People have basic needs, the satisfaction of which is the ground for their health, well-being, and personal development. Miner et al. (2013) consider the basic psychological needs defined within self determination theory (SDT) and God as a figure of a significant other that can help meet these needs. While significant others are usually parents, spouses, and friends for most people, for believers, the relationship with God is of the same or greater significance.
SDT examines how people determine their actions and how external factors may influence this process. According to this approach, the basic psychological needs are autonomy, competence, and relatedness. The first concept linked to the possibility of will action and the internal locus of causality. The need for autonomy can be met by recognizing a person’s perspective and ability to make choices. Competence implies a sense of a person’s effectiveness, particularly the ability to complete a project. Having clear ideas and expectations about the tasks that need to be solved, a person is most likely to feel that this need has been satisfied. Finally, relatedness means a sense of connection with other people and belonging to something. Accordingly, its satisfaction is possible when people devote their time, attachment, and strength to a person. Meeting all three needs creates the required conditions for maintaining a person’s intrinsic motivation and well-being. At the same time, satisfaction largely depends on significant others – personalities important to an individual.
The article examines the satisfaction of the mentioned basic psychological needs in a relationship with God, acting as a significant other. The perception of God as an omnipotent being, which externally determines a person’s motivation, may be contrary to the view that the Lord supports self-determination and internal motivation. However, the authors argue that meeting these needs by God is possible. In particular, the Lord created a moral order in which the person’s choice, meeting the autonomy need, is necessary to the perfection of this order (Miner et al., 2013). Competence satisfaction in the Christian faith is possible by fulfilling the expectations reflected in such sources as the ten commandments. For the need for relatedness, God is the basis for human relations.
To prove their claims, the authors conducted a study based on a survey of believers and a comparison of their answers about how God, parents, partners, and friends contribute to meeting essential needs. They also tested the extent to which God-supported satisfaction contributes to reducing the stress, anxiety, and depression underlying many mental disorders. For the study, the authors examined 225 participants’ responses and analyzed the data using “first-order and higher-order confirmation factor analyses (CFAs), and Structural Equality Models (SEMs) (Miner et al., 2013, p. 305). Miner et al. (2013) formulated three hypotheses regarding the study, which can be briefly represented as follows:
- God can make a unique contribution to meeting basic psychological needs.
- Perceiving God as a significant other that can satisfy basic needs helps to reduce negative psychological symptoms.
- Reducing negative symptoms through the perceived satisfaction of needs by God is unique in comparison with people who also contribute to satisfaction.
The analysis confirmed all the hypotheses posed by the authors. Nevertheless, they emphasize that their study is the first that focused on spiritual satisfaction of needs, and further research is required. Moreover, only believers took part in the survey, which could affect differences in the degree of influence of significant others on the individual. However, the study may have practical implications, as the authors prove that believers can satisfy basic psychological needs for autonomy, competitiveness, and relatedness in a relationship with God.
The article is of interest to scientists researching people’s motivation, basic needs, and faith. In particular, it can be helpful to counselors, spiritual mentors, students and teachers in the field of psychology, and other individuals. This article interested me within the topic of support that faith can provide to people. Moreover, the potential contradiction between religious expectations and demands on people and the manifestation of autonomy draws my attention. The article helps broaden the viewpoint, as well as for the practical application.
I see significant benefits for the counselors’ practice and, for people’s well-being in general, in the fact that the authors supported the study hypotheses. Basic needs, physical and psychological, are fundamental to human comfort and health. However, in some circumstances, their satisfaction may be difficult. For example, while parents and friends play an essential role in meeting basic psychological needs, not everyone can have such relationships in their lives, or their influence can be harmful. In such situations, turning to God and faith, with due understanding and respect, can play a crucial role and be the most accessible option.
For me, the article expanded the religious perspective on caring for a person’s mental health. It depends on many different factors – parents’ behavior, environment, character, and other influential aspects. However, faith and spirituality contribute to forming positive psychological relationships in the individual, preventing excessive stress, and determining the person’s self-awareness. The authors’ explanations of how a person can satisfy the needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness through faith are helpful for application. In particular, I was interested in the fact that their arguments solve the contradiction between choice, autonomy, and the fulfillment of the will of the Lord.
Most vividly, one can imagine the application of this article in the setting of volunteer counseling in the church. One of the parishioners addressed the counselor with complaints of anxiety and deep sadness, which are accompanied by a loss of hope for the future. The woman who asked for help experienced multiple stressors due to the departure of her youngest son to college several months ago and the divorce from her husband. As a result, sadness and anxiety have become constant, and nothing brings joy. She wants to believe in the best, find comfort, and enjoy life again. Previously, the parishioner did not notice similar symptoms, which caused a desire to seek advice.
Stress provoked by severe changes in the parishioner’s life led to a sense of loss of control over her own life, which entailed anxious and depressive symptoms. Considering the situation in terms of meeting basic psychological needs, it can be assumed that the state of need that was previously satisfied has changed. In the family circle, the woman felt loved and cared for, and her need for relatedness was satisfied. However, left alone, she no longer feels a family affiliation. Moreover, events could also affect other needs – autonomy and competence. The reason is that the woman experienced the loss of the social roles of the mother and wife, which determined her choice and actions.
Based on the assumption that, at the moment, the basic psychological needs of the parishioner are not satisfied, they can cause her condition. Therefore, she needs to take action to meet them, and since the setting is the church, the religious perspective should be close to the woman. As a result, the counselor can advise finding comfort in the church community work or as an alternative in a charitable organization and volunteering. Belonging to a friendly community will help satisfy the need for relatedness. Helping others and the specific challenges often faced in such communities contribute to the satisfaction of autonomy and competence.
Miner, M., Dowson, M., & Malone, K. (2013). Spiritual satisfaction of basic psychological needs and psychological health. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 41(4), 298-314.