Separation From God: What the Dark Night of the Soul Experience Can Tell Us About Attachment to God

Publication Date



Even though the field of psychology of religion has used attachment theory to enrich our understanding of religious beliefs and behaviors, little attention has been paid to examine what it means to experience a separation from God and how it might affect believers’ attachment with God. In this current study, responses from 22 retired Presbyterian Church (USA) clergy and spouses of clergy on their dark night of the soul experiences were examined to find ways to bridge the gap between attachment theory and attachment-to-God studies. Responses to a modified version of the Secure-Base Script Test (SBST) suggested that some individuals had secure-base scripts with God readily available, such that when prompted by pictures depicting separation from God, they were able to provide stories with a gospel message embedded, identifying hope even in the midst of struggle. These individuals also clearly acknowledged the illumination episode in their dark night of the soul narrative, whereas those who scored low on the SBST did not. Findings from the current study suggest the importance of knowing one’s scriptedness so as to better guide others in their spiritual journey.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (PhD)

First Advisor

Nolty, Anne A. T.

Document Type





Separation, Spiritual life, Presbyterian Church, Clergy, Attachment behavior, Worship and love




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