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Conceptualization, Construction and Validation of the Existential Fulfilment Scale

  • The Open University, The Netherlands


research article
Bert Loonstra, André Brouwers, Welko Tomic
The Open University, Heerlen
Conceptualization, Construction and Validation of the
Existential Fulfilment Scale
B. Loonstra et al.: Conceptualization, Construction and Validation of the EFS (page 5-18)
European Psychotherapy/Vol. 7 No. 1. 2007
This study presents the development and validation of the Existential Fulfilment Scale.
Following Frankl’s concepts of life meaning and existential vacuum, the authors elaborate
the construct of existential fulfilment. Three basic attitudes are distinguished, viz. self-
acceptance, self-actualization, and self-transcendence, all of which deal with overcoming
the conflicts caused by the human existential boundaries. A new scale has been devel-
oped out of Längle’s Existence Scale, the Existential Fulfilment Scale. Its advantage is that
it distinguishes psychologically unhealthy, self-alienating purposes in life from healthy
ones. Well-known measures such as Purpose in Life Test, Life Regard Inventory, and Sense
of Coherence, fail to do so. The Existential Fulfilment Scale has been tested among 812
Dutch individuals. The results of a confirmatory factor analysis make clear that the three
basic attitudes of existential fulfilment should be interpreted as distinct dimensions.
Key words: existential fulfilment; self-acceptance; self-actualization; self-transcendence;
questionnaire; validation; CFA
Existential Fulfilment
Existential fulfilment might be of crucial interest in psychological well-being. Viktor Frankl’s
adepts introduced the concept (LÄNGLE, ORGLER & KUNDI, 2003). FRANKL (1962) coined the
term ‘existential vacuum’ for a mode of existence without any life-meaning and purpose,
characterized by boredom and attempts to escape this by distraction, and prone to neuroticism.
The opposite, existential fulfilment, refers to a way of life full of meaning and purpose. The con-
struct of existential fulfilment reveals an existential psychological approach to life. Characteristic
of existential psychology is the attention paid to the boundary experiences of human beings as
determinants of human existence (Yalom, 1980). Human existence is confronted with several
existential boundaries. To obtain a fulfilled existence, human beings have to overcome the psy-
chological conflicts evoked by these boundaries. In three directions people meet with their lim-
itations: the limits of their lifetime, caused by death (PYSZCZYNSKI, GREENBERG & SOLOMON,
1999), the limits of their power and potential (ADLER; ANSBACHER & ANSBACHER, 1956), and
the limits caused by the presence of others (BUBER, 1970; LEVINAS, 1969), and, more gener-
ally, the outer world. So, humans have to meet several tasks: they have to accept their own
mortality, the limitations of their potentialities, as well as their being only a part of reality. They
have to be eager to explore and develop their limited potentialities, and they have to recognize
the otherness of the outer world and relate themselves to it. In fulfilling these existential tasks,
people find life-meaning, and a fulfilled existence. The three existential tasks can be summa-
rized as self-acceptance, self-actualization, and self-transcendence.
LÄNGLE ET AL.(2003) analyze the construct of existential fulfilment in a slightly different way. To
them, the prerequisite for attaining self-transcendence is self-distancing, the ability to distin-
guish oneself from the surrounding world, to not make oneself dependent of other persons or
circumstances, and to accept things as they are. Based on this self-distancing one can trans-
cend the self: enter into relationships with people and other objects and value them, and arrive
at a fundamental feeling of harmony between the world and oneself. Transcending the self may
lead to a life in freedom and responsibility, the two additional dimensions they identify. The dif-
ferences between this conception and the present analysis can be harmonized as follows. Self-
distancing refers to being free from emotional dependence of other people’s opinions and atti-
tudes. So, self-distancing includes freedom from fixations. This comes close to self-acceptance.
Beside freedom from fixations there is freedom to realize one’s potencies. This comes down
to self-actualization. Moreover, responsibility is very near to self-transcendence. In self-trans-
cending, people recognize the otherness of the outer world and respond to it. In the way they
respond, they accept their responsibilities. So, responsibility reflects self-transcendence.
Humanistic psychology, being cognate to existential psychology, has taken due note to the ideas
of self-acceptance and self-actualization. The first basic attitude of self-acceptance or authentici-
ty, is opposed to self-alienation. FROMM (1962) borrows the term ‘alienation’ from Marxist social
theory, to indicate not only social but also psychological estrangement. He distinguishes two
modes of existing: the being mode and, as its opposite, the having mode (FROMM, 1976). The
being mode points towards self-acceptance, the having mode is characterized by self-alienation:
a way of life determined by possession, a consumptive lifestyle, jealousy, and fear of loss. In
order to pass from the having mode into the being mode, life has to be freed from its contra-
dictions and irrationality occurring in the having mode. For ROGERS (1961) self-acceptation is
frustrated by a behavior in which individuals pursue values, which will bring social approval, affec-
tion, and esteem. In this way they try to ‘buy love’ (ROGERS, 1964).
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B. Loonstra et al.: Conceptualization, Construction and Validation of the EFS (page 5-18)
Self-actualization is the second notion related to existential fulfilment. Maslow holds self-
actualization to be the pinnacle in the hierarchy of human needs. He defines the concept as
the desire for self-fulfilment, or, the tendency to become more and more who one is (MASLOW,
1943). Among the features of an actualized self he reckons an efficient perception of reality,
acceptance of the self, others, and nature, spontaneity, a problem-centered, rather than an ego-
centered approach, autonomy, peak experiences, community feeling, and creativeness
(MASLOW, 1970). FROMM (1947) means the same, but uses the term ‘self-realization’; in it the
total personality is involved, by the active expression of both emotional and intellectual poten-
tialities. In line with this view, ROGERS (1961) identifies self-actualization as the growth ten-
dency of the individual. It is the urge to express and activate all the innate capacities, become
autonomous, and develop mature. In more recent inquiry and literature these theoretical
impulses have been adopted and more developed. SHELDON AND KASSER (1995) relate
‘personality integration’ to the pursuit of intrinsic goals that are assumed to fulfill people’s psy-
chological needs. DECI AN D RYAN (2000) introduce the self-determination theory, which main-
tains that an understanding of human motivation requires a consideration of innate psycho-
logical conditions for competence, autonomy, and relatedness. SHELDON (2001) extends it to
a self-concordance model that accounts for the individuals’ striving for personal meaning. In
this context words like authentic becoming (KASSER & SHELDON, 2004) are used to character-
ize the concept.
The third concept playing a part in connection with existential fulfilment is the concept of self-
transcendence. It is understood in different ways. FROMM (1959) uses the notion to explain that
human individuals have the need to unite themselves with the world and the need for relat-
edness. FRANKL (1962) considers self-transcendence as the essence of human existence. This
is linked up with the spiritual dimension of human beings that distinguishes mankind from all
other living organisms. Through this spiritual ability the individual is able to make intentional
contacts with the world beyond the self, which imposes ultimate meaning on life. From a
developmental perspective REED (1991) defines self-transcendence as the expansion of one’s
conceptual boundaries, inwardly through introspective activities, outwardly through concerns
about others’ welfare, and temporally by integrating perceptions of one’s past and future to
enhance the present. To CLON INGER, SVRAKIC AND PRZYBECK (1993) self-transcendence is a per-
sonality trait, consisting of a sense of wholeness, a consciousness of extraordinary powers, and
flashes of insight.
In this diversity of interpretations the one by FRANKL (1962) is preferable, for it accounts for the
otherness of the transcendent reality. In the encounter the outer world appeals to the subject
to respond. This element is lacking in the presentations by REED (1991) and CLONINGER ET AL.
(1993), who see self-transcendence as a kind of self-expansion, and as a sort of sixth sense,
respectively. BATSON A N D STOCKS (2004) notice the same shortfall of lacking otherness with
B. Loonstra et al.: Conceptualization, Construction and Validation of the EFS (page 5-18)
European Psychotherapy/Vol. 7 No. 1. 2007
Maslow. They recall that Maslow hinted at the possibility of transcendence, but that he con-
ceived it as a ‘need for transcendence’, consistent with his emphasis on personal needs. The
same applies to FROMM (1959). Real self-transcendence, however, should be a qualitatively
different process, because it transcends personal needs. The authors suggest that the self-
transcendent function might be the most promising for shedding new light on the nature of
the human psyche.
Can the three concepts, self-acceptance, self-actualization, and self-transcendence, be treated
as three distinct dimensions of the construct existential fulfilment? The humanistic and exis-
tential oriented literature does not say a lot about their inter-relationships, but suggests that
they are part of one dimension. MASLOW (1970) mentions ‘acceptance of the self’ as a com-
ponent of self-actualization. ROGERS (1961) suggests that the opposites of self-acceptance, self-
alienation, and self-actualization, or self-realization, form the extremes of one and the same
dimension. He observes that the tendency to self-actualize might become deeply buried under
layer after layer of encrusted psychological defenses, but that it could be released and
expressed in every individual. So, self-realization seems to be the result of being released from
self-alienation. Contemporary researchers, too, tend to see both concepts in a one-dimension-
al perspective. They connect self-actualization with intrinsic goals or goals chosen for
autonomous reasons, and self-alienation with extrinsic goals or goals chosen for controlled
reasons (SHELDON & ELLIOT, 1998; KASSER & RYAN, 2001). As to the relationship between self-
actualization and self-transcendence, Frankl sees the former as a side-effect of the latter
(FRANKL, 1970). People find themselves only to the extent to which they lose themselves for
the sake of something or somebody else. The struggle for one’s self and identity is doomed to
failure unless it is enacted as dedication and devotion to something beyond the self (FRANKL,
1962). Here self-transcendence is introduced as the necessary and sufficient cause of self-
actualization. As a by-product of self-transcendence, self-actualization cannot be regarded as a
separate dimension.
The third connection is the one between self-alienation and self-transcendence. On this mat-
ter only Frankl and his adepts have offered explicit reflections. To FRANKL (1962), self-trans-
cendence is the essential condition for human existence. Without self-transcending and finding
ultimate meaning beyond the self, one falls into an existential vacuum, a phenomenon also
referred to as existential frustration. In other words, lack of self-transcendence seems to involve
self-alienation, because it implies missing the essence of life.
Although humanistic and existentially oriented literature tends to favor a one-dimensional
approach of self-acceptance, self-actualization and self-transcendence, however, other relation-
ships are easily conceivable. For instance, one could think of a dimension being the necessary
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B. Loonstra et al.: Conceptualization, Construction and Validation of the EFS (page 5-18)
but not sufficient condition for another. The issue of the interdependence will be dealt with in
a later publication.
Existential Fulfilment: Definitions
Existential fulfilment is understood as the life-purpose that aims at doing full justice to the
nature of human existence. Human beings pursue this life goal by accepting the self, by actu-
alizing the self, and by transcending the self. These three notions can be interpreted as basic
attitudes to pursue existential fulfilment, and to overcome the psychological conflicts caused by
human limitedness. Someone who accepts the self accepts his/her potentialities and intrinsic
limitations. Intrinsic limitations are limitations that are not imposed by others, but stem from
one’s own nature. For example, being left alone is not an intrinsic limitation, but a limitation
imposed by others. Feeling alone, however, and having difficulties with being alone, are intrin-
sic limitations. Someone who actualizes the self explores and develops his/ her possibilities
and potentialities for the sake of personal growth in understanding and abilities. Someone who
transcends the self recognizes the otherness of the reality beyond the self, looking for respect-
ful relationships with it, deriving life-meaning from these relationships, feeling responsible for
them, feeling part of a larger whole, distinguishing interests that surpass self-interests, and
being able to see the self in perspective of the outer reality.
Measures for Existential Fulfilment
Is there a satisfying measure for existential fulfilment? Such a measure would have to meet two
criteria. First, it should measure the extent to which people lead a purposeful and meaningful
life, as existential fulfilment denotes the life goal that aims at doing full justice to the nature of
human existence. Second, the measure should account for the qualitative differences between
values, objectives or life-meanings that people can cling to, as noticed above.
Several questionnaires about purpose and meaning in life have been developed and are being
used. CRUMBAUGH AND MAHOLICK (1964; CRUMBAUGH, 1968) presented the Purpose in Life
Test. They define purpose in life as ‘the ontological significance of life from the point of view
of the experiencing individual’. One of the 20 items runs as follows: ‘in life I have: (1) no goals
or aims at all – (7) very clear goals and aims’. BAT TISTA A N D ALMOND (1973) devised an alter-
native test, the Life Regard Inventory, consisting of 28 items to be rated on a 5-point scale.
This test claims to be value free, and consists of two dimensions, framework and fulfilment. An
example from the framework dimension is: ‘There are things that I devote all my life’s energy
to.’ The fulfilment dimension consists of items like ‘When I look at my life I feel the satisfaction
of really having worked to accomplish something.’ Within another theoretical framework
ANTONOVSKY (1987) designed the Sense of Coherence scale. He departed from the bio-psy-
chosocial model of health, and assumed that sense of coherence in life will favor (psycho)
somatic well-being. He distinguishes three dimensions in it, viz. comprehensibility, manage-
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ability, and meaningfulness. An example of the last mentioned dimension is: ‘How often do
you have the feeling that there’s little meaning in the things you do in your daily life?’
All these scales do meet the first criterion, namely that they measure the extent to which peo-
ple lead a purposeful and meaningful life. They fall short, however, in the sense that they do
not account for the differences between extrinsic and intrinsic goals, nor between self-oriented
and self-transcending goals. So, they show no difference between self-alienated, self-actualiz-
ing, and self-transcending values and goals (second criterion). Especially the lacking clarity
about the difference between self-alienated goals and the other two sorts of goals is prob-
lematic. Somebody dedicating all of his energy to the gain of riches would score high on pur-
posefulness and meaningfulness in the three mentioned measures. Still, that person would
lead a self-alienated life. In consequence, the measures are unfit for identifying existential ful-
filment, for if a high score refers to extrinsic goal pursuit, it does not indicate any progress in
striving after existential fulfilment.
Beside these measures there is one scale that claims explicitly to measure existential fulfilment,
namely the Existence Scale by LÄNGLE ET AL.(2003). The problem with this questionnaire is
that the scores of a large group of respondents do not confirm the theoretical factor structure
(see below). So there is a need for a new scale.
Construction of the Existential Fulfilment Scale
The starting point for a new measure was the Existence Scale by LÄNGLE ET AL.(2003), in a
Dutch translation. Alas, a confirmatory factor analysis of the data of 1187 respondents follow-
ing several professions with an intense involvement with other people, did not confirm the the-
oretical factor structure. As LOONSTRA, BROUWERS AND TOMIC (in press) showed, the fit of the
four-factor model – as suggested by Längle – was not better than that of one or two-factor
models. The highest CFI-value was .72, far below the criterion of .90 (BENTLER & BONNET,
1980). A principal component analysis, however, revealed five factors that were covered by 24
of the 46 items, loading .50 on one of these factors. After leaving out a factor that could be
labeled ‘egocentrism’, the 20 remaining items covered three factors that could be labeled
‘involvement’, ‘satisfaction in doing things’, and ‘self-transcendence’. The first two labels get near
the sense of ‘self-actualization’ and ‘self-acceptance’, respectively. All of the 20 remaining items
had been formulated in the negative. In a revised scale, some were left out, many of them
were reformulated in the positive, and new items were added, in order to make the concepts
of ‘self-acceptance’, ‘self-actualization’, and ‘self-transcendence’ more operational. In the pre-
sent study we tested the revised scale using confirmatory factor analysis.
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B. Loonstra et al.: Conceptualization, Construction and Validation of the EFS (page 5-18)
Central Question and Hypotheses
The central question in this investigation is: May the three terms that are used to describe the
basic attitudes to pursue existential fulfilment be regarded as three distinct dimensions, or are
they to be seen as two dimensions or even one? The zero-hypothesis, which can be inferred
from the literature is that self-acceptance, self-actualization, and self-transcendence make up
only one dimension. The alternative hypotheses are that they form two or even three distinct
Individuals eligible for participation in this study were Dutch speaking former students of two
university psychology departments. We randomly selected 1500 individuals and asked them to
participate in our study. The students’ administration departments provided us with a current
directory containing a complete list of alumni addresses from 1990 to date. A simple random
sample of 1500 individuals received the survey questionnaire at their home address by mail.
As 1500 persons were approached and 812 persons participated, the response rate was 54%,
which is not only adequate according to BABBIE (2006), but also in accordance with the find-
ings of ASCH, JEDRZIEWSKI, & CHRISTAKIS (1997). The average age of the respondents was 42.60
years with a standard deviation of 8.84. The breakdown of the total sample (N = 812) in terms
of sex is as follows: male respondents 187 (23%), female respondents 625 (77%). The aver-
age male age was 44.15 years (SD = 10.10), and the average female age was 42.14 (SD =
8.40). Former female students were younger: t(267) = 2.48; p < .001.
We compared our sample with a known value for the population of psychology students, in
this instance gender. According to national university data the percentage of female and male
psychology students is 75% and 25%, respectively (ASSOCIATION OF DUTCH UNIVERSITIES, 2005).
A comparison with other university students shows that our sample was representative in terms
of gender (χ2(1) = .11, p > .05.)
The design is simple and involves a large random sample of alumni who were asked to com-
plete a questionnaire. We mailed a self-administered survey to alumni homes. The survey
addressed topics in the following order: existence scale, and demographic characteristics like
gender, respondent age, and years of work experience. The accompanying cover letter stated
that the purpose of the study was to better understand respondents’ feelings of existential ful-
filment and well-being. The letter also explained that participation was elective and that
responses would be anonymous and contained an assurance of confidentiality. Specific
hypotheses were not revealed in the cover letter. After the survey was mailed to all participants,
one reminder was sent by mail fourteen days later. In order to raise the response rate, we fol-
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B. Loonstra et al.: Conceptualization, Construction and Validation of the EFS (page 5-18)
lowed suggestions from GREEN, BOSER AND HUTCHINSON (1997): we provided respondents with
postage-free envelopes, we sent the questionnaires to the respondents directly, the respon-
dents could contact us at any time if necessary, and we used a fairly brief questionnaire.
In order to measure existential fulfilment, as being composed of the three dimensions self-
acceptance, self-actualization, and self-transcendence, the Existential Fulfilment Scale has been
developed. In its present shape the scale consists of 15 items, 5 items for each dimension, to
be measured on a 5-point Likert scale, running from 0 to 4, meaning ‘not at all’ to ‘fully’ appro-
priate to respondent. The items about self-acceptance and self-alienation refer to the urge to
prove oneself towards others, rejection of the self, inner uncertainty, and psychological reliance.
For example: ‘Often I am doing things more because I have to, than because I want to.’ When
the scores on items measuring self-alienation are inverted, they can be regarded as indications
for self-acceptance. The self-actualization items are about intrinsic motivation, the passion
towards one’s own ideals, and feeling free and calm to pursue one’s goals. One item is, for
instance: ‘I stay motivated to go on, even when the odds are against me.’ The items regarding
self-transcendence are about the feeling to be part of a larger meaningful whole, conceiving a
sense of life that transcends personal interests, and being convinced that life has a meaning,
for example: ‘I think my life has such a deep meaning that it surpasses my personal interests’.
In order to test the proposed factorial structure of the Existential Fulfilment Scale, confirmatory
factor analysis (CFA) with maximum likelihood estimation was used utilizing the AMOS 3.61
computer program (Arbuckle, 1997). In this confirmatory factor-analytic approach, the fit of five
factorial models was tested against the null model (Model 0): Model 1, a one-factor model in
which all items of the three subscales were allowed to load on one general meaning-in-life fac-
tor; Model 2, a two-factor orthogonal model in which the items of the self-transcendence sub-
scale were allowed to load on one factor, whereas the items of the self-acceptance and self-
actualization subscales were allowed to load on a second factor (the two subscales were not
allowed to correlate); Model 3, a two-factor oblique model (the same model as Model 2 with
the difference that the two subscales were allowed to correlate); Model 4, a three factor model
in which the items of the self-transcendence subscale were allowed to load on one factor,
whereas the items of the self-acceptance subscale as well as those of the self-actualization sub-
scale were allowed to load on respectively a second and third factor (the three subscales were
not allowed to correlate); Model 5, a three-factor oblique model (the same model as Model 4
with the difference that the three subscales were allowed to correlate).
Evaluation of model fit was based on the chi-square likelihood ratio, the Root Mean Square
Residual (RMR), the Goodness of Fit Index (GFI), the Adjusted Goodness of Fit Index (AGFI),
the Normed Comparative Fit Index (CFI; BENTLER,1990), and the Parsimony Normed
Comparative Fit Index (PCFI). To assess CFI and PCFI, null models were specified, in which the
variables are mutually independent (Model 0). Following the recommendations of BENTLER AND
BONETT (1980), the fit of a model was considered to be acceptable as CFI exceeded .90. PCFI
was used to assess a model’s parsimony, which is especially useful when comparing models
Results of the confirmatory factor analysis showed chi-square ratios, which indicate a poor
absolute fit, most likely due to the large sample size. Inspection of the CFI, which is relatively
insensitive of the sample size (MCDONALD & MARCH, 1990), indicated that the three-factor
oblique model (Model 5) fitted the data best (see Table 1). The fit was virtually adequate since
its CFI of .89 comes close to the recommended criterion of .90 (BENTLER & BONETT, 1980).
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Table 1. Chi-Squares and Fit Indexes of the Existential Fulfilment Scale (N = 812)
Model 0 4478.08 105 .35 .45 .37 .00 .00
Model 1 1945.31 90 .13 .65 .54 .58 .49
Model 2 955.96 90 .15 .85 .79 .80 .69
Model 3 917.64 89 .12 .85 .79 .81 .69
Model 4 884.21 90 .16 .88 .84 .82 .70
Model 5 588.65 87 .08 .91 .88 .89 .73
Chi-square difference tests showed a significantly better fit of the three-factor oblique model
(Model 5) over the one-factor model (Model 1; ∆χ2(3) = 1356.66, p < .001), the two-factor
orthogonal model (Model 2; ∆χ2(3) = 367.31, p < .001), the two-factor oblique model
(Model 3; ∆χ2(2) = 328.99, p < .001), and the 3-factor orthogonal model (Model 4; ∆χ2(3)
= 295.56, p < .001).
A higher-order-factorial model in which the self-control and the self-expression factors were
allowed to load on a second-order factor was also calculated. This model showed the same
chi-square, fit indices and parameter estimates as the current study’s final model, Model 5.
Evaluation of the pattern of its standardized regression coefficients revealed that all of the fac-
tor loadings were between .50 and .92.
Table 3 shows significant relations between self-acceptance and self-actualization as well as
between self-actualization and self-transcendence (respectively Pearson’s r = .41, p < .001 and
.40, p < .001). The data revealed no significant relation between self-acceptance and self-tran-
scendence (Pearson’s r = .06, p > .05).
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Table 2. Completely Standardized Solution of the Three Factor Oblique Existential
Fulfilment Scale
Item nr. Item M SD Loading
11.I find it very hard to accept myself .64 .80 .67
12.I often do things because I have to, not because I really want to
do them .68 .80 .66
1. I often feel uncertain about the impression I make on other people .98 .88 .64
3. I do a lot of things that I would actually rather not do .83 .81 .60
8. I often feel I have to prove myself 1.46 1.02 .50
5. Deep inside I feel free 2.55 1.09 .69
14.I completely approve of the things that I do 3.01 .71 .58
2. I’ll remain motivated to carry on even in times of bad luck 3.00 .80 .57
7. Even in busy times I experience feelings of inner calmness 1.92 1.03 .55
15. My ideals inspire me 2.57 .94 .52
6. I think I am part of a meaningful entity 2.03 1.36 .92
4. I feel incorporated in a larger meaningful entity 2.24 1.26 .81
13.I think my life has such a deep meaning that it surpasses my
personal interests 1.60 1.35 .74
10.I have experienced that there is more in life than I can perceive
with my senses 2.13 1.39 .70
9. It is my opinion that my life is meaningful 2.70 1.09 .69
Table 3. Descriptive Statistics of the Subscales of the Existential Fulfilment Scale
MSD alpha 123
1. Self-Acceptance .92 .61 .74
2. Self-Actualization 2.62 .62 .71 .41***
3. Self-Transcendence 2.14 1.06 .88 .06 .40***
Note. * p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001.
This study tested the factorial validity of the Existential Fulfilment Scale. The Existential Fulfil-
ment Scale comprises three subscales to assess (1) the urge to prove oneself towards others,
rejection of the self, inner uncertainty, and psychological reliance, conceptualized as self-alien-
ation or reversed as self-acceptance; (2) intrinsic motivation, the passion towards one’s own
ideals, and feeling free and calm to pursue one’s goals, conceptualized as self-actualization;
and (3) the feeling to be part of a larger meaningful whole, conceiving a sense of life that tran-
scends personal interests, and being convinced that life is meaningful, conceptualized as self-
transcendence. Theoretical notions of three building blocks of humanistic and existential psy-
chology, as described by Fromm, Maslow, and Frankl, pointed to the hypothesis that the three
attitudes, self-alienation, self-actualization, and self-transcendence, are all part of one and the
same dimension. Explicitly was reckoned with the alternative hypothesis, however, that exis-
tential fulfilment subscales comprised three different attitudes towards one’s own life. The
results showed an adequate fit of the three-factor oblique model, in which the items of the
three subscales were allowed to load on their respective factors. Since the fit of the three-factor
oblique model was significantly better than both a two-factor model and a one-factor model, it
was concluded that existential fulfilment consists of three mutually correlated but different
The present study’s findings of a partial distinction between the three scales confirm the thesis
that existential fulfilment is composed of three different concepts, called self-acceptance, self-
actualization, and self-transcendence. Although the results confirmed the three oblique factori-
al structures, they did not allow drawing conclusions about the content of the scales. Therefore
it is recommended to study the content validity of the scales in further detail in a follow-up, for
instance by convergent and discriminant validity checks.
Correlation analysis showed that the three dimensions are significantly related to each other,
except the relationship between self-acceptance and self-transcendence. The question remains
what its theoretical rationale is. Is there any interdependence, for example one dimension
being a necessary but not sufficient condition for another? It is recommended to investigate
the inter-relationships between the three concepts that make up existential fulfilment in further
detail. That kind of research can support the theoretical development of a model, which
describes the growth process of attitudes toward a more existential fulfilling live.
By identifying three distinct dimensions in existential fulfilment, the presentation of the Exis-
tential Fulfilment Scale can be regarded as an improvement in measuring purpose in life. The
scale distinguishes qualitatively different directions of goal pursuit, one of which is self-oriented
and self-alienating, while the others are accepting, actualizing and even transcending the self.
This qualitative distinction makes it possible to identify psychologically healthy ways of goal
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Correspondence address:
Welko Tomi´c
Department of Psychology
The Open University
P.O . B ox 2960
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The Netherlands
Phone ++31 / (0)45 / 57 62 539
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european European Psychotherapy/Vol. 7 No. 1. 2007
B. Loonstra et al.: Conceptualization, Construction and Validation of the EFS (page 5-18)
... Meaning in life was measured with the Existential Fulfillment Scale (EFS; Loonstra et al., 2007). ...
... for self-acceptance, .71 for self-actualization and .88 for self-transcendence (Loonstra et al., 2007). The scales have acceptable reliability for this kind of research (Nunnally & Bernstein, 1994). ...
... The mean values, standard deviations and Cronbach's alphas are reported in Table 1. The reliabilities of the 'meaning in life' subscales self-actualization, self-acceptance and self-transcendence are moderate to high and comparable to those found by Loonstra et al. (2007). The reliability of subjective physical health is high (.85) and equal to one of the consistencies found by Joosten and Drop (1987). ...
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Whereas former research has studied the psychological health of parents raising a special needs child (a child with a disability or chronic disease), the present study focused on their perceived physical health in relation to meaning in life. Specifically, it was investigated whether physical health is positively related to the meaning in life dimensions self-actualization, self-acceptance and self-transcendence. Visitors of Dutch internet forums (N = 115) completed the Existential Fulfillment Scale and an inventory of subjective health, the VOEG-21. Parents of special needs children were found to suffer more health problems than the average population. In addition, self-actualization and self-acceptance were positively related to their perceived physical health. For self-transcendence, however, a negative relationship was established. The perceived poor health of these parents raising a special needs child implies a need for interventions for this group. The Existential Fulfillment Scale appears to be a useful instrument for identifying those parents in need of such interventions. Self-actualization and self-acceptance seem to be relevant subjects for therapeutic interventions and further research.
... Self-actualisation is the second notion connected to existential fulfilment. The third concept connected with existential fulfilment is self-transcendence (Loonstra et al., 2007). ...
... One who actualises the self explores and develops his or her possibilities and potentialities for the sake of personal growth in understanding and abilities. One who transcends the self recognises the otherness of the reality beyond the self, searches for respectful relationships with this reality, derives life-meaning from these relationships, feels responsible for them, feels part of a larger whole, distinguishes interests that surpass self-interests, and is able to see the self in perspective of the outer reality (Loonstra et al. 2007;Tomic and Tomic, 2008). Self-transcendence is considered by Frankl (2004) to be the essence of human existence. ...
... Existential fulfilment. Existential fulfilment, composed of the three dimensions of selfacceptance, self-actualisation and self-transcendence, was measured by means of the existential fulfilment scale (EFS) (Loonstra et al., 2007). The EFS consists of 15 items (five items for each dimension) measured on a five-point Likert scale, ranging from 0 ('not at all' relevant to me) to 4 ('fully' relevant to me). ...
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In contrast to workload, existential fulfilment and work engagement are positive dimensions of personal functioning in organisations. Research on positive dimensions fits into the context of positive psychology. Existential fulfilment, workload and engagement have not yet been investigated among nurses. The relationships between existential fulfilment, workload and engagement, as well as the contribution of the first two concepts to engagement, are examined. In a cross-sectional survey, a random sample was drawn (N = 278) from a hospital population of nurses. Of this sample, 169 participants completed a questionnaire that included demographic, existential fulfilment, workload and engagement items. The response was 61%. Two dimensions of existential fulfilment, self-acceptance and self-actualisation, and the three engagement dimensions were positively correlated. Self-transcendence was associated with one engagement dimension, i.e. dedication. Self-actualisation explained a substantial percentage of variance in all three dimensions of engagement. Workload was negatively associated with engagement: the higher the workload scores, the lower the vigour and dedication scores. Workload explained a substantial percentage of variance in vigour and dedication. Self-actualisation and workload are important engagement determinants. The implications of the study are discussed.
... Another similar questionnaire (based on the Existence Scale) is the Existential Fulfilment Scale (EFS), which took three existential concepts-self-acceptance, self-actualization and selftranscendence-and considers them as three distinct dimensions of existential fulfilment (56). The EFS consists of 15 items, 5 items for each dimension, measured on a five-point Likert scale, running from 0 to 4, meaning "not at all" to "fully" relevant to me (5). ...
... In contrast to his term "existential vacuum" we can put the opposite concept "existential fulfilment" which refers to experiencing life as being full of meaning and purpose and which induces psychological well-being (5). Existential fulfilment can be defined as "the life-purpose that aims at doing full justice to the nature of human existence" (56). By existential fulfilment we mean feeling of fulfilment in a whole life, where work represents only one part. ...
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Burnout syndrome is a state of total exhaustion related to work conditions and stress from work. Recent findings suggest that logotherapy and the concepts of existential meaning and life fulfilment could provide a useful framework for explaining and potentially preventing burnout. This review article summarizes and reflects current knowledge concerning the relation between burnout syndrome and existential vacuum as a potential correlate. It also explores the risks of burnout and the need of better definition of this condition including more precise diagnostic criteria and internationally recognized measurement tools. Intensified research on relations between burnout and lack of existential fulfilment and meaning could help with future prevention and intervention design.
... The study sample consisted of (370) university student (157 male / 213 female) in the Faculties of Education and Human Studies, Al-Azhar University in Dakahlia. Existential Fulfilment Scale (EF-scale), prepared by (Loonstra et al, 2007), and the Positive Mental Health Scale (PMH-scale) prepared by (Lukat et al, 2016) (Arabization of the researcher). The results of the study: University students possess a high level of existential fulfillment and positive mental health, and there is a positive, statistically significant correlation between existential fulfillment and Positive mental health at the level (P≤ 0.01) and the possibility of predicting positive mental health from existential fulfillment and its dimensions, except for the first dimension of existential fulfillment, which is self-acceptance, as its effect was not statistically significant on positive mental health. ...
... Existential fulfillment refers to a sense of meaning and purpose in life, and Loonstra and colleagues (2009) suggested that individuals who feel meaningless, and who fail to believe that the things they do are useful and important, are likely to experience burnout. To empirically investigate if existential fulfillment is a predictor of burnout, the authors administered questionnaires with items based on the Existential Fulfillment Scale (Loonstra et al., 2007) and the MBI to 504 secondary school teachers. Results of the analysis confirmed the authors' three hypotheses: higher levels of existential fulfillment predicted lower scores on the burnout symptom of mental exhaustion, higher existential fulfillment predicted lower levels of cynicism, and higher existential fulfillment predicted higher professional efficacy. ...
... The study took place in the Netherlands with 504 secondary school teachers, and the measurements included the Existential Fulfilment Scale (Loonstra, Brouwers, & Tomic, 2007) and Maslach Burnout Inventory (Maslach, et al., 1996). The findings showed that there are indeed connections between existential fulfillment and burnout. ...
Educator well-being is of immense importance to student success, yet rising instances of educator stress, burnout, and attrition can lead to lowered levels of well-being. While educators' experiences with stress, burnout, and attrition can involve multiple factors, researchers have noted the convergence of mindful attention awareness and educator well-being as an instrumental influence in educators' capacity to remain in the profession. This mixed methods portraiture-inspired study explored the convergence of mindfulness and well-being of educators employed by a school district that recently started a mindfulness initiative to support educator well-being. The study took place over the course of 18 weeks, with data derived from (a) the Scales of Psychological Well-Being (Ryff, 1989); (b) Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (Brown & Ryan, 2003); (c) interviews; (d) classroom observations; (e) exit tickets; (f) researcher participation in the district's mindfulness initiative offerings; and (g) visits to the schools and surrounding neighborhoods. Results from the quantitative data revealed that mindful attention awareness predicts psychological well-being. Results from the qualitative data provided further insight into educators' experiences with mindfulness, well-being, and the educational system factors that impact educator stress. Themes included the cultivation of meaningful growth opportunities; the importance of fostering positive relations with others; and the impact of top-down leadership on environmental mastery. The findings from this research highlight a need for educational organizations to utilize
... Predictably, they were positively associated with meaning, negatively associated with depression and neuroticism, and unrelated to extraversion. This scale was translated into Dutch (Loonstra, Brouwers, & Tomic, 2007) and was shown to be a good predictor of burnout in school employee samples (Tomic & Tomic, 2008). However, it failed to stand to confirmatory factor analysis, which resulted in development of a shorter Existential Fulfilment Scale (Loonstra, Brouwers, & Tomic, 2009) with a self-transcendence subscale. ...
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We review the psychological theory of flow and focus on the notion of autotelic personality, arguing that self-transcendence understood within the existential tradition of Frankl and Langle can be seen as a personality disposition that is conducive to flow experience. We present a pilot quasi-experimental study conducted in a student sample (N=84) to investigate the effect of situational meaning and self-transcendence on productivity and flow experience. Students were asked to work on a creative task (which consisted in finding solutions to a social problem) in small groups. Each group was randomly assigned with an instruction presenting the problem as happening either in a distant country (low-meaning) or home country (high-meaning). The outcome variables were measures of flow, perceived meaning, and satisfaction with time. The solutions generated by students were rated by 3 experts. The results showed that the experimental manipulation had an effect on the quality of the resulting solutions, but not on the subjective experience of participants. Self-transcendent individuals tended to experience higher flow under both conditions, however, under the high-meaning condition self-transcendence exhibited a curvilinear association with the experiential outcomes. The findings suggest that self-transcendence can be considered as a candidate trait for autotelic personality and call for more replication studies
... Fulfillment. To assess a global level of satisfaction with job we used the Existential Fulfillment Scale, a summary score of the subscales Self-acceptance, Self-actualization, and Self-transcendence (Loonstra, Brouwers, Tomic, 2007, 2009. ...
Full-text available
ROPstat is a wide scope statistical program package which offers specialties in three domains: 1) robust techniques, 2) ordinal analyses, and 3) pattern and person oriented methods. Many of them are not available in other common statistical softwares. In the present paper, first the general features and the main structure of ROPstat are briefly outlined, followed by a more detailed summary of pattern-oriented methods (detecting and imputing missing values, residual case identification, different types of classifications, post-analyses after classifications, etc.). In the last section we present some selected person oriented scientific questions and show with real-life research data how they can be analyzed using ROPstat.
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Quality of life and existential fulfilment in chronic lymphocytic leukemia Despite the profound effects of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) on all aspects of the patient’s life, hardly any studies have been conducted that have objectively assessed the quality of life of these patients. The same is true of the patient’s existential fulfilment in relation to quality of life. The sample consisted of 138 CLL patients who were supporters of the Contact Group Leukemia Foundation. The patients filled out questionnaires assessing quality of life, fatigue and existential fulfilment. Standardized and validated survey instruments were used. The most common physical disorders were increased cholesterol, hypertension, arthritis and cardiovascular complaints. Female patients received less support from their immediate surroundings than male patients. Women experienced more negative emotions than men. Quite a lot of patients had high fatigue scores (66%). Regression analysis showed that self-acceptance was related to social/family well-being and functional well-being. Self-actualization was related to social/family well-being and emotional and functional well-being. Self-transcendence was not related to QOL.
Full-text available
Discusses how current goodness-of-fit indices fail to assess parsimony and hence disconfirmability of a model and are insensitive to misspecifications of causal relations (a) among latent variables when measurement model with many indicators is correct and (b) when causal relations corresponding to free parameters expected to be nonzero turn out to be zero or near zero. A discussion of philosophy of parsimony elucidates relations of parsimony to parameter estimation, disconfirmability, and goodness of fit. AGFI in {lisrel} is rejected. A method of adjusting goodness-of-fit indices by a parsimony ratio is described. Also discusses less biased estimates of goodness of fit and a relative normed-fit index for testing fit of structural model exclusive of the measurement model. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
MORE AND MORE a psychiatrist today is confronted with a new type of patient, a new class of neurosis, a new sort of suffering the most remarkable characteristic of which is the fact that it does not represent a disease in the proper sense of the term. This phenomenon has brought about a change in the function--or should I say mission?Eof present-day psychiatry. In such cases, the traditional techniques of treatment available to the psychiatrist prove themselves to be less and less applicable. More specifically, I have called this phenomenon, which the psychiatrist now has to deal with so frequently, "the existential vacuum." (i, P. 99) What I mean thereby is the experience of a total lack, or loss, of an ultimate meaning to one's existence that would make life worth while. The consequent void, the state of inner emptiness, is at present one of the major challenges to psychiatry. In the conceptual framework of logotherapeutic teaching, that phenomenon is also referred to as "existential frustration," orthe frustration of "the will to meaning." By the latter concept, logotherapy denotes what it regards as the most fundamental motivational force in man. Freudian psychoanalysis centers its motivational theory on the pleasure principle 1 or, as one might call it, the "will to pleasure," whereas Adlerian individual psychology focuses on what is generally called the will to power. In contrast to both theories, logotherapy considers man to be primarily motivated by a groping for a meaning to his existence, by the striving to fulfill this meaning and thereby to actualize as many value potentialities as possible. In short, man is motivated by the will to meaning. In former days, people frustrated in their will to meaning would probably have turned to a pastor, priest, or rabbi. Today, they crowd x According to Freud's own statement, the reality principle is nothing but an extension of, and ultimately operates in the service of, the pleasure prinei-ple. Psychiatry and Man's Quest for Meaning 93
Even when goals are self-generated, they may not feel truly "personal," that is, autonomous and self-integrated. In three studies (one concurrent and two prospective), we found that the autonomy of personal goals predicted goal attainment. In contrast, the strength of "controlled" motivation did not predict attainment. Studies 2 and 3 validated a mediational model in which autonomy led to attainment because it promoted sustained effort investment. In Study 3, the Goal Attainment Scaling methodology was used to provide a more objective measure of goal attainment, and additional analyses were performed to rule out expectancy, value, and expectancy x value explanations of the autonomy-to-attainment effects. Results are discussed in terms of contemporary models of volition and self-regulation.
Experimental studies of response rates to mail surveys were reviewed and differences in response by population type were described. Cases were selected for review if they were experimental studies that manipulated a response enhancement factor. Results suggest significant differences in typical response rates for different populations. Higher response rates may be expected from surveys of customers and educators than from surveys of the general population. Results suggest few significant differences in effects of experimental treatment by population type, a result possibly due to limited sample sizes and thus low power for such analyses. One appendix lists the 22 studies reviewed, and the other presents treatment definitions and representations. (Contains 4 tables and 12 references.) (Author/SLD)
Anumber of goodness-of-fit indices for the evaluation of multivariate structural models are expressed as functions of the noncentrality parameter in order to elucidate their mathematical properties and, in particular, to explain previous numerical findings. Most of the indices considered are shown to vary systematically with sample size. It is suggested that H. Akaike's (1974; see record 1989-17660-001) information criterion cannot be used for model selection in real applications and that there are problems attending the definition of parsimonious fit indices. A normed function of the noncentrality parameter is recommended as an unbiased absolute goodness-of-fit index, and the Tucker–Lewis (see record 1973-30255-001) index and a new unbiased counterpart of the Bentler–Bonett (see record 1981-06898-001) index are recommended for those investigators who might wish to evaluate fit relative to a null model. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)