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MRes wk8 /ish

This week was different. It was the week of my graduation which I think deserves its dedicated post; but I also when to the last residential for this year for the Advance Diploma in Clinical Supervision course I am following.

I have also spent the week reading and prepping a structure for my research - which is constantly being amended - and reading a couple of papers by Dr Anil Behal on IPA and Negative Capability. You can find one of his papers here : Negative Capability: A Phenomenological Study of Lived Experience at the Edge of Certitude and Incertitude.

His paper made me question if there is a further distinction that needs to be made between the Jungian "tension of the opposites" [i.e. having to choose between 2 opposing sides which sets us in a very specific "Not knowing [what to choose] mode”], and the Unknown as the ideal status of not knowing [which is all-encompassing, it doesn't have to be limited to 2 choices; simply because we don't know]. The latter to me is very much existential [see the 4 pillars of existentialism by Emmy van Deurzen and Irving Yalom: we don't know. We have no idea, and we can't control most of the things around us. I personally found that at the basis of any psychotherapeutic issues I have encountered, there are one or two existential things that need addressing. For example you lose your job : that's endings; you divorce, that's endings again; your father passes away, your son goes to university, your car breaks down... If you work on endings, you are pretty much covered with what life throws at you. In this way, existential approaches are a way of looking for common denominators.

Therapists have to learn to STAY. Stay with the unknown, stay with the silence of the client, stay with their need to try and rescue, stay with the possible lies from the clients and what they don't tell you. Just STAY. It is not a mastering or a managing [which are actions]. There is nothing wrong with staying and this is something, in my opinion, that separates a lot of American-approach therapists who stem out of the freedom of the 60s and the following need to sort, fix, manage, plan, and organize, versus European therapists who deal with dread, tragedy, drama, and existential dread. Very probably because we had two World Wars fought on our soil which ripped us apart.

In therapy, when we don't know, we allow this Unknowing to become fertile, and allow for what is true within to rise.

Then, you have the tension of the opposites: the not-knowing between two options: the classical thesis, antithesis and synthesis. I think that we seem to be in need to choose, to pledge our allegiance to one faction or the other. We find uniqueness to be scary. We don't like independent thinkers. We prefer to group people, label them, define them, and then box them. Again, the Jungian tension of the opposites teaches us to stay; to accept both opposites to be true and to learn to live with them. We don't have to make a choice, we don't have to choose. Are we scared of loneliness and not belonging? Very possibly so. For the ones who haven't read one of my previous posts, I found a paper by McGraw about "God and the Problem of Loneliness" illuminating in the way it defined and described loneliness, especially when he mentions loneliness and freedom (my own personal conundrum). There is nothing wrong with staying "at both ends at the same time", or bang on in the middle.

I have noticed that Dr Behal mentions Buddhism and Zen while I would have have personally looked at some of the Upanishads and the methodological process of Ynana Yoga as an approach to enquiry.

All of this is to say that, following some reflection, I believe researchers need to be educated on openness, the tension of the opposites, and experiential work on the Self [and themselves] before going out and asking participants to fill in questionnaires or respond. If you don't walk in the shoes of a participant in your own research, how do you know what and how to ask what you need? And potentially how to detach yourself, bracket, and be an "objective observer" as much as possible in order to "read" the answers?

Further, looking at Dr Behal's schematic representation, I have been left wondering if there is only : HOLDING vs PROBLEM SOLVE, because I see his depiction of DISPERSE, SHUT DOWN, and CONSULT OTHERS as all forms of problem-solving, the need to act, the expectations that "someone" put on us for a need to respond, to do something. And even HOLDING feels like a DOING, instead of a STAYING and ALLOWING. When he mentions "keep alive the perplexity" I would like to add that maybe we need to learn to keep alive [or re-discover] a childlike approach which is full of wonder and curiosity, which are more hope-driven and I think that this is something missing in research.

Reading someone's paper, having a virtual conversation with a researcher [we exchanged a couple of emails after the seminar and these points here are part of this conversation] made me realize how much I am interested not only in my own research but in the philosophical approach to research itself. And this was a particularly pleasant surprise.

onwards & upwards


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