Existential meaning-making in the midst of meaninglessness and suffering:

  • Datum:
  • Plats: Universitetshuset, sal IV
  • Doktorand: Nahlbom, Yukako
  • Om avhandlingen
  • Arrangör: Teologiska institutionen
  • Kontaktperson: Nahlbom, Yukako
  • Disputation

The overall aim of this qualitative study was to explore the function of religion and volunteer workers in religious organizations in contributing to the reconstruction and development of existential meaning and psychosocial well-being regarding the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami.

Full title: Existential meaning-making in the midst of meaninglessness and suffering: Studying the function of religion and religious organizations in the reconstruction and development of existential meaning and psychosocial well-being after the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami

This study was undertaken from the psychology of religion and approached by focusing on experiences of volunteer workers in different religious organizations who worked in the disaster-affected areas. Empirical data were collected via 27 semi-structured interviews, and the collected data were analyzed using a template analysis style (Malterud, 1998). The theoretical perspectives primarily used in the study were: the existential meaning and existential meaning-making framework developed mainly by DeMarinis (2003, 2008) and a culturally- adapted version (DeMarinis, 2013) of the Adaptation and Development after Persecution and Trauma (ADAPT) model (Silove et al., 2006). In addition, Marsella’s (2005) perspective on culture and Kleinman’s culturally sensitive perspective on health and well-being further developed by DeMarinis (2003) were employed to analyze the data in relation to the Japanese cultural context. In the results of the study, the five key domains from the ADAPT model were identified as existential and psychosocial resources available for survivors and volunteer workers from the religious organizations. The results indicated that these psychosocial domains interacted with each other, and especially with the domain of existential meaning and meaning-making. The existential domain played an important role in psychosocial well-being for both survivors and volunteer workers from the different religious organizations. The results also showed that the most significant function of volunteer workers in religious organizations was to deal with the survivors’ disrupted existential system by engaging in kokoro no kea 心のケア [mental health care or care for the heart] by using religious symbols and rituals, and thereby contributing to the reconstruction and development of the disrupted and lost existential meaning of survivors in the damaged areas.