The body metaphor and spiritual coping within a South African cohort: a pastoral approach
The main aim of this research was to show how results from a South African cohort and theological insights regarding the scriptural body metaphor could be used to propose a pastoral model that indicates how positive spiritual coping skills could be applied to improve psychophysiological well-being. Spiritual coping was defined as an individual's ability to utilize faith in God and Judeo-Christian religious beliefs and active practices in order to appraise, understand, and effectively cope with stressful life events. The relationship between hypertension, depression, and cultural coping strategies in a South African teacher cohort was assessed to determine whether or not applying spiritual coping strategies showed beneficial effects on blood pressure and psychophysiological well-being. In the SABPA cohort, black and white teachers reported different and varied coping styles based on their respective cultural backgrounds. Increasing defensiveness proved to be costly, as reflected in chronic hypertension levels among white and black participants. Furthermore, the Scriptural body metaphor offered insight into the human body's defence response. Effective coping strategies were explored to indicate how positive spiritual coping skills could be utilized to cope with chronic stress and acute depression. The primary research question was: How can results from a South African cohort and theological insights concerning the scriptural body metaphor be used to propose a pastoral model that indicates how positive spiritual coping skills could be applied to improve psychophysiological well-being? This study answered this question by following Osmer's (2008:4) four tasks of theological interpretation. Through empirical research, this study examined whether chronic stress and chronic defensiveness could relate to increased blood pressure and depression within a South African cohort. An extensive literature study was conducted on the scriptural body metaphor, resembling the defence response, and spiritual coping. Through an exegesis of three prominent body metaphor pericopes in Scripture, spiritual coping was assessed from a pastoral approach, and determined what biblical perspectives regarding coping, defensiveness and spirituality may be revealed. Finally, the culmination of the research proposed a preliminary Believe-Belong-Behave pastoral model for the utilization of spiritual coping methods and skills that could improve psychophysiological well-being. The Believe-Belong-Behave model consists of three categories that each highlight different individual skills, corporate practices, and practical action steps, which, when applied consistently, could all function in harmony to promote psychophysiological well-being. The "Believe" component of the pastoral model focuses on the individual spiritual coping skills that could be developed through a Christian's belief in God, namely developing faith in God, engaging in an ongoing dialogue with God, studying the Word of God, cultivating hope in God, and pursuing purpose from God. The "Belong" component of the pastoral model encourages the corporate spiritual coping practices in which a Christian could get involved when belonging to the Body of Christ, as expressed in the local church, namely seeking social support, participating in corporate worship, engaging in discipleship training, becoming involved in missional servanthood, and seeking pastoral care. The "Behave" component of this pastoral model involves practical spiritual coping action steps that can be taken when confronted with perceived stressors and threats. The action steps to utilize positive spiritual coping skills are the proactive decisions of praying first, taking a Selah-moment, choosing faith over fear with effective defence coping, thinking optimistically, and gaining perspective. The Believe-Belong-Behave model could typically be used to demonstrate how these spiritual coping skills, practices and action steps could be implemented to improve psychophysiological well-being within a South African cohort.
- Theology