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Sex, Shame, and Spirituality: A Study of Lived Experience Open Access


Other title
emerging adulthood
spiritual identity
Type of item
Degree grantor
St. Stephen's College
Author or creator
Nicholas Christopher Jacobs
Supervisor and department
Dr. Alexandra Fidyk
Examining committee member and department
Dr. Cathy Adams
Dr. Zinia Pritchard
Date accepted
Graduation date
Master of Psychotherapy and Spirituality
Degree level
The concept of “emerging adulthood” (Arnett, 2000) marks a new independence from social roles and normative expectations. While sexual and spiritual identities are important aspects of self, with such freedom comes an increased vulnerability to experience shame, an example of this being the many faith communities morally opposed to premarital sexual behaviours (Barkan, 2006). A review of relevant literature on the topics of shame and a history of sexuality is provided, and offers a critique of several major theorists while identifying gaps in the literature related to this research. Guided by the tenets of hermeneutic phenomenology (van Manen, 1990), individuals’ shameful sexual experiences were explored through interviewing, reflecting an in-depth investigation aimed to describe and better understand the essence of shame. Findings include a rich and nuanced description of many layers of shame, which can better assist one to infer the influences of shame on the self, interpersonal relationships, and spiritual well-being. A discussion of the description of shame links aspects of individuals’ lived experiences back to relevant literature, and an exploration into several directions of future research is provided. Inferences gleaned from this research might assist individuals and helping professionals to alleviate harmful aspects of the experience of shame among themselves and their clients and equip individuals to develop healthier understandings of themselves, while also contributing to quality relationships and community-building. Closely looking at shame through this lens can prepare counsellors who work with clients struggling with such experiences.
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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