Date of Original Version




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Abstract or Description

Communion is a focus on others and involves helping and caring for others and being
attuned to others' feelings. By contrast, unmitigated communion is an extreme focus on
others to the neglect of the self. The goal of the present study was to explore communion
and unmitigated communion in a caregiving population where the benefits and hazards of
an orientation towards others might be observed. A total of 61 nurses, 56 of whom were
women, were interviewed for 30 minutes by phone or in person. The following traits were
measured: unmitigated communion, communion, agency, self-esteem, externalized selfperception,
feelings when help is rejected, anger, depression, and j ob distress. It was
hypothesized that unmitigated communion would be associated with low self-esteem,
externalized self perception, negative feelings about the self when others rejected help,
holding anger in, depression, j ob distress, and intrusive thoughts about patients.
Communion was not expected to be related to any of these outcomes. Results largely
confirmed these hypotheses. Unmitigated communion was related to more distress in
general, but not necessarily j ob distress. By contrast, communion was related to reduced
job distress. Both unmitigated communion and communion were related to being
distressed by intrusive thoughts about a specific patient, but only unmitigated communion
was associated with having intrusive thoughts about patients in general. Thus, communion
is associated with a concern for others, but not an involvement with others that causes
negative effects on nurses' well-being. The degree of overinvolvement and self-sacrifice
that is characteristic of unmitigated communion appears to be the root of the negative health
effects experienced by these people.


Advisor: Vicki Helgeson

Department of Psychology