34] Ibid., 19.

[35] This discussion is based on the work of Talcott Parsons and Edward Shils, Toward a General Theory of Action (New York: Harper & Row, 1962) 50—1; and Chava Franfort-Nachmias and David Nachmias, Research Methods in the Social Sciences, 4th ed. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1992) 38—40.

[36] The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) is the standard for diagnosing mental disorders in the United States.

[37] Carolyn Gratton, “The Ministry of Spiritual Guidance,” The Way Supplement 91(1998) 24.

[38] Abigail Evans, The Healing Church: Practical Programs for Health Ministries (New York: United Church Press, 1999) 127.

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