J Korean Neuropsychiatr Assoc.  2000 Sep;39(5):825-837.

Relationship between Religious Conversion Experience and Narcissistic Personality Trend

  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Yonsei University, College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
  • 2Department of Psychiatry, Yong-In Mental Hospital, Yong-In, Korea.


Although there have been many studies in the academic fields outside theology about religious conversion experience, only a few objective methodological research efforts have been possible because of difficulties in scientific approach due to the subjective's individual and diverse characteristics. Recently, research from a psychological and psychiatric point of view has begun. There are many different viewpoints toward religious conversion: from a psychoanalytic perspective, regarding it as a projection of the father figure; to negative attitudes such as sexual repression, exhibitionism, neurosis, psychosis, dissociation, organic brain disease, aphasia and compensation for deprivation; and also to positive viewpoints that there is no psychopathology, that the experience of religious conversion exert an adaptive effect, and that it is a phenomenon which happens to persons who have a well-integrated personality. From the viewpoint of psychoanalytic self-psychology, religious conversion is self-object seeking behavior in people who have a narcissistic personality trend. In this study we tried to demonstrate the association between religious conversion and narcissistic personality trend. Particularly, we attempted to show the hypothesis that the crisis conversion group has a higher association with the narcissistic personality trend. METHOD: We divided the subjects into 3 groups (crisis conversion group, progressive conversion group, non-conversion group) and analyzed the differences in the scales of narcissistic personality according to the diagnostic criteria (diagnostic criteria for narcissistic personality disorder based on prototypicality rating and narcissistic personality inventory). RESULT: The results showed that the crisis conversion group had a significantly higher value than the other 2 groups for narcissistic personality inventory and factor II (Leadership/Authority) and factor III (Superiority/Arrogance), showing that the crisis conversion group had a higher narcissistic personality trend.
The crisis conversion group has more narcissistic personality trend than other 2 groups and the narcissistic personality trend which was found in the crisis conversion group may have a more adaptive and functioning dimension in contrast to a pathological and maladaptive one.


Religious conversion experience; Narcissistic personality trend; Self-object
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