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An examination of the psychodynamic effects on individuals using psalms of lament intentionally, in the form of ritual prayer, as a way of engaging with experiences of personal distress

Cohen, David John (2008) An examination of the psychodynamic effects on individuals using psalms of lament intentionally, in the form of ritual prayer, as a way of engaging with experiences of personal distress. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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      Abstract

      The Psalter has formed the basis of Judeo-Christian worship since ancient times. It has served, and continues to serve, individuals and communities of faith as a foundation for communal and personal devotion. As a devotional tool it is unique in that it provides prayers which address God directly concerning the whole gamut of life experience. While the Psalms can be examined and analysed as a literary text, they must be used and experienced by people to more fully discover and recognize their power in providing a pathway for expressing life experience.

      The lament psalms are of particular interest in this regard. There appears to be a reluctance, in some quarters, to employ them as an expression of prayer. As a result, the lament psalms as a way of engaging with experiences of personal distress, and voicing the reflections and responses such experiences produce, have often been ignored.

      This study suggests that psalms of lament provide a framework for expressing personal distress in the context of prayer. The framework, identified as a matrix of lament, consists of various modes of articulation characterized as expressing, asserting, investing and imagining constellations. The study examines what happens when individuals, who have first been made aware of the matrix of lament and its constellations, use lament psalms for prayer. Praying of lament psalms in this study is embedded in a prescribed process through which participants engage with their experiences of personal distress.

      As a result of such a process any significant psychodynamic changes which may take place can be observed, examined and explored, thereby, highlighting the efficacy of using lament psalms as a form of prayer. The study achieves this by examining the reflections and responses of selected individuals to see whether the process does in fact facilitate changes in the individual's levels of distress, sense of personal control over distress and the nature of relationship between the individual and God. The reflections and responses also provide some indication of how the process might 'birth' a fresh perspective on personal distress for those who choose to incorporate these psalms into their journey of faith.

      Publication Type: Thesis (PhD)
      Murdoch Affiliation: School of Social Sciences and Humanities
      Supervisor: Ault, Nancy and Main, Alex
      URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/447
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