Religion as Relation - Studying Religion in Context - Peter Berger

Religion as Relation - Studying Religion in Context - Peter Berger

Bridging Inner and Outer Worlds: A Psychodynamic Approach to Meaningful Mourning

Religion as Relation - Studying Religion in Context - Peter Berger

Hanneke Muthert [+-]
University of Groningen
Hanneke Muthert is Associate Professor Psychology of Religion and Spiritual Care at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Groningen. Her current research projects focus on 1) disaster chaplaincy;2) meaningful work and 3) psychopathology, religion and good spiritual care practices. The overarching theme is characterized by how to support people in diverse care contexts (home, healthcare, work) to live their daily lives coping with significant losses and longings. In relation to an observed lack of common language sharing existential issues, she elaborates on the idea of concrete practice places in the near future. For publications see:


To understand what different functions God representations and other dimensions of religion may have is further elaborated in the chapter by Hanneke Muthert, who, like Schaap-Jonker, adopts a relational approach to the psychology of religion to discuss how religion may feature for people in precarious situations who have to cope with loss. For psychologists of religion and spiritual counsellors, such an exploration of “relational space” is valuable because it is precisely in the space where a person’s inner world and the outside world overlap that religious meaning can be experienced. In order to clarify the added value of concentrating on this relational space in studying bereavement, Muthert suggests combining various theories that all proceed, each with their own focus, from the assumption that mourning is essentially relational, and which understand mourning as making sense of loss; a good match between the social context and individual mourning capacities appears to be crucial for “healthy” or effective mourning. Central to the theoretical framework Muthert presents is a psychodynamic theory model that distinguishes three different psychological structures, “modes of being” that each have their own specific mourning capabilities. She argues that religion has the potential to fit well with all three modes of being, but that good matches are not always obvious. The chapter ends with a discussion in which the author reflects on the implementation and limitations of the theoretical framework presented in her chapter in counselling practices. Despite certain limitations, the theoretical framework developed by Muthert constitutes an important contribution to current mourning theories and practices by bridging people’s inner and outer worlds, and taking into account different modes of being that grieving people may find themselves in.

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Muthert, Hanneke. Bridging Inner and Outer Worlds: A Psychodynamic Approach to Meaningful Mourning. Religion as Relation - Studying Religion in Context. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 192-213 Oct 2021. ISBN 9781800500709. Date accessed: 22 Mar 2023 doi: 10.1558/equinox.42558. Oct 2021

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