Incorporating spirituality into the psychology of temptation: Conceptualization, measurement, and clinical implications

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The psychological construct of temptation is understood largely to be the undesirable conflict between short-term urges and long-term ideals. Likewise, the resolution of temptation is thought primarily to be a function of self-control. The common cultural understanding of temptation necessarily involves the notion of evil, including its connotations on a transcendent level. However, the psychological study of temptation largely has excluded religious and spiritual factors, whether examined by social psychology, addiction psychology, or the psychology of religion and spirituality. A more comprehensive conceptualization of temptation is needed to better understand its influence on the human condition. Indeed, temptation necessarily includes not only undesirable, but illicit and transcendent levels of experience. Including the transcendent in the psychological conceptualization and study of temptation would lead to more effective measurement, which would allow a broadened approach to the basic science of temptation and thereby a more inclusive application of temptation in clinical settings. As such, issues related to context and measurement are discussed and a more adequate definition of temptation is proposed. Consequent clinical implications include understanding the valenced expression of temptation and the valenced effect of temptation (on health and prospection). Implications of patients' experiencing transcendent-level temptations are discussed and a case example addressing the dysfunctional effect of transcendent- level temptation in couples therapy is provided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-241
Number of pages11
JournalSpirituality in Clinical Practice
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2014


  • Prospection
  • Religion
  • Self-control
  • Spirituality
  • Temptation


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